Executive Chef and owner Jim Hughes of Restaurant 213 in Maryland means it when he says his ingredients are fresh. As a matter of fact, when you order the Caprese Salad, you may even see him walk through the dining room to pick the heirloom tomatoes right then, from his garden outside. It’s that fresh.
“Our menu is based on seasonal items, especially in the Summer,” explains Hughes. “We have access to almost everything locally, so even if it’s not grown on site, it’s at its peak freshness.”
Hughes uses fresh local produce and authentic imported ingredients from France and Italy to highlight familiar and traditional dishes with a modern flair. He grows about 70% of their in-season ingredients on site.
What started out as a hobby turned into a unique selling point for Restaurant 213. The 10- by 100-foot garden is right outside, and it’s not uncommon to see Hughes walking in ingredients as they are needed. Hughes grows 12-14 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes plus fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, all of which help his menu stay fresh, in every sense of the word.
“It’s not about cost savings or a gimmick,” Hughes says. “It’s about using the best, most fresh ingredients possible. It makes a difference.”
And that difference is one of the many reasons that Hughes and Restaurant 213 have been acknowledged year after year as one of the most distinguished fine dining establishments in the nation. They have been recognized by the James Beard Foundation, Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA), Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Wine Spectator, Coastal Living Cities and The Daily Times.
These distinctions are not easily won. Most awards are given after a scrutinizing process that takes into consideration every aspect of the dining experience, from the food and wine to the service and property. The fact that Hughes grows his own produce to ensure he is using the freshest possible ingredients shows the level of detail and passion that he puts into every aspect of Restaurant 213.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Hughes about the restaurant garden, “and it’s not for everybody.” But Hughes has never been one to shy away from hard work, and it shows.
It shows not just with awards, but with glowing customer reviews, diner recommendations and repeat business. Restaurant 213 is one of the highest rated restaurants on the Rewards Network program from both new and returning customers. Hughes continues to monitor those high ratings and to work hard to keep them there.