Lewnes' Steakhouse is the sort of restaurant that can stir up extreme emotions.
There's the intense yearning as you wait for your food while the smells of delicious dishes at other tables swirl mercilessly around you, joy as you bite into chunks of tender filet mignon and then abysmal sadness when the meal is over and you're too stuffed to order that second strawberry shortcake.
My sister and I arrived at Lewnes' late on a chilly weeknight to a short wait for a nonsmoking table. We passed time at the restaurant's small bar, where a slightly inebriated man nursing a drink proclaimed himself a regular and animatedly emoted about Lewnes' wonderful steaks, crab balls, crab cakes everything.
Well, the man was right. Our meal was perfect, so was the ambience and service.
We enjoyed Lewnes' decor, very homey and cozy with dark wood tables, maroon walls and dim lighting. And the low hum of chatter at the tables in the small dining room added to the feeling.
Our waiter was friendly, very attentive and seemed intent on making sure we enjoyed every bit of our meal. We began with his recommended appetizer -- crab balls ($9.50). These were exquisite -- soft, juicy, full of crab meat and seemingly with no shell. They melted in our mouths all too quickly.
We decided to go with the Steakhouse crab cakes (market price, which was $27.95 that night). We got two good-sized crab cakes that were as delicious -- and shell-free -- as the crab balls. We polished them off fairly quickly.
The filet mignon ($23.95) was done medium well and with plenty of butter. (The small print in the menu warns that the steaks come with butter, adding, "If requested, we will hold the butter or add more.") The good-sized steak was perfectly done and unbelievably tender.
We also split two side dishes -- Lyonnaise potatoes ($2.95) and creamed spinach ($3.95). Both came in huge portions and were tasty, especially the potatoes.
Finally, we decided to split the strawberry shortcake ($5.95), which our waiter said was one of two desserts the restaurant makes. (The other is the fudge brownie with whipped cream and ice cream.)
The strawberry shortcake was absolute heaven. Although we were stuffed when it landed on our table, we devoured it in seconds. We couldn't get enough of the warm, buttery shortbread, topped with tons of strawberries and slathered with whipped cream and were terribly disappointed when it disappeared. My sister begged to order another, but I convinced her she would get sick from eating too much if she did.
It was the perfect ending to a wonderful dinner, but my sister vowed to do things a little differently the next time we go to Lewnes'.
"We should skip the steak and crab cakes and just have strawberry shortcake," she said.
Where: 401 Fourth St., Annapolis; 410-263-1617
Hours: Dinner, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$10.95; entrees, $14.95-$26.95
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners
Rating: *** 3/4
Ratings: * culinary wasteland
**** culinary heaven
Pub Date: 5/07/98