Shoo-Fly is another venture from the James Beard Award nominated chef Spike Gjerde, who also has Woodberry Kitchen in the Hampden/Clipper Mill area. Like his other restaurants, this spot sources mostly local food with a goal to serve diner comfort food favorites made with high quality ingredients. Growing up in PA Dutch country, I am no stranger (and certainly no fan!) of Shoofly Pie, which is part of the reason – given the name – I haven’t rushed in. Plus, there have been some less than flattering reviews – but I ignored them and decided to give this upscale diner a try.
Boy, oh boy, I am glad I did.
The decor falls in line with his other rustic style places – unique and farmhouse style – which is great for the Belvedere Square area, as there is nothing like it on the York Road corridor. There is something for everyone here. The first floor has country-style wooden booth and a large front bar with plenty of seats for all who are interested in a few of their boozy milkshakes, slushies or any of their fancy cocktails. Upstairs has a tables, creating a pastoral dinning room feel.
We followed the DINER sign made of mason jars and headed down the stairs for counter service. I really enjoyed the luncheonette style area, which is just steps away from a children’s play room to keep all the small ones entertained while they wait for their dinner.
The menus double as placemats, just like all of my favorite diners from when I was a kid, including a “blue plate special”. I must say, it was a little hard to follow; it’s separated into sections, but there are not a lot of descriptive words to describe dishes like “Arkansas Truffles” and “Kentucky Hot John”. But, our waiter must be used to it because he asked if we had any questions and quickly explained that the truffles were fried pickles and the hot John is a vegetarian version of the open-faced Kentucky Hot Brown.
I haven’t met a fried pickle I haven’t loved – so we started with the Arkansas Truffles. Thin butter pickles fried crispy, and served with the house hot sauce (“Snake Oil“) ranch dip. It was a great start along with the house made chips with scour cream and sweet roasted onion and garlic dip. Both were good, not necessarily worth going back for, but we finished them nonetheless.
Now, let me tell you about the good part. They have an extensive wine and cocktail list, especially for a diner. It felt a little strange to be sitting on a shiny spinning stool drinking my glass of Pinot Noir, but it didn’t stop me from ordering a second glass.
We both ordered from the large plate section of the menu. It was a very cold rainy, almost snowy “spring” day, so I went for the Spaghetti Bolognese. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente and the sauce was gorgeously meaty and just the right amout of herbs and spice. The large chunks of garlic bread were crispy and buttery, just like it should be. And for reals, take nice long look at all of that thinly shaved parmesan cheese – are you kidding me? My friend thoroughly enjoyed the Chicken and Dumplings. This is not your classic creamy chicken and dumplings, so if you are looking for creamy soup with floating biscuits, skip it and order something else – like the rib or breakfast all day. We asked about it beforehand and were pleasantly surprise. The broth tasted like the chicken had been simmering for hours (which was confirmed by the chef – roasted first and then simmered in the broth overnight). There were creamy ricotta gnocchi mixed with tons of chicken, potatoes, mushrooms and seasonal veggies. It was aromatic with thyme and bursting with flavor.
So… now, on to dessert. My friend, loves molasses, so she couldn’t pass up the Shoofly Pie. As I said earlier – this was not for me so, I didn’t even taste it. She said it was good, subtle and sweet; made in-house in true Pennsylvania Dutch fashion by Spike’s wife and baker Amy Gjerde. Although, she could not keep her spoon out of my Paw Paw Brownie Split. Paw Paw, according to our adorable waiter, is a local MD fruit that grows on a tree, kinda like a cacao fruit. The fruit is green with orange, creamy custardy flesh that has a sweet banana style taste. They churn the ice cream in-house made directly from Paw Paw fruit. Do you see this lip-smaking goodness? A ooey gooey brownie on top of a house made sour cherry jam, and then smothered in whipped cream, hot fudge and of course – two scoops of Paw Paw ice cream.
It was reasonably priced, but not quite diner prices – two appetizers, two entrees, two deserts and four glasses of wine for just over $100. I think all those restaurant critics need to give this place a second look. And I can’t wait to follow Spike and Amy over to Parts and Labor.