Roots and Revival
The Braddock Inn Brings Back Old Favorite With a New Twists
Humans, like trees, need roots. By connecting to our history we find grounding, strength and nourishment for our souls, and sometimes for our bellies. Carlo and Heather Dan, new owners of The Braddock Inn in Braddock Heights, take this concept to heart. They bought the 113-year-old “camp” in May of 2014 and spent the next 15 months lovingly restoring the Edwardian-era building with the help of family and friends.
They dug into fixing the foundation, crawled through refinishing old hardwood floors and meticulously cleaned the kitchen’s enduring machines. Now they are serving up seasonal fare with eclectic flair.
Established in 1903 by a group of local investors as the Camp Schley Inn boarding house and restaurant, The Braddock Inn is part of the area’s legacy as a resort and entertainment destination. The enterprise passed through a short list of owners while watching the surrounding community boom and wane, rebuild and change. For most, The Braddock Inn isn’t a drive-by find. Long-time residents might know the locale as the old Ski Way or by its proximity to the site of Braddock Heights’ former roller rink and amusement park. But unless you’ve visited during one of its previous incarnations, you have to look for it. At the peak of Alt. U.S. 40, between Middletown and Frederick, it’s a quick turn onto Maryland Avenue and a left onto Schley Avenue at Beachley’s Variety Store. At the end of the road, when you think you’ve missed it among the residential homes, look left and down the slope for the well-manicured building and stony lot.
The Dans fell in love with the place when it was Home at Braddock Inn, enjoying many family dinners in its historic ambiance and befriending previous owner Greg Holson. “We’ve been [coming] here about 13 years,” says Carlo, who grew up in Bethesda. When the Dans heard the place was going up for sale, they seized the opportunity. The Dans and chef Sam Neubauer work as a tight-knit crew with plenty of industry experience behind them, covering management, service, and food prep. Carlo, a culinary school grad, and Sam worked together at VOLT and Family Meal restaurants in Frederick, as well as at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in D.C. Heather Dan says that their skills are a balance: “We have a good trifecta working together.”
Since reopening the doors in September, they’ve focused on letting the menu shine, putting their own spin on traditional favorites. The atmosphere is relaxed. There’s no worry about using the correct fork, but their commitment to fresh, scratch-made food is hardcore.
“We probably make about 95 percent of the things on our menu in-house,” says Carlo. That includes breads and biscuits, bacon, sausages, ricotta, most pastas, mayo and marmalade. He’s only half-joking when he says, “We don’t make our own ketchup yet. Maybe this summer.” Even humble offerings, like scrapple, get the same thoughtful preparation. They use duck meat for the savory slabs during spring/summer and hearty venison during colder months. Expanded charcuterie efforts are in the works for coming months.
Chef Neubauer, who learned his craft on the job, credits mentors throughout his career for instilling a love of great food and a dedicated work ethic. He’ll hit the farmers’ market whenever possible. “In the spring we’ll forage for ramps,” he says, noting the superior flavor of in-season produce. “We use king oyster mushrooms that are farmed here in Middletown.” Even the beer on tap is a “nano-brew,” courtesy of fledgling business, Steinhardt Brewing, up the street.
Family traditions pop up on the menu, too. The shrimp and grits, made with an antebellum heritage-variety of corn, is a nod to Neubauer’s southern grandmother. Biscuits ‘n’ sausage gravy, fried chicken, meatloaf, and Carolina-style ‘cue also make an appearance. Carlo Dan’s Cuban heritage inspired The Braddock Inn’s popular arepas appetizer. The dish tops little bites of griddled corn cake with bright pink shreds of pickled cabbage, chipotle aioli, and a choice of either smoky pork carnitas or veg-friendly marinated eggplant escabeche. House-made chorizo, a Spanish-style sausage, makes its way into fresh ravioli with pearl onions in a sharp Parmesan cream sauce, while the classic Cuban sandwich gets a twist with capicola ham, chilies, and orange Dijon. Selections evolve with new ideas and product availability.
Campfire icons mark a number of offerings. They indicate a kiss of smoldering hard-wood flavor from The Braddock Inn’s oft-employed industrial smoker. Beef brisket and pork roasts will bask in the hot vapor for 12 hours. Alternately, burgers, steaks, vegetables and cheeses might be cold-smoked, a process that adds
a smoky bacon-like essence without cooking the item. One benefit, notes Heather Dan, is that carnivores who crave their selections medium-rare can still have them cooked to order.
“That’s the beautiful part,” says Neubauer about flexing his creativity with food and flavor. “Recipes don’t have to be set in stone.” Likewise, he can readily accommodate vegans, gluten-free eaters and other special diet needs, especially with an advance call, and there is a kids’ menu.
