Baldwin's Station voted
2012 Favorite Restaurant
by the Restaurant Association of Maryland
Best Outdoor Dining 2014
Since opening our doors in 1998, many media outlets
have featured Baldwin's Station in their top picks describing the
music, food and entertainment as an exciting, "Worth the trip"
place to visit, including:
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Find out more about Baltimore: www.baltimorehotels.net
Zagat - "Award
of Distinction" 2002
Baltimore Magazine: October 2011
Off the Eaten Path
It's been 14 years since Stewart Dearie opened Baldwin's Station in a brick 1883 railroad station anchoring the picturesque Main Street in Sykesville. But if his performance on a recent evening is a guide, his enthusiasm for the restaurant and its customers has not dimmed.
Dearie walked from table to table, introducing himself, asking if everything was okay, and talking up future events. It happened to be the night of a five-course beer-pairing dinner, and diners at other tables were sipping ales and stouts as they worked through a menu that started with a goat-cheese tart and ended with house-made whoopie pies.
The event was typical of Baldwin's Station-exuberant and unstuffy, with dishes that showcase fresh American ingredients and presentation that is never boring.
The space has a rambling, rustic quality, with wood floors and views of the Patapsco River from both the inside dining area and from an expansive deck. But white tablecloths and impeccable service keep it from being overly casual.
Executive chef Darrick Granai hails from a tiny town in northern Vermont. His entrees, which include steak, rainbow trout, duck, and crab cakes, seem inspired by American fields, gardens, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay. Each dish is served with bold sides and a little splash of sauce that balances the flavors and textures.
In summer, salads contain ingredients including watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds, each with a dressing crafted to highlight the flavors. Our baby arugula salad contrasted the peppery assertiveness of the greens with sweet caramelized fennel, rich crumbles of blue cheese, and a silky poached pear. Granai is not above serving an entree as shamelessly popular as fried chicken, though his version is coated in Cajun-seasoned cornmeal and comes with grilled polenta and an aioli made with chives and almonds.
The dishes are beautifully presented, with real flowers as a garnish. The New York strip steak boasts a smooth mineral flavor and gently charred exterior, and shares the plate with a fat wedge of macaroni and cheese and a swath of unnecessary but decadently enjoyable lobster hollandaise.
A swordfish special one night was notable for the firm and moist texture of the seafood, as well as the side of pineapple sticky rice with mango salsa, providing a refreshing balance of sweet and spicy.
An appetizer of Thai shrimp featured four fat shrimp nestled in crisp tempura jackets, arranged on a mound of wilted bok choy, and drizzled with a spicy red aioli.
Desserts might include a few varieties of cheesecake, a flourless chocolate cake, or a crème brûlée. Sorbets like lemon and raspberry are available, too.
Once home, we saw that the pretty flower garnishes had been included in our to-go boxes, just the kind of thoughtful detail that makes Baldwin's Station a standout.
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Baltimore Eats: Spring 2011
Whining 'n Dining
I recently had the pleasure of dining at Baldwin's Station in historic Sykesville---what a beautiful, quaint and unique setting. Housed in the town's original 1883 railroad station, Baldwin's Station -named after the architect that designed it-is listed in The National Register of Historic Places. It's located on The Old Main Line, the oldest railway in the country-and the train tracks are just about 15 feet away from the tables in the charming indoor/outdoor deck area.
I sat there waiting for the train to come --and got a big smile on my face when the whistle blew. Kinda like how I get mesmerized at a car wash-I HAVE to see my car go through. I know-I am a child. But HEY-I was SO NOT the only one! Owner Stewart Dearie has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Though he is not the chef, he has an impressive resume including an 8-year stint as manager for the 4-star, 4-diamond Conservatory Restaurant atop the Peabody Court Hotel and Antrim 1844 in Taneytown for 4 years.
Baldwin's also has a reputation for bringing in excellent live music and hosting unique special events. On April 21st, you can join the Karl Spence and Tom Greco, authors of the book "Dining on the B&O", as they give a behind the scenes look at how their book evolved. And-- Norma McCormack, whose father William Bond was the first steward and then the superintendent of the B&O will reminisce about the early days. Now-to the food.
Kudos to Chef Darrick Granai for a delicious dinner. The crab cakes were excellent-and he made them gluten free for me! The osso buco-OMG-was outstanding-loved it. Also enjoyed the gruyere stuffed filet with truffle-mashed potatoes, watercress and a blackberry sauce choron. Seriously-I've been dreaming about the crab cakes and mashed potatoes.
