+ By Zoe + Photos by Emily Karcher
A group of colleagues sit under a white umbrella and cheers their glasses to it finally being five o’clock. Just like that, our attention shifts from the hustle on West Street back to the relaxing atmosphere surrounding us. “It’s really all about serving good food and letting people have fun and catering to the locals,” Jody says as we mosey along the deck past the two large cabana-style couches. We weave around the tables and make our way down the dark-stained wood stairs to the second floor.
I’m on the only rooftop bar this side of the Eastport Bridge. The sun is trumping clouds as I’m brushing wind-blown hair out of my eyes to peer over the 3-foot-glass wall surrounding the deck. “The rooftop deck is everyone’s favorite place,” says Jody Danek, one of the owners of Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge. “It’s the only place to get breezes like this.”
The breeze isn’t the only thing that sets Metropolitan apart from other Annapolis restaurants. Jody and Gavin Buckley, the second owner, wanted to create a place that exudes comfort. “We’re about arts and entertainment, we’re about good local food. And we are about music,” he says, pointing to a group of people posing with one of the painted chicken sculptures. “And we are about community involvement.”
The Annapolis community has Jody and Gavin to thank for the painted chicken sculptures. Two years ago they decided to bring more art to the streets of Annapolis. He proudly stares at the people gathering around the bird outside of the O’Callaghan Hotel. “It’s amazing how many people get their picture taken with them.”
He stares down West Street; it’s a nostalgic area for Jody. He’s worked on this street for over 20 years. He met Gavin while he was waiting tables. They became friends, dated girls that lived in the same house and then in 1999 opened their first restaurant, Tsunami. All on West Street.
“We were waiters and bartenders and servers and I managed at Rams Head and I was like ‘If I keep working this hard, I’m going to open my own restaurant,’” Jody explained, and so they did.
All their restaurants have an ambiance focused on similar facets of entertainment. Jody shrugs and says that it just makes sense. “It’s a convergence of all of our interests. I love music, good food and art, and so does Gavin.”
There aren’t televisions anywhere. I ask Jody why that is when Steven Grant, the executive chef, greets me as he exits the kitchen. He stands alongside the smooth wooden bar that spans the length of the room. “They purposely really try to promote the arts,” he answers quickly and then elaborates. “It’s true no matter where you go downtown there are big plasma-screen TVs. It’s cool and refreshing to come here where they have a better commitment to the arts.”
Steven is committed to the food. For the summer menu, he tried to create dishes using ingredients from local farmers. “By supporting local farmers, those dollars stay here in town,” he says. “We’re trying to stay as local as possible.”
He readjusts his hair, a bun at the top of his neck, and tells me where he purchases his ingredients. One stop is the Anne Arundel County Farmers’ Market every Tuesday and Saturday. “It’s cool to talk to the farmer who said ‘I literally picked this yesterday and brought it to the market today.’”
He hopes through this menu he can reach out and make a connection with the locals. “It’s tough sometimes, but at the same time it’s just about going that extra mile,” he says, beaming. “Hopefully our menu reflects that and people appreciate it.”
Jody and I go through a short hallway into another room. It’s dark with few couches sporadically placed so that all have a view of the stage. While there is live music on the roof six nights a week, Jody tells me that the main acts perform here. Whether it’s live music, comedians, hypnotists, or karaoke, this is the place to find it.
The stage isn’t the only focal point of the second floor. Tom Hanna, the general manager who has joined our conversation, says every six weeks different artists showcase their work on the walls. “Art programs are decreasing in size and are not relevant anymore, so what we do is allow them places to hang their art.” Artists are typically local. Most artists are solo but others come from local schools, tattoo shops or non-profits.
We all decide to head down the last flight of stairs to the first floor. The rustic wood walls, original tile floor and folk music mixed with a little harmonica makes me feel at home. “That’s what I want people to feel like when they walk in,” Tom says. “It’s a community spot where friends, family, kids, just everyone is at home. Not a place where one type of person or certain people can hang out.”
Jody and Steven solidify plans to meet later on the boat as I exit. I realize that Metropolitan is more than a restaurant; it’s a presence that brings Annapolis together, but also sets them apart.