Next on the agenda is finishing The Braddock Inn’s lower level as a casual, evening venue with a modern feel. The third floor will be banquet space, so there’s plenty of work ahead. It’s still a new adventure for the Dans and Neubauer, but they’re already getting a taste of success. “I’m surprised,” says Carlo Dan, “people will come for dinner one day then come back for brunch the next.” He enjoys interacting with guests. “They’ll shake my hand and say that this was the best meal they’ve had in a long time. It’s the reason to keep going.”
Under new ownership, this grand old lady of the mountaintop is ready for the next century, too.
Braddock Inn’s eclectic, seasonal menu is fun and fresh
By Susan Guynn | December 24, 2015
Frederick city has some great restaurants, but “great” is not limited to downtown establishments.
The Braddock Inn, atop Braddock Mountain, is just a few minutes beyond the Golden Mile. Built in 1903 as the Camp Schley Inn during the heyday of Braddock Heights as a resort community, it later became the state’s first ski resort (Braddock Heights Skiway). The ski resort closed in the mid-1980s, and since then, a few other establishments have come and gone.
Owner/operator Carlo Dan, who has more than 20 years of restaurant experience under his hat, reopened The Braddock Inn earlier this year. Along with his chef de cuisine, Sam Neubauer, they have created what Dan describes on the website as an eclectic, seasonal and smoke-driven menu influenced by his Cuban roots and Neubauer’s Southern upbringing.
Neubauer told me that the owner has been working on renovating the building, foundation to roof, since purchasing it in 2014, and that it is the first time the property had changed ownership since the 1970s.
My husband, Rick, and I had dinner there on a weekend night earlier this month. As a Frederick County native, I knew of the inn but had never been there to ski (back in the day) or for a meal.
It’s a wonderful two-story building with a five-dormer attic, a wide porch that offers outdoor dining in season, and two comfortable dining rooms inside. Our server said the long bar, from the ski resort days, is still in the lower level, and there are plans to reopen that to the public, too.
We were seated in the back dining room, with walls painted a warm peach, old yellow pine floors and large windows (unfortunately, we were there at night and the curtains were closed, so I don’t what the view is like). In one corner was a decorated Christmas tree. Another area displayed old photos, letters and other memorabilia about the inn and “The Heights.” Two alcove areas each had a table for seating larger parties.
Our server presented the menu and shared the specials of the day, which included Maryland blue catfish and twice-baked potato soup. Rick ordered a Bud from the beer menu, and I got a soda.
The menu is seasonal and changes, and on this night the entrees consisted of comfort foods, like meat loaf, fried chicken, pork chops and pasta — but with a chef’s flair. The chicken is orange brined, the rigatoni is lemon parsley rigatoni, and the pork chop is served with an apple-cranberry chutney.
I ordered two things from the menu that I have never ordered in a restaurant: chicken livers and meat loaf. I generally don’t eat liver of any kind, and meat loaf — I can make that at home.
We started with a cup of the day’s soup, twice-baked potato ($3.50), a creamy soup topped with bits of bacon and grated cheese. My grandmother used to make the best potato soup (with rivels), and this reminded me of that.
From the appetizer menu, which also included arepas (a corn pancake), stuffed chilies and sweet potato fries, I was intrigued by the description of the chicken livers ($8) — “hard fried chicken livers topped with Swiss, capicola and orange marmalade.” Artfully arranged on a white plate and golden in color, the livers were double-dipped in a mix of corn starch, corn flour, and salt and pepper, Neubauer told me in a followup phone call. The coating was crisp and delicate, and the orange marmalade took it over the top. Never thought I’d say I enjoyed eating chicken livers!
I had the bacon-wrapped meat loaf ($15) with two thick slices resting on a bed of scratch-made mashed potatoes and topped with crispy and browned Brussels sprouts. This is not the meat loaf recipe on the back of the oatmeal box. This is tender ground beef with a hint of tomato and topped with a slice of bacon.
Rick had the Flat Iron ($26), an 8-ounce, cold-smoked beef cut, served on a bed of mashed potatoes, and a side salad ($3.50) with fresh greens, cucumber slices and halved grape tomatoes, with bleu cheese dressing on the side. The beef was nicely prepared medium well, as he requested.
From the long list of desserts, we shared the apple cobbler ($8). It was served in a small, hot, cast iron skillet filled with apple slices and an oatmeal crumb topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This is likely not a year-round dessert, but since apples are my favorite dessert ingredient, it was perfect.
The menu also has “quick eats,” burgers, pulled pork, etc. and a kids menu. The front dining area includes the bar, with a variety of wines, cocktails and beers available, and happy hour Tuesday through Friday, with live music on some nights.
The Braddock Inn also serves brunch with items including omelets, buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken gravy, duck scrapple, shrimp and grits and deviled eggs filled with egg yolk and smoked white fish salad.
Our total tab for dinner was $74.50, plus tax and tip.
We’re looking forward to revisiting Braddock Inn to 1) check on the renovation progress and 2) enjoy another great meal.