Dining Out: Keeping Up with the Joneses

     It’s a rare week at Bay Weekly when we don’t get a press release proclaiming the opening of a regional or national chain restaurant. The release is a metaphor for the restaurant it touts. Produced at a corporate headquarters far away, with minor changes to make it appear local, it touts a menu and food you could just as easily find in Columbus, Ohio.

     Here in Chesapeake Country, we have our share of these, but we are lucky to also have a good selection of locally owned and operated places. One of my favorites is The Point, on the Magothy River in Arnold. Lifelong locals Bobby and Julie Jones have been providing us with good eating here for the past six years.

     Now people in Southern Anne Arundel County have this same opportunity; The Joneses have opened their second restaurant, Ketch 22, at Herrington Harbour South in Rose Haven.

      Once again they have set a high standard.

The Joneses

     Bobby and Julie have similar background stories. Both are lifelong locals who have worked in restaurants since they were kids, doing the usual entry- and mid-level jobs. They started their fulltime working lives in the corporate world.

     Bobby spent eight years selling software and services. “I didn’t like the corporate environment; it was too inflexible for me,” he told Bay Weekly. Julie worked as a crisis intervention counselor.

     Eventually they realized their destiny was to open their own restaurant, and in 2012 they opened The Point. This April, they opened Ketch 22, 32 miles south at the far end of Anne Arundel County.

     What led them there?

     “We enjoy smaller neighborhoods compared to the city,” Bobby explained. We want a neighborhood restaurant that’s part of the community.”

     Two people with two restaurants, how did they divide their duties?

     Each had the same role at both places, Julie explained. “Bobby’s the chef and general manager. I do behind-the-scenes work with bookkeeping and HR, and I’m in charge of the front of the house. That’s the servers, bussers, hosts and bartenders. That includes hiring, training, supervising, running service.”

     In each role, “We’ve met a lot of locals and we’re looking forward to getting to know more,” Julie said.

     My lunchtime visit seemed to verify this, as I turned to a neighboring table and started chatting with the three ladies lunching. All were from Chesapeake Beach and described themselves as regulars. 

      Why do they keep coming back?

     “There are always dishes we want to try,” Michelle Hayden told me.

     This wasn’t surprising, as Bobby designs the menu based on what fresh local ingredients are available; it changes two or three times a year. I visited just after the switch to the fall/winter menu.

The Restaurants

     The Point and Ketch 22 are sisters, but they are not twins. If you look closely you can see a family resemblance, but each has its own look and feel.

     “We didn’t want them to be carbon copies of each other; we wanted each to have its own personality,” Julie said.

     Both are on the water at marinas. Both share Bobby’s passion for fresh local ingredients, and have seasonal menus based on what is available and what’s good. Both eateries are very good at what they do.

       Maryland crab soup is my measure of a new restaurant. It’s my favorite soup, and its quality says a lot about the restaurant in general. I assumed Ketch 22’s would be the same as The Point’s, which is one of my favorites. I was surprised: it wasn’t just as good; it might have been better. I can’t say if it was really better, or if it was my memory. 

      Beyond soup, I struggled with too many interesting choices. I had no doubt the usuals — crab cakes, rockfish, burgers — would be good, so I asked my server Emily for something different. She suggested the chicken wings. Served with all three pieces intact and heavily sauced, wings sounded too messy as I’d be taking notes. Meatloaf sounded too heavy for lunch on a warmish, sunny day.

     Pork tacos sounded just right. Chef Bobby bypasses the standard choices — a flour tortilla or a crispy corn taco shell likely to fall apart. He gives you both, a tortilla wrapped around a taco shell, so you get the best of both worlds. 

      Hard crabs are a big draw at The Point, while Ketch 22 offers none. That difference is reflected in atmosphere. The Point is more casual. In good weather, its walls open up to give the feel of a covered deck on the water. Ketch 22 has more of a restaurant feel, with more items on the menu. Boaters will feel comfortable in their usual attire at either restaurant. Both are kid-friendly, with $5 kid menus.

Which Should You Try?

      I came away from Ketch 22 very pleased. I liked the atmosphere, and I liked the food. As a bonus, for only the second time in the area, I drank from a fully biodegradable paper straw.

     Thanking Julie for her greenness, I discovered going green is not as simple as I thought.

     “It took a while to get them,” she said. “First we had to find a product we liked. Once we found the brand we liked, they were back-ordered for a long time — everyone seems to like the same ones.”

       My choice is a question of geography. The Point is much closer to home for me. If I lived halfway between them, I’d probably go to both on a regular basis. 

More Down the Line?

      Are the Joneses planning on opening more restaurants? A definite maybe.

      “I love this business, love making good food and being around great people,” Bobby told me. “I want to grow the business so we can provide opportunities for my staff and leadership to grow. If we do grow, it will be a slow, careful process.”