Let us eat cake

Simon Kenton Inn charms in Springfield

Maryland Crab Cake at Springfield’s Simon Kenton Inn; photo: Paula Johnson

By Paula Johnson

Turning off a busy divided highway, the entrance to the grounds of Springfield’s graciously restored Simon Kenton Inn leads you into lovely surroundings far removed from the warehouses and industry just beyond. The historic inn oozes charm. In 2004, four and a half acres were all that remained of the original 50,000 acres deeded to Simon Kenton, the first European to farm the area. (An additional 18 acres was added to the property in 2009.) Kenton, a contemporary of Daniel Boone and Chief Tecumseh, lost all his land to the U.S. government in a land dispute in the early 1800s, and the property was subdivided and sold countless times over the years. Nothing but a marker remains of Kenton’s original homestead structure. The main Federal-style house that stands now was built in 1828, and serves as a restaurant and pub as well as a guest house.

The house was purchased in 2004 by Theresa Siejack, a flight nurse at Wright Patterson Air Force Base who also happened to have extensive experience in the B&B industry. The Maryland native bought, restored, and sold three previous bed and breakfast businesses. Over the years much has changed since her original purchase, with a  2009 million dollar expansion project that added the pub, restaurant, and additional guest rooms. A party pavilion for up to 500 guests was added in the spring of 2010, making Simon Kenton a favorite destination for weddings and large gatherings.

PIP (Palate In Progress) and I made plans to join friends and experience the Inn’s charm. We strolled across the lovely outdoor patio area, lamenting the imminent rain. However, the mood indoors was equally charming. We met our companions in the pub area, where there was a solo guitarist and singer entertaining the crowd. We chose to find a quieter area to dine and were given our choice of several nicely appointed rooms filled with period antiques, including the library. We picked one of the living room parlors for maximum seclusion to chat.

Our experience suffered from uneven, though friendly service. Lack of training once again reared its head as it so often does. Our server was clearly young and inexperienced, and had little information to share about the menu. One of our companions had previously visited and recommended the Maryland Crab Cake ($13). I also wanted to try the East Coast Jumbo Shrimp ($12) and one of my favorites, Pierogies ($6) Our wait for the appetizers was inordinately long, close to an hour. No explanation was offered, and when we inquired, we were told that we had the bad luck to be behind two large parties.

Take The Cake

The Crab Cake was the table hit once it arrived, Siejack’s Maryland roots evident in the generous chunks of crab with traditional Old Bay Seasoning. A slight pan-fried crust and a little glaze of honey dijon enhanced the richness of the crab cake, which rested on some crunchy citrusy greens, the perfect balance. They are also offered as a dinner, something that I normally would not consider. Most crab cakes are made with excessive filler, but these were certainly entrée worthy, and my favorite dish of the evening. I also enjoyed the Pierogies, soft little potato stuffed pockets served the traditional way with sauteed onions and sour cream. The menu states “Ask for the Chef’s daily creation of savory fillings.”

Pierogie purist that I am, I was glad these were done old school. Our third appetizer, the East Coast Jumbo Shrimp, was served warm, sautéed in beer and Old Bay with cocktail sauce. I found them to be bland, with no cocktail sauce accompanying as stated on the menu. (Being served warm without breading, I’m not sure I would want to dip them in cocktail.) Perhaps some additional heat in the sautee would suffice to enhance the flavor.

We moved on to try two dishes our server recommended, Beef Brisket ($19) and Horseradish Crusted Filet of Salmon ($24). We had selected a bottle of wine to accompany dinner, and once again there was a delay.  Well into dining, another server arrived with our choice, explaining the lag by stating that our server was not of age, and they “had trouble finding the bottle.” Unfortunately the bottle was dropped, and my companion requested another one. Again an inexplicable lag. Once replaced and finally opened, we were nearly finished. My companion had most of the bottle corked to take home.

How were the entrées? The Brisket was described as oven braised using a dry rub, and while soft and tender and fatty in a good way, like the shrimp there was no real discernible spice or flavor to this dish. The salmon suffered from a thick blanket of grainy mustard and a dijon cream sauce, which left me puzzling that there were two mustards on top of a horseradish crust. The sweet, mild salmon filet never had a chance. We were underwhelmed with our dinner choices, as well as disappointed with the wine debacle.

Take This Cake Too

We closed with a Simon Kenton specialty: Theresa’s Simon Kenton Inn Cake ($6), a six-layer torte with coconut and cream cheese icing with caramel sauce, which helped to rectify the previous disappointments. We also tried the Mousse of the day, chocolate in this case, and found it light and fluffy, but no match for the cake.

Simon Kenton Inn is a lovely place to experience historic ambiance in a tasteful and faithfully restored space. While some things were done well cuisine-wise, a few things could stand improvement. Service-wise, a lot more attention to training would be helpful. I’d like to return to try it again, if only for the crab cakes.

Simon Kenton Inn is located at 4690 Urbana Rd. in Springfield. For more information, please call 937.399.9950 or visit SimonKentonInn.com.

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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