Mention that you are going out to eat for lunch and nobody would take notice, but mention the name and the response is something to the effect of “Oohh!”
That was the response I received when I mentioned that I would be going to the restaurant to do a review. A friend wanted me to post photos of the food, even though he’s a vegan and would probably have very few choices to choose from on the menu. He was still intrigued.
I wanted to find out for myself if the restaurant's reputation was deserved.
Several weeks ago I went for lunch with Ted Slowik, the director of PR and media relations at . We mixed business, talking about the College’s Sesquicentennial and new school year, with the pleasure of a meal at a restaurant we both wanted to try.
We were not disappointed.
SugarToad is located in the , which is located off Ferry Road, which may work against it because it is not right downtown where it’s easy to stop for a meal while shopping.
The general ambience of the restaurant is a simple sophistication. Diners enter the restaurant from the hotel’s lobby. As you walk in the hostess is directly in front and the bar is to the left, nothing really out of the ordinary. We were seated near the entrance.
Ted and I went to lunch on a Wednesday at about 12:30 p.m. and we were both quite surprised that there were very few people in the restaurant besides us. Maybe it’s the location—far north on the other side of I-88, maybe it was the day (it was warm and sunny) and maybe this is a place people go to more for dinner. Whatever the reason that the tables were not packed, it shouldn’t be overlooked for lunch.
Our waitress brought us some brioche bread with butter to start with as we waited for our appetizer. It was warm and flaky and good.
SugarToad, like most higher end restaurants, offers a limited menu unlike the standard everyday restaurant. This led us to share one of the appetizers, because it was the one we both wanted to try.
For our appetizer we shared the Sautéed Shrimp with Roasted Broccoli ($10). The shrimp came in a bed of polenta. The polenta was incredibly good. It seemed to literally melt in your mouth. I also enjoyed the shrimp and the broccoli, which had the best flavor having been roasted. But, the real joy was the polenta. If this were a main course offering, I would order it.
For his meal, Ted chose the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($10). The sandwich comes with Swiss cheese, prosciutto, pickle cabbage, piquillo peppers on tomato foccacia bread.
When I saw this sandwich I was surprised at the size of it, it was pretty massive. Ted ate the entire thing, but I’m certain many diners might take half of it home with them, although it looked so good it might be hard to stop eating.
Ted said, “the flavor is just excellent.” And he said it seemed to have the flavor of Thousand Island dressing, but not. Rather than order the fries with his meal, Ted chose the side salad, which incorporated a variety of field greens.
For my meal, I chose the Green Asparagus Risotto ($14). The risotto came with fried Sugar Toads, the restaurant’s namesake and a type of blowfish found in the Chesapeake Bay.
I ordered the risotto because I really love risotto. This was a bit different than any other I have had. While I enjoyed it, I felt it was lacking a bit in flavor. There was some cheese on it and to be honest I’m not sure what kind, standard risotto includes Parmesan, but it didn’t taste like parm — and maybe my palate isn’t refined enough — but I would have liked a little more cheese.
The risotto was very creamy and the butter flavor was there, but it seemed like it was a little bland. The asparagus, which was cut into small pieces, didn’t add much flavor. Even so, I did enjoy it and ate the entire portion, no leftovers for me. It was more of a lunch size portion. I also ordered a small side salad ($5).
For dessert we shared Crème Brulee ($8) and it was as good as any I have enjoyed in the past, good custard with the nicely browned top, perfect for cracking.
Ted said he really enjoyed the meal.
“Everything was excellent,” he said. “Everything I heard about this place was accurate. The flavors were incredible.”
We both agreed that the prices were pretty reasonable for the quality of the food. The tab came in at just under $70, including tip. (We didn't have alcohol.) This is not the place to go just for a typical lunch, but it is a nice place for a date, a business meeting or a celebratory lunch/dinner with friends.
I personally did enjoy the entire meal. I was a bit dissapointened with the risotto. I really enjoyed everything else. I enjoyed the polenta so much I really wished it was a main dish because after the polenta the risotto just didn't compare. But that is just my opinion.
As a side note our service was great, until we were preparing to leave and our waitress seemed to get distracted as we waited for the bill, other than that she was very attentive.
Both Ted and I said we would visit the restaurant again. I plan to visit again for a special occasion, maybe for my birthday or another celebration. The next time I would like to enjoy the dinner menu and see how the ambiance and food compares.