Thank you Stewart and Darrick. Baldwin's Station is at 7816 Main Street. Go to BaldwinsStation.com.
Baldwin's Station also was awarded Randi's "Best Unique Ambiance" award in her article "Randi's Favorite Things 2011." Check it out!
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Maryland Life Magazine: November 2008
There’s a small depression in the dark hardwood floors of the coatroom at Baldwin’s Station, the Sykesville railroad-stop-turned-restaurant. Not long after Stewart Dearie opened in 1997, an elderly woman approached the owner and said, “I just want to let you know you have a dip in your floor.”
Expecting a verbal tongue-lashing, Dearie was pleasantly surprised when the woman continued and announced proudly, “There’s nothing wrong with that floor of yours. No sir, that’s where my husband’s chair rolled back for 40 years.”
The woman’s husband had been the train master.
“It’s one of those stories where you get goose bumps,” says Dearie.
Stories have the power to transform a piece of property into a living, breathing character, and Baldwin’s Station is quite the character. Overlooking the Patapsco River along the Carroll/Howard County line, the station was built in 1883 as the second stop on America’s first railway line, the B&O’s “Old Main Line.” Designed by renowned Baltimore architect Ephraim Francis Baldwin, the Queen Anne-style building operated as a train station until the early 1970s (the structure lay dormant until 1991, when it first opened, under different ownership, as Baldwin’s Restaurant).
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Baldwin’s Station’s past is very much present; in fact, to borrow from William Faulkner, “It’s not even past.” Fixtures from bygone eras have not so much disappeared as evolved. A custom-built wine cellar now stands in the unique space where the train master once sat—windows to the left and right allowed him to spy locomotives approaching from east or west.
“The Waiting Room,” a Victorian-style dining room, served as the actual waiting room for women and children, while the pub area functioned as the men’s waiting room. The hand-carved bar is lined with a sampling of Baldwin’s 50 single-malt scotches (a nod to Dearie’s Scottish ancestry). Vintage photos hang from soft peach and sage painted walls, and you can almost hear the murmur of men in bowlers discussing the news of the day, the sound of tobacco juice ringing into the bottom of a spittoon.
A second dining room, “the Freight Room,” with its exposed brick and 20-foot-high ceilings, is home to Baldwin’s popular Thursday night concert series, co-produced with Baltimore’s Uptown Concerts. Folk, jazz, bluegrass, and Celtic are spotlighted by national and local acts.
Décor, live music, seasonal menus, and weekly specials—including the Chef’s Wine Dinners (a six-course meal with wine pairings created by Executive Chef Eric Yeager, Executive Sous Chef Nicholas Smith, and customers)—are all part of what Dearie calls giving “the wheel more spokes”; the cultivation of an experience not simply for the palate alone.
“Clearly, your lunch menu, your dinner menu, the service—that’s got to be one of your main spokes, and it’s got to be exciting,” says Dearie, a Sykesville native and former manager of the Conservatory Restaurant at the Peabody Court Hotel in Baltimore and of Antrim 1844 in Taneytown. “[But] when people come here, we can talk to them about more than just food because we do more than that.”
A trip to Baldwin’s Station isn’t complete until a freight train pounds the “Old Main Line.” The sight and sound is glorious, particularly during live shows.
“It is pretty good when a musician has the wherewithal to think about it when the train rolls around the corner,” says Dearie, a musician himself. “Maybe they have an old train tune, a blues tune, and they stop what they are doing and launch into it, and the crowd just erupts. They eat it up.” (Full disclosure: Years ago, I performed at Baldwin’s Station, and a train came through in the middle of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” And, yes, it was pretty cool.)
During the holidays, white lights line the canopied veranda. Fresh evergreens adorn windows while Celtic harps and pipes lilt through the Freight Room, falling snowflakes visible through the stained-glass windows. At any moment, the Polar Express could roll through.
For more than a decade, Baldwin’s Station has hosted “A Connemara Christmas,” a holiday concert featuring the DC-based traditional Celtic ensemble Connemara and award-winning vocalist Grace Griffith. Last December, the restaurant began a new holiday tradition, a Sunday Santa Brunch, complete with a visit from the jolly old elf himself.
