The Market House is one of those cornerstone institutions that make up the Ego Alley dining scene in downtown Annapolis. As such, I haven’t been in there in years. I knew that they had rebuilt after one (or more) of the storms that have flooded that wonderful little downtown area, but I was never really drawn to checking it out. Recently, one of my students was telling me all about it, and it sounded completely different from what I remembered. So, it was time to go check them out.
My wife, Chandra, and I decided to swing by on a cool Saturday afternoon. Walking in I was floored by the transformation. The inside was beautifully rustic, like an old fishing market that had been there for a century or so. Along the back wall were four main food areas, each with different concepts. These included soups, grain bowls, cheese boards, burger, flat breads, paninis and baked goods. On the far left side there was a bar and raw bar with salads, and on the far right side was a grocery market with fresh vegetables and packed goods. The entire middle area was dedicated to seating.
Since it was kind of a cool day, we both were interested in the soups. While Thai chicken, lentil, black bean and chili all sounded good, that selection didn’t work for either of us. Instead Chandra chose the farmer’s market grain bowl ($9). This was grilled chicken, crumbled goat cheese and toasted quinoa and pumpkin seeds, with roasted cherry tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, and a honey citrus balsamic vinaigrette. Reading the description, we both thought this would be a hot bowl, kind of like schwarma. What the description didn’t list was mesclun greens, which made it basically a salad with some roasted vegetables and quinoa. The quality was there, and we both liked it well enough. It just didn’t quite meet our expectation.
Something similar happened with the Margarita flatbread ($8.50) that I chose. This was a thicker, par-baked dough with spicy tomato sauce, fresh sliced tomatoes and aged mozzarella cheese, which is not a Margarita. While some places do put sauce on their Margarita (even in Italy), it usually doesn’t dominate the way this one did. Also, this version was missing the signature fresh basil and fresh mozzarella that every Margarita has. At best this was an oval pizza with fresh tomatoes, and even if that were what I had ordered it was a pretty disappointing. I like the spiciness of the sauce, but the dough was heavy, and the cheese had a somewhat plastic texture.
After our first go at the Market House, we decided to come back the next day for lunch again. Despite some missteps, we really liked the atmosphere, and the staff were all very pleasant. So, on an even cooler Sunday afternoon we found ourselves back in the quaint Annapolis Market Place.
This time I decided to grab a beer from the bar, the Market House lager ($7), which had a nice subtle bitterness to it, and a great flavor. The beer also went well with the Roast Beef Panini ($9.50). This was rare roast beef on marbled rye with caramelized onions, creamy horseradish and melted provolone cheese. I really enjoyed the texture of the toasted bread and the flavors in the sandwich.
Chandra also chose from the panini stand, and selected the Frenchie ($8.50). This was ham, brie and honey Dijon with slices of green apple. It was supposed to be on a baguette, but it was actually a sliced white bread, which was fine. I couldn’t have imagined how they were going to panini press a baguette anyway. The panini was a throwback from years ago at the Market House. I remember getting a similar sandwich there when I worked in that area.
With both of us much happier with our lunches than the day before, we decided to get some baked goods for dessert. Right next to the panini place is a bakery section with, what they told me was, in-house baked goods. Viewing them in the case, the pastries looked fantastic, so we chose several. The madeleines ($1.75) were soft, airy and nicely done. The croissant ($2.50) was flaky and buttery deliciousness; definitely among the best I’ve had, which is saying a lot considering I used to make them. The chocolate twist ($2.50) was Danish-like with a cream filling and chocolate chips, and very good. Finally, the berry tart ($3.50) was a mixture of sweet and tart cooked berries in a flaky shell, and my favorite of the selection.
After a couple of lunches at the Annapolis Market House, I would say that it is worth the trip. The atmosphere and friendly people simply can’t be beat, and there are some very good foods to be had. The next time I go, however, I’m going to ask a lot more questions before I order.
Annapolis Market House
WHERE: 25 Market Place, Annapolis
HOURS: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
LUNCH/DINNER: $8 to $12
RESERVATIONS: Not accepted
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards