Over the past year or so, the Washington Post has been on a real anti-Baltimore tear. Surely, though, a visit to Shoo-Fly, the new restaurant by local foodie darling Spike Gjerde, would be enough to melt even the most hardened DC heart, right? Turns out, not so much.
WaPo food critic Tom Sietsema starts his review by mentioning how excited his friends were at the prospect of heading up to Baltimore for a taste of Gjerde’s food: “One of the Mid-Atlantic’s best-known chefs, Gjerde is revered by food fans for his relationships with the people who grow, fish and forage for his menu at the bucolic Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, where the cooking is framed in a beauty of a barn and the service flows smooth and sweet,” he writes.
But that set-up is only in service to a later smack down, as Sietsema details his disappointments with Shoo-Fly, “one of the biggest dining bafflements of the year.” The cocktail was too sweet; the beets were cloying; the fromage was bland; the catfish was soulless; the potato chips were bland; there was too much cole slaw and not enough peanuts on his salad. “The many-layered $1,000 Apple Pie would be a find… in a vending machine,” he writes. Ouch.
Now, I haven’t been to Shoo-Fly, so I can’t say whether all that vitriol is warranted. Readers, what do you think?
I’ve been to Shoo-Fly twice. Service was was spotty on the first visit, better on the second. Of the things I ate/tasted, I’d give it a B+ (total sampling = two appetizers, five entrees, two desserts, no cocktails). Some things are definitely bland — the gravy on the Disco Fries and the Chocolate Pudding — but some were on the lower edge of outstanding: Pork Shoulder with Cheddar Waffles and Chicken and Dumplings. In my opinion, the review is harsh and for something labelled “Diner”, Sietsema doth protest too much.
I’ve been twice and enjoyed it both times. Especially since it’s a new restaurant, and there are ALWAYS bugs to work out, I think it’s a winner. It’s not Woodberry, because it’s not trying to be — and it’s better than any diner I’ve eaten in in Baltimore, without a doubt. The fried chicken was terrific (and I’m from NC, so I know of where I speak, trust me — although the accompanying “foot” was a bit of a surprise), and whatever they served with cheddar waffles was great (I think it changes from night to night — one night was pork belly), as was the meatloaf, and chicken stew. One of our party members got the crab cake, and they weren’t thrilled with it, but that seems a little un-diner-ish anyway. The sides we tried were all good, and the chocolate chiffon pie was to DIE-for-good, and the wine list was appropriately priced. It’s fun to put your name in at Shoo Fly, and then head over to Grand Cru and wait for your table to be ready. Above all, it’s just so good to see that area hoppin’ like it should be. Are we surprised that any DC food writer would give a negative review? Give it a shot!
Went a week or so ago, and was not impressed. It was hard to decipher the menu. We wanted the fried pickles and didn’t see them on the menu and the waitress had to point out that they were actually “Arkansas Truffles”. Who would ever know that?
I got the Hangtown Fry, which was good, but served with the worst biscuit I’ve ever had. It was doughy and grey and when I went to split and butter it, it just fell apart.
The friends I went with ordered the Cheesesteak, and they couldn’t even eat the bread because it was so big, and rock hard.
The gin & tonic I had had the flattest tonic water, so it wasn’t very good.
I would try them again, in hopes that it was an off night.
I have mixed feelings about this place. I love Spike Gjerde and everything that he has done to date. I agree that this menu is hard to follow. Because it is a “diner” you want bang for your buck. In contrast to Shoo Fly is Atwater’s across the street which is not a diner per se but does offer huge value for low prices. The menu felt convoluted to me and also with very heavy food. I agree that the bar is not up to speed yet either. I also wanted a gin and tonic and they came back with a weird mixture of things. I hope that the food gains its footing and the place gets back to being of value. I am dying to LOVE IT. Right now, I give it a straight C bordering on C-. Not up to the Gjerde’s abilities.
I was very disappointed by Shoo-Fly. It thought it tried too hard. It seems to have a vision but then is all over the place. Quite frankly, the food was not good and there were very limited palate choices. I am supportive of the ingenuity but not a fan. Should not be so difficult to dine out…and that is what it felt like, a chore.
the place was delightful – innovative and not pretentious drink menu, nice and informed service staff—-good selection of small and large plates-whats not to like?
Shoo-fly is great for breakfast but over hyped and slightly off on their dinner menu. The menu itself was a bit distressing – I couldn’t get a handle on where they were trying to go. Our four guests all rated their food between a high 6 and a low 7 out of ten. Burger was ok. Pork trio was 1/3 interestingly delicious and 2/3 meh. Hot John was not what anyone expected even after asking the server to described it to us but it was edible. Chiffon pie was fantastic! Seriously, yum. Atmosphere was good and location was terrific for us neighborhood folks so we will be back for breakfast for sure.
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