Known for its “New American Cuisine,” fresh fish and seafood, and black Angus beef, some of Baldwin’s Station’s winter menu highlights include, for starters, Terrine De Poulet, a roasted chicken pâté with sage, peppercorns, and fontiago cheese served with sweet balsamic syrup and butternut squash parfait; and cognac pheasant sausage served over apple chiffaunade tossed with roasted pecans, fresh herbs, and fennel-scented cranberry jus.
Two entrées worth jumping on board for are cider-glazed rack of pork slow-roasted with sausage and cornbread stuffing and served with spaghetti squash, and linguini di mare—pasta tossed with spinach pesto and smoked pancetta, served with chipotle-rubbed sea scallops and roasted-red-pepper coulis.
But, if you’re looking for a crab cake that is “99 percent crab, 1 percent seasoning,” Dearie is more than happy to oblige. And there’s no dress code, either. In fact, Dearie’s only requirement “is that you enjoy yourself.”
While his spokes are well placed into the wheel, Dearie knows that the key to Baldwin’s success has been location.
“Railroad stations…the majority of people find them very magical,” he says. “They can relate back to the trains and the steam engines and romance. That’s one of the reasons I looked at this building and said, ‘This is going to work.’”
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Baltimore Magazine: February 2005
50 Best Restaurants
"In the past, we have sometimes dismissed Baldwin’s Station by recommending it as a good destination if you’re in the mood for a drive in the country. But owner Stewart Dearie has found his groove, and caveats are no longer necessary. The drive is still beautiful and Sykesville is still cute, and who could possibly criticize a restaurant in a Victorian train station ( with a sign hanging from the ceiling admonishing patrons to “Look out for the locomotive”)? But the food is finally on the right track, as well. Clam chowder is packed with clams and potatoes, and well, chowderness. Ordering meat is a good idea here. Wild boar sausage is stunning, nicely balanced by sour cranberries and with a lingering flavor that doesn’t veer toward salt, as it so often does. It’s vigorous and meaty, with plenty of the intriguing strangeness that attracted us to game like boar and venison in the first place. For the less adventurous carnivore, try a medium-rare tenderloin—chewy, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Desserts…are house-made and predictably good. Baldwin’s is also kid-friendly, with plenty of appropriate choices already on the menu and a staff that happily adapts to last-minute requests."
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Baltimore Magazine: February 2003
55 Best Restaurants
"At one end of Main Street in sleepy little Sykesville sits the historic B&O railroad depot, lovingly restored and turned into Baldwin's Station. It's a cozy place, with Victorian décor, fresh flowers, white tablecloths, exposed brick in one room and elegant olive green in the other. Servers are friendly and well-meaning...For starters, we love the corn-meal-battered calamari with sweet-hot red pepper sauce; it's a nice contrast of flavors and textures. In season, a killer cream of corn soup with a small crab cake floating in the middle takes top prize. An entrée of tasty, tender Louisiana fried chicken incorporating herbs into its crisp curst is a winner...A dish of grilled veggies with a delicious Moroccan-inspired harissa vinaigrette will please vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike—not too spicy for those of delicate constitution, and light enough to save room for the excellent desserts."
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Baltimore Magazine: February
65 Best Restaurants
"It must of been nice way back when to hop on a train in Baltimore
and roll through the lovely Patapsco Valley to this quaint Victorian
train station in Sykesville. These days you have to drive, but at
least you can expect a good meal for your trouble. Baldwin's has
a cozy feel, its tables filled with casually dressed couples and
a few families with small children who, charmingly, tend to jump
up and run to the window when a freight train lumbers by. The food
also enchants. On this night we tucked into wild game sausage (a
spicy mix of boar and andouille) and a special of creamy, peppery
smoked chicken soup. An adventurous choice might have been the mahi
mahi with peach schnapps and cranberries. Instead we supped on a
thick slab of polenta topped with carrot and tomato coulis and a
perfectly pink and juicy New York strip steak. Desserts, like the
outrageously good raspberry bombe, are worth saving room for."
Baltimore Magazine: May
70 Best Restaurants
"brunch bunch: The regions top brunch spots"
"Baldwin's Station occupies the old train station in the sleepy
little town of Sykesville. It is a pretty place, with lots of brick,
white linen tableclothes, and fresh flowers; and the building feels
like its been there long enough to have settled in. The downside
is the Carroll County law that doesn't allow them to serve any alcohol
before noon on Sunday. An hour's worth of anticipation makes that
Bloody Mary taste awfully good, though. Baldwin's belongs to the
extra-horseradish school, by the way...a great way to awaken your
palate, but you'll need to squeeze out every last drop of your citrus
garnish to help balance the bite of the rude root.
