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Mason's in Easton, MD


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Mason's is a long time Easton restaurant, founded in 1966 according to the sign outside. I'd say I'm surprised it doesn't already have its own dr.com thread but I've learned not to say that because 90% of the times when I do, I'm shown that there is such a thread which I just didn't find.

So, some notes from a Friday night dinner visit to Mason's on Harrison Street in Easton. Maybe to start a new thread or maybe to be combined with a pre-existing one lurking around here somewhere.

We've been weekending in Easton for just a few years had always just gone to Mason's for drinks before or after having dinner somewhere else. They have a nice, comfortable bar area. But, it's mainly a restaurant and we'd never eaten there so this time we gave it a try. There are a number of raves on other restaurant websites about it (if you check yelp, be sure to look at the "filtered" reviews along with the dozen or so main, "in the clear" reviews) and their own website proclaims Mason's best in Talbot County and the eastern shore's favorite "for the discriminating palate." I know, not good signs. The large refrigerated diner-style dessert case by the bar housing 8-12 cakes and pies was another questionable sign. And, of course, that it was so easy to book a table just with just a few hours of advance notice on a Friday night with a major art festival going on had us scratching our heads a bit too. That and the fact that the place was maybe half to 2/3 full at prime dinner time.

HEADLINE

Meh. Might suggest avoiding for dinner. Can't be sure about lunch. Still a nice venue for a drink. They may sell nice chocolates. Maybe a place living on a reputation from longer ago than I know.

FOOD

This is the main problem with Mason's. It's fully priced with dinner entrees between $18 and $30 or so. I have suspicions about ingredient quality and freshness but I'm more certain about disappointing technique. We had:

- Boston Bibb Salad ($12): maybe the best thing ordered. Fresh large leaves of bibb lettuce with generous amounts of ostensibly local chesapeake lump crab and large chunks of citrus (either blood orange or grapefruit). If only they didn't decide to go with a thousand island style dressing for this...while used with crab, it clashed some with the citrus. Nevertheless, pretty good and a good value given the quantity and quality of the crab. Definitely better than meh.

- Corn Crab Chowder ($8): This was the soup of the day but, regrettably, tasted like it had been sitting around most of the day. In its defense, plenty of crab but a bit thick and gloppy. Meh minus.

- Cured Ahi Tuna Tartare ($11): I'll make a comment here that may indicate how much I still have to learn about food (as opposed to what little I've already figured out). Why "cure" (and then sear) the fish in a tartare dish if the ingredients are fresh and wonderful? Answer: maybe if the ingredients aren't so fresh, aren't so wonderful or the technique not so sure. Sure enough, whether or not "normal" to do this, it didn't taste good. The fish tasted more of salt and other mystery seasonings used to cure than of fresh (and refreshing) rich tuna. It was also seared for good measure. That might have been fine if not for the double whammy of curing. If the tuna was good quality, the techniques made it impossible to discern. If it wasn't such great tuna, the preparation served to disguise that to some degree but, overall, this dish was decidedly somewhere between meh and blech.

- Dayboat Scallops w/ Sweet Potato Puree and [some kind of basil olive oil puddle on the plate] ($27): Pretty disappointing all around. The scallops were over seasoned and seemed to have been baked rather than grilled or seared. Each had a soft crust of seasoning and maybe bread crumbs that fully coated the tops and bottoms. This served to hide any white of the scallops and, more at issue, made them a bit soft and mushy. The five served with the dish were sea scallop sized so, with dabs of sweet potato puree under each and a small side of a decent fresh corn salad, it was a good sized portion. Unfortunately, I could only finish two of them before giving up and fully owning up to the fact that they just didn't taste good. Should have sent them back but I hate doing that. Either it was a problem of older scallops, a problem with the preparation or both. A solid "blech."

- BBQ Ribs--Full Rack w/ Sweet Potato Fries ($18): Better than the scallops but not better than meh. Thankfully for me (the misguided scallop orderer), my SO ordered this and she couldn't eat a full rack. The BBQ sauce wasn't reminiscent of something created by someone from a BBQ state; without much in the way of flavor, spice, tang or bite, the meat was tender. And the fries were decent. With a better BBQ joint around the corner though, tough to suggest Mason's for this. That said, half a rack of the ribs with the soup and salad I had and at least I didn't leave hungry. Meh. Maybe meh plus even if there is such a thing.

- Wine ($25): Masons offers 6 different wine bottle specials at $25. The smaller vineyard kiwi sauvignon blanc listed was sold out and substituted for with a more pedestrian Cloudy Bay Sauv Blanc. Given our experience with the meal and my limited recall of wine pricing, I was highly skeptical that this special was particularly special but, sure enough, a quick web search after the fact seemed to show the 2010 sells in the low 20 range at retail so I guess priced well after all.

SERVICE

Wanting to be charitable, I'll call the service indifferent. Suffice to say, reasonable requests for information or service shouldn't be met with bothered or judgmental facial expressions and tone. Also, I was a bit surprised the waitress asked and said nothing when picking up the dinner plates since one had 3 of 5 large scallops untouched. Oh well.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I wanted to like Masons more. And I like imagining that it used to be something more special and worthwhile than it is now. This was just one meal and maybe it was an "off night." But, this single meal experience and my prior drink experiences may me think it may be best for a drink. Oh...and, maybe, for chocolate. At the back of the restaurant is a store with candies and chocolates sold under the Mason's brand. Evidently this was one of the first products of the business when founded in the 60s. Those might be good but I can't comment since we didn't try them. Maybe next time with a stiff drink.

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