“A contemporary twist on seasonally inspired dishes” is the motto for All Set Restaurant & Bar in Silver Spring, Maryland, which serves American cuisine influenced by the traditions of coastal New England.
If you’re thinking the “twist” in the slogan refers to a creative spin on favorite east coast dishes, you wouldn’t be wrong. But a closer look at the menu of this local hotspot, whose decor surrounds diners in a sea of soothing blues and offers a nautical, yacht-like vibe, reveals that beyond the delectable renditions of oysters, shrimp and mussels, there’s also available… slow-smoked barbecue.
The Inspiration Behind the Menu
“I want to explain that,” laughs chef Edward Reavis who also serves as a partner at the popular dining establishment. “The pandemic is what really forced me to sink or swim. I couldn’t send my raw oysters out, so I basically had to scrap them from my menu. I had to adapt to food that I could deliver.”
The entrepreneur’s solution involved presenting barbecue as a “ghost” concept—using the All Set kitchen to turn out Texas-style brisket, slow-smoked wings and Carolina pulled pork (among other barbecue delicacies) and taking those goodies on the road.
“I bought a food truck so I could also take my food to neighborhoods. During the pandemic, that was how we got through. But after the pandemic was lifted, people would not allow me to take the barbecue off the menu. They love getting fried oysters and a side of brisket.” And that’s how New England seafood cuisine came to be beautifully paired with classic southern barbecue.
All Set Restaurant & Bar’s Southern Roots
The dichotomy on the All Set Restaurant & Bar menu may surprise some, but in many ways, it reflects the culinary journey of the chef responsible for the delicious offerings enjoyed by his happy customers.
A native of Emporia, Virginia, the chef’s natural talent for the culinary arts was honed at a young age by a family who knew how to weave the magic of southern seasoning and flavor into their cooking.
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“I like flavor. So I like to pull spices off the shelf,” admits Reavis, who originally pursued a degree in physical education at Virginia State University. “I’m very into fitness, and I thought I was going to coach at that point. But I was always cooking and working at restaurants.”
Eventually, an uncle asked him, “Are you sure not culinary school?” And within a matter of months, the budding chef began his food journey, eventually training at Baltimore International Culinary School, Le Cordon Bleu and The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
East Coast Discovery
After traveling in Cape Cod and working back-to-back seasons in the resort area, Reavis came to a revelation about New England cuisine. “It was a different food. They don’t season food like we do,” he observed, comparing the east coast cuisine to Southern fare. “It was different seafood you can get out of the ocean the same day.”
As it turns out, his wife and business partner Jennifer Meltzer, who serves as All Set Restaurant & Bar’s managing partner, has family hailing from the New England area and she grew up in Maryland. So the couple eventually decided to bring the All Set restaurant concept to Silver Spring.
When asked which side of the All Set menu he prefers, Reavis made a case for both. From the east coast, he calls out, “One item on the menu that doesn’t go away and I’m very proud of is my crab cakes. You gotta have something special in your crab cakes in this area because it’s as competitive as it gets in Maryland. Instead of a bunch of bread and mayonnaise, I have jumbo lump and lump crab meat, so it’s extra ‘crabby’ and not a lot of filler.”
As an homage to his southern roots, the Virginia native can’t pick just one menu item. “You can’t go wrong with the ribs. My other favorite item on the menu would be the brisket. And the cornbread—it’s more of a pudding that’s been baked. It has a crispy outside and a very soft, creamy inside.” His version of the southern table staple contains actual corn kernels and is baked in a cast iron skillet.
The Joy Of Cooking
At the end of the day, the customers who’ve made All Set Restaurant & Bar their go-to dining spot—who enjoy taking their meals outdoors at the restaurant’s spacious patio or partaking in craft cocktails from the bar—benefit from Chef Reavis’ creative menu reflecting his travels and personal history. And for the owner and entrepreneur, the reward is seeing people enjoy his food.
“When you see someone taste your food and everything comes together like you want it to…I get joy from making people happy,” he shares. “When I go out to tables now, and people compliment me on the food, that’s the joy of my day. I could be getting crushed 10-12 hours, but a couple of guests can change my day just like that.”
So, should you make a stop at All Set Restaurant & Bar to indulge in an unforgettable meal—or enjoy Reavis’ culinary offerings at Fryer’s Roadside (his other restaurant) or Money Muscle BBQ (barbecue served at All Set Restaurant and available to-go/drop off as well as catering)—be sure to send your compliments to the chef. They won’t go unnoticed.