Don't be alarmed by the fact
that the menu apparently includes no breakfast choices. Just order
appetizers while you wait for it to be noon. You can have a bowl
of tangy tomato soup with roasted shallots. Or sauteed wild mushrooms
over puff pastry. Don't miss the baked oysters with sambuca and
pancetta — an intriguing combination of briny, sweet, and
salty flavors that tastes much better than it sounds. Eventually
the waitperson will recite a list of standard fare such as French
toast, steak and eggs, and various omelets. The steak is a particularly
tender cut, done just shy of medium-rare exactly as we'd asked.
From the printed menu, the Mediterranean chicken-salad sandwich
adds almonds and sweetened, dried cranberries to the usual chicken
and mayonnaise, and is served on outstanding olive bread. A beef
fajita roll-up is delicious on it own, but beware the overzealously
seasoned accompanying black-bean salsa. Desserts are on offer, but
you may be too full, not only from your entrees, but from the abundant
potatoes served with everything. Baldwin's offers a great excuse
for a leisurely drive in the country. Expect generous servings of
well-prepared food in comfortable surroundings — you'll have
a great time."
Paper: September 2000
The Best of Baltimore Best Acoustic Music Venue
"Judging a music venue really comes down to two things: the
quality of the performances and the atmosphere of the venue. Baldwin's
Station, an upscale yet rustic looking restaurant that served as
an actual train station way back when, fits the bill spectactularly.
First and foremost, there is music. Uptown Concerts books first-rate
musicians — well loved acoustic-circuit stars (Dar Williams,
the Kennedys, Ellis Paul) and lower-profile acts that deserve to
be heard (Erica Wheeler, Garnet Rogers). And they're heard in a
glorious spot: The wood-appointed Carroll County restaurant is an
elegant venue that lends itself well to the enjoyment of carefully
crafted handmade music. Sykesville is a bit of a haul from Mobtown,
but every time we truck out to Baldwin's for a show, it's more than
worth the gasoline and effort."
Best Romantic Restaurant
"There's something about a drive in the country, great food,
and a bit of history that makes for romance. Baldwin's Station,
in Sykesville, is our pick for that special occasion designed to
fan the flames of desire. The building, designed by E. Francis Baldwin
and completed in 1883, served for years as a B&O station. The train
still runs on the track behind the restaurant's station, where you
can choose to dine in good weather. An imaginative menu of New American
cuisine sets the stage for seduction. From fabulous breads to stunning
desserts, the meal will tempt all your senses."
New Restaurant" 8/98 "Best 75 Restaurants"
"Best 70 Restaurants"
Toasts of the Town Category Winner
"Historic Sykesville has about as pretty a Main Street as you're
likely to find. And if a drive to this picturesque town isn't enough
inducement to pay a visit to Baldwin's Station, imagine the restaurant
itself, a lovingly restored train station so cozy it'll make you
feel like Christmas all year long. Sit by the window and, if you're
lucky, a peek through the lace curtains will yield the sight of
a passing train. Lest you forget you're a citizen of the 21st century,
the fine, fresh New American cuisine will pleasantly remind you
— say, a "lollipop" pork chop in sun dried cherry
and port wine pan gravy, or enormous seared scallops on a bed of
penne with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. No matter where you're
from, you'll feel right at home in this friendly spot. Go on a Wednesday
night for the added bonus of live folk music. This is one neighborhood
we'd hang out in any time."
Magazine: January 1998
The 75 Best Restaurants
"This beautifully renovated train station on the main drag
in Sykesville finally has a worthy inhabitant. Baldwin's New American
menu — think portabello mushroom bisque, Sambuca oysters,
pork tenderloin with bourbon demi-glace, panseared whole trout —
is straightforward and based on impeccably fresh ingredients. The
dining rooms — one exposed brick, one Victorian — could
not be more charming, and the deck outside, just a stone's throw
from the train tracks, will be one of next summer's best."
Do: Check out
the Wednesday acoustic concert schedule.
Don't: Be embarrassed if the whistle of the passing freight
train turns you starry-eyed.
Baldwin’s Station is located at 7618 Main Street in Sykesville. For more information, visit www.baldwinstation.com or call 410-795-1041.