By Debra Cornwell
Since mid-June 2012, Dan & Charlotte Aufdem-Brinke have realized their dream of opening a popular dining and craft beer establishment. Simply called Dan's Restaurant & Tap House, the newly remodeled building on Boonsboro's Square is casual with stylish touches and is a great anchor for the square and the community. Their goal is to offer the best of local breweries, vineyards, and farms plus a taste of the world.
Decorated with polished woods and a muted modern palate of green and mustard, Dan's exudes a warm, friendly atmosphere, and the spacious interior seats about 100. Beer lovers will find 24 craft beers on tap plus over 100 other selections in bottles or cans. On tap selections during my visit included Lancaster Country Cream Ale and Firestone Walker Double Jack.
Chef Steven Weaver says local partners include Palmyra Farm, Woodlawn, and EarthNEats. "We try to use as much local produce as possible. It's hard for local growers to keep up with our quantity demand." He describes the philosophy at Dan's as "keeping it local" with a desire to be the hub and cornerstone of the town. "We want to contribute to revitalization efforts in this charming town. We're a great meeting place. You see the mayor eating here as well as your neighbor. We're not too fancy, and we have a wide price range."
Weaver started his food career at 14 years old washing dishes at the South Mountain Inn. He remembers, "One day someone didn't show up, and I filled in for that person in the kitchen. I moved onto desserts and stayed there through college." Weaver furthered his career at several regional establishments before accepting the call to head up the kitchen at Dan's.
Dan's has a large, ambitious menu that has attracted a devoted following by locals and visitors from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia, as well as the cities of Frederick and Germantown in Maryland and beyond. Weaver says, "We've been insanely busy here since day one--more than we thought. We haven't really had a slow night yet." He noted there is a core of about 20 locals who can be found at Dan's on any given day. "It's great to see familiar faces return," he says.
I tucked into an appetizer of pankocrusted prawns, commonly referred to as jumbo shrimp. Panko is another name for Japanese-style bread crumbs. Jumbo shrimp can be tough, but these were juicy and tender in a light crisp breading. The Japanese barbecue sauce added a depth of flavor to the prawns. Nori salad, the accompaniment, is a classic seaweed salad--a sustainable sea vegetable that is rich in nutrients.
My dining partner loved the pan-seared scallops with grilled asparagus. The wild mushroom risotto side dish could be a hearty meal of its own--lots of rich risotto perfection. The mai poi sauce on the plate was really for a boost of color as white scallops and white risotto on a white plate is rather monotone.
One of the most unique dishes offered at Dan's is cherry chicken. Served with a kriek lambic gastrique, the dish is a twist on sweet and sour chicken. A gastrique is an element used for flavoring a sauce by caramelizing sugar, deglazing with vinegar and sometimes adding stock.
Increasingly the term is used to refer to the sauce itself such as a citrus gastrique. Kriek lambic is a Belgian beer that blends sour Morello cherries with a dry, cidery-tasting beer-base that has undergone the unusual process of spontaneous fermentation.
Served with cherry bacon yam hash- -cubed yams, chopped bacon and dried cherries, the dish is a surprising delight.
For those in the mood for burgers and beer, Dan's BoonsBurgers are a half pound of house ground, locally raised beef and are served with hand cut fries. Burgers include a burger of the week, the Tap House Burger with gorgonzola, smokey aioli, pickled red onion, smoked bacon, the Rise and Shine with aged cheddar, fried egg and smoked bacon, the Black-n- Blue which is rubbed in Cajun spices and covered in balsamic-braised onions and bleu cheese, a BBQ Burger topped with smoked bacon, smoked cheddar, crispy onions and bbq sauce. For those in a DIY mood there are lots of choices: pepper jack, smoked cheddar, sharp aged cheddar, Chesapeake cheddar, Swiss, bleu, American, feta, mozzarella and goat cheeses, crip onions, sautéed onions, mushrooms, bacon, jalapenos, ham, prosciutto, fried egg, and pineapple.
Gorgeous soups including creamy asparagus and crab bisque, blistered corn and chicken, and spicy tomato gazpacho with poached shrimp are rich and pleasing.
Do make room for a dessert--at least to share! A proper four-layer red velvet with a classic cream cheese icing is enhanced by layers of chocolate ganache. The decadent slice is seated on a plate drizzled with lime syrup, raspberry coulis, and a caramel vanilla syrup. Love creme brulee? Love cheesecake? Then the creme brulee cheesecake is for you. The toasted slivered almonds complement the dessert with a light nutty crunch.
Stick around for entertainment "In the Window" at Dan's. Dan's employee Joshua Hager explains that live entertainment at Dan's has been well-received. "The musicians set up in the front bay window. We've hosted various singer/songwriters, soloists, acoustic duos, etc. When Rick Fehle played here last time, it was near capacity."
The restaurant serves lunch and dinner. Visit www.drnth.com for more information.