Dining Review: Bob Ashby’s Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa, Delaware
The Rest is History: A refined country menu makes Cantwell’s in Odessa worth the visit.
(page 1 of 4)
At a Glance
109 Main St., Odessa, 376-0600, cantwells-tavern.com
Starters and small plates $4.99-$10.99
Braised pork shank, she-crab soup, burgers
The solution was practically staring Debbie Buckson in the face.
As executive director of the Odessa Historical Society, Buckson had uncommon insight into her once-bustling little town, and knew it had potential to live again. It had history. It had pretty, tree-lined streets. But there was still one thing Odessa didn’t have—a great restaurant.
At least, it hadn’t for a long time.
During the 1820s, Cantwell’s Bridge Hotel and Tavern was one of several thriving taprooms in Odessa, serving proudly as the town’s country inn during its profitable years as a busy shipping port. The hotel’s Federal-style architecture and warm atmosphere denoted sophistication, and it supplied boat captains, businessmen and important visitors with a place to cool their heels.
To reawaken the glory days of Odessa, the historians needed their tavern back. And after a grueling, six-year overhaul, the modern-day Cantwell’s opened in late fall.
Running the show is Bob Ashby, a man who knows a thing or four about historic pubs. As the longtime owner of The Deer Park Tavern and McGlynn’s, Ashby brings a proven track record and four Delaware restaurants that share a knack for pub cuisine with huge flavors.
Cantwell’s continues Ashby’s tradition admirably, with a modern, seasonal flare. That, and Ashby’s habit of producing some of Delaware’s most outstanding hamburgers. Culled from grass-fed Angus cows from Crow Farm in Kennedyville, Md., Cantwell burgers were impeccably fresh tasting, bursting with robust, unadulterated beef flavor. The house specialty Cantwell’s Burger elicited smoky bouquet from two thick slices of homemade bacon, which, unfortunately, gave way to huge sections that were burnt to a cinder.
But house-made bacon, as well as homemade pickles, mustards, sausages, hand-cut fries, (and even house-cured gravlax) are admirable and tantalizing feats. Many of the house-made niceties are gathered on salmagundi: a Colonial-era chopped salad antipasto with prosciutto, andouille, tomatoes, Cabot cheddar, deviled eggs, chick peas, roasted peppers and romaine lettuce. Chef Dan Sheridan, a Hotel du Pont alum, parlays his superior attention to detail into other plates, especially his gratifying braised pork shank, a meltingly tender hunk of shoulder meat that dismantled easily into a rich cassoulet of broad white beans, mushrooms and matchstick apples all bobbing in a rich, woodsy pool of jus.
continues on page 2...