Obal, cooking is and has always been in her blood. The Calvert County
restaurateur has a passion for flavor with an extra emphasis on customer
Obal owns Saphron Restaurant in Prince Frederick with her husband, John.
The South Carolina, Low Country-inspired cooking blends fine dining with
comfort food in a cozy setting that can seat 52 guests. The restaurant,
which is adorned in warm colors and simple elegance, opened in September
2007 and features a full bar, live music at least once a month and
occasional cooking classes with guest chefs. There are several details
in the restaurant that make it especially unique, such as reading
glasses in a drinking glass on each table to help guests read the menu.
The inspiration for the restaurant comes from Charleen Obal's South
Carolina roots. She was raised in James Island, S.C., near Charleston
with her eight siblings. "We grew up in the kitchen with my mom," she
After high school, Charleen Obal entered the U.S. Army where she served
for eight years and also where she met her husband. John Obal,
originally from Nebraska, spent his career in the Army and took his
wife, Charleen, and their two children on a journey around the world. In
fact, the family lived in the Netherlands, Iowa and Upper Marlboro, Md.,
among other locales. Charleen Obal taught elementary school and
eventually started catering when she moved to Maryland. When John Obal
retired from the Army a few years ago and the couple moved to Chesapeake
Beach in Calvert County, opening a restaurant just made sense.
Choosing a name for the restaurant was easy. She said the name came from
the spice, saffron, but she spelled it a little differently. She loves
the spice because it is subtle and beautiful - much like the food and
aura of the restaurant.
The restaurant features simple staples done right, such as macaroni
cheese made with cheddar cheese and heavy cream. But the creamy dish is
just one of several delicious menu items that keep you wanting more.
Beginning your dinner with an appetizer or two is a must. Try the grit
cake with shrimp and collards to feel like you are down in the South. Or
perhaps you'd like to taste the salty yet sweet Low Country egg rolls,
which include collards, chicken, sausage and bacon wrapped in an egg
roll and served with a sweet pepper sauce. The egg rolls reinforce the
thought that everything is better with bacon.
When looking for the perfect entrée, Saphron Restaurant will not
disappoint. Many of the recipes come from Charleen Obal's family and she
said they try to avoid canned products. In fact, she makes her own
chicken stock and cooks it all night. The menu features, among other
dishes, a James Island-style tilapia, a catfish filet, a hand-cut beef
tenderloin, a classic Low Country gumbo and a new pork short ribs dish
with a South Carolina-style barbecue sauce that is so tender and juicy
that the meat falls right off the bone. The restaurant uses as many
local products as possible, depending on the season.
"If people don't buy local, they're missing out," Charleen Obal said.
Topping off a great meal with a perfect dessert is essential and Saphron
does justice to dessert. All desserts are made onsite and have a
personality of their own. In fact, Charleen Obal prepares what she
considers her mother's "$5 million bread pudding" recipe. She takes a
French baguette and uses spices, raisins and Grand Marnier liqueur
topped with fresh strawberries to provide a refreshing end to a night of
comfort food. Try the dessert with a cup of French press coffee.
If you are craving some down-home cooking in an elegant setting, check
out Saphron Restaurant's inspired dishes that embody Charleen Obal's
innate love of cooking.
The restaurant is located at 135 Central Square Drive in Prince
Frederick and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. Visit
www.saphronrestaurant.com or call 410-414-9903 for more information.
Carolina Salmon Cake
2 lbs fresh salmon
Minced sweet onion (to taste)
Minced red/green peppers (to taste)
Minced garlic (to taste)
Low Country Seasoning (or commercial seafood boil) (to taste)
Rub salmon with olive oil and Low Country Seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees
until flaky. Remove from oven and allow fish to cool. Remove skin from
salmon and place in a bowl; flake salmon with a fork. Add onions,
peppers, garlic and eggs. Mix thoroughly. Shape into patties. Dredge in
flour and fry in vegetable oil until brown on both sides. Serve on a bed
of mixed salad greens with lemon wedge or on hot grits.