If you blink you’ll miss it. But the tiny and unassuming Cedar Land + Sea Kitchen in Ocean View is big and bold on flavor, presentation … and personality! First things first: Remember the old location of Hocker’s Grocery on Cedar Neck Road? Pull into the parking lot, but continue driving north past the old gas station. There it is. Cedar. Already a sensation on social media and restaurant review sites, Cedar has already earned titles such as “local gem,” “charming but hip” and “the next hot spot.”
Two local families got together and opened this little spot. They did the buildout virtually on their own, and pretty much every feature in the room has a story to go with it. Two of the partners focus on the kitchen. The other two are the smiles in the front of house – manning and womaning the bar with smiles, commentary and conversation. In fact, one of the highlights of our first visit was our smiling server, Sam Cannon. A genuine, certified native, Sam does everything possible to make the Cedar dining experience a pleasant one.
We started with the conch chowder. The bar is set pretty high- I love the conch chowder at Conch Island in Rehoboth Beach. And Cedar’s version lived up to the name. Another star of the appetizer show is the Seafood Skins. Masquerading as mac ‘n’ cheese, the combination of the melted sharp cheddar and the shrimp, crab and scallops is the ultimate comfort food. You might want to take a nap afterwards. Sharing the spotlight with the skins are the conch fritters. The best way to describe these is to have you take a look at them in the photo gallery. Yet again they rivaled the similar dish at my favorite rock ‘n’ roll place on Rehoboth Avenue.
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Our friend Lisa ordered the Cashew-Crusted Halibut. It was crowned with a tasty sauce reminiscent of a light hollandaise, but with overtones of peppers and pineapple. An unusual combination to be sure – but it worked perfectly. So much so that Lisa insisted on extra sauce (see the photo in the gallery). Her husband Rob got the filet mignon topped with semi-melted blue cheese. It was properly cooked to temperature and the combination of the lean beef and the cheese was quite good. One of my favorite foodies had the duck breast entree. It was accompanied by redskin mashers. It was an unusual preparation, as duck breast is generally served with the skin on and crisped up nicely. In this case, a hoisin glaze took the place of the skin; the combination of the mid-rare duck and the sweet/tartness of the hoisin worked well.
Any restaurant that features a burger on its entree menu is daring me to try it. If you think, “what could go wrong with a burger?” Well, lots of things! I like to think of the humble hamburger as a barometer of the restaurant’s kitchen skills. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that can trip you up. Cedar was not tripped up: The roll was perfectly charred and cradled a cheese-drenched patty of tender, medium beef. It was topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions. I asked for pickles, and Sam went back into the kitchen to get pickles diced for the burger. It’s things like that that keep people (me, in particular) coming back.
The restaurant has a nicely curated wine list that is in line with their moderate price points (apps in the low teens and entrees in mid- to high 20s). Take a look at their off-season specials HERE.
The desserts are particularly good and made just for them. Don’t miss the carrot cake. You can thank me later.
Dine outside or at the bar Wednesday through Sunday from 4-6 p.m. for happy hour. Happy hour food specials change weekly. If the north side of the building has lots of cars, additional parking is available at the old G&E Hocker’s grocery store & Treasure Island Fashion area after 5 p.m.
As of this writing (winter 2019) they are open Wed. thru Sun. 4 – 9:30. Obviously there will be more hours in season. Call for reservations: 302-539-2327