When Pasadena residents Eric and Jennifer Sowers learned in March 2017 that the Annapolis small-plates lounge Level was for sale, the situation was, as Jennifer described, “the perfect fit.” With more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, Eric knew that the next step in the natural progression of his career and for their family would be for him and Jennifer to have their own business.
“The culinary aspect is his wheelhouse,” Jennifer said of Eric’s expertise. “As opposed to a franchise that would be more mainstream, here he can be a lot more creative.”
What makes Level special, they explained, is its emphasis on innovative drink and food menus where everything is made from scratch and locally sourced.
The Sowers officially bought the restaurant in December 2017, but as they went through the transition, they remained quiet about the new ownership so nobody would question whether they planned to change the business’ recipe for success.
“We did that intentionally because we didn’t want anyone to look for a change,” Jennifer said. “We wanted everything to be smooth. I think it was really important that everyone knew it wasn’t going to change. Part of the business decision to buy this place was the staff, the food and the reputation. That was something we researched a lot before moving forward with the purchase.” Prior to the purchase, Jennifer led a successful career in local real estate and marketing, which she continues.
Helping in the smooth transition have been the restaurant’s manager, Jake Fleming, and the executive chef, Matt Singer, who have been integral to Level’s emphasis on creative fare and dedicated service.
“What Matt does in the kitchen is a form of artistry — it really is,” Eric explained. “He’s amazing at switching it up each season. He does four menu changes a year to keep it fresh and inspiring.”
Fleming has found that an important aspect of setting Level apart from other restaurants is continually helping the staff improve, specifically through weekly meetings to go over anything new. “We try to educate everyone here as much as possible, so when a guest comes in and has a question, we have an answer,” he said. “The staff is always working toward being good at customer service but also being knowledgeable people in the industry.”
Eric emphasized that the staff takes pride in every aspect of their work, whether they’re a bartender squeezing fresh