There’s an extra kick from encountering an intimate restaurant where the food, like the staff, exudes personality; a place where you feel so welcome you can envision becoming a regular. That’s what happened when I stepped for the first time into One Eleven Main in the heart of Bel Air.
This charmer, which opened in the fall of 2015, has a straightforward, classy look, with lots of wood adding warmth (the restaurant’s dated, bare-bones website leads you to expect a much drabber experience). The feeling here is at once traditional and contemporary, an apt combination for a place focusing on new American cuisine.
On a weeknight visit, seated at a window table with a view of a moderately bustling South Main Street, our meal went from strength to strength. It became quickly, abundantly clear that executive chef Bryan Boessel, who joined the restaurant in 2016, has a flair for the things that matter — texture, flavor, proportion, presentation.
Mind you, it didn’t hurt that we happened to pick a day when One Eleven Main offers what has to be one of the region’s great deals in dining. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, you can get three courses for $39, just a few dollars more than the regular price for entrees. All bottles of wine are half-off on those nights, too.
We would have gladly paid full price for everything (including the velvety, regularly $75 Frank Family Petite Sirah we savored with dinner), but, hey, a bargain’s a bargain.
Things got off to a strong start from the chewy, almost sourdough-y bread, not to mention expertly concocted martinis, which signaled how strong a partner the bar is in this enterprise. (I was less taken with one of the house specialties, a rhubarb Collins, but I appreciated the mixology finesse involved in that piquant drink.)
If you think Brussels sprouts appetizers are too passe to bother with anymore, think again. The version here showed how much life remains in this trend. The caraway-dusted sprouts were roasted with extra care, resulting in a terrific exterior crunch, a lovely melt inside. A vibrant Dijon aioli complemented the veggies nicely.
The chilled, cracked crab cocktail proved a winner, too. The very fresh-tasting crab had an assist from a vigorous mustard sauce and, on the side, pickled tomatoes and shaved celery. We also took advantage of an item that featured the last tomatoes of the summer, partnered by an excellent burrata with a perky ramp pesto and grilled flatbread.
Our main course included a massive (10 ounces) and remarkably tender French cut pork chop, resting against a roasted honey nut squash. A thick and crispy slice of pork belly completed the hearty dish.
Speaking of hearty, the pan-roasted Chesapeake rockfish was as meaty as swordfish, yet still flaky. It was accompanied by a very tasty assortment of cannellini beans, tomato nicoise and haricot verts.
You can’t go far without running into seared sea scallops on a menu, but you’d be lucky to find any as tender, mild and subtly flavorful as the ones we enjoyed here, topped with a vivid dash of romesco. The dish gained further enhancement from a butternut squash puree, brown butter parsnips, and an arugula-almond salad.
Desserts were on a likewise stellar plane, including an elegant baked apple with marshmallow cream, and a refined, sweet-tart lemon curd with strawberries.
And then there was the bread pudding. I know what you’re thinking — not another bread pudding. But this one had such remarkable personality, the slight crispiness on the outside giving way to a rich, creamy, almost cake-like interior.
Convivial, seamless service was one more sign of how serious One Eleven Main is about providing a first-rate dining experience for foodies and just plain folks alike.
One Eleven Main
111 S. Main St., Bel Air
Cuisine: New American.
Prices: Appetizers $9 to $18; entrees $26 to $36.
Ambience: Hipsters, middle-agers and seniors blend easily in the intimate, understated space, which can turn quite noisy when full.
Service: Impeccable and winsome.
Parking: Street and nearby lots.
Special diets: They can be accommodated.
Wheelchair accessible: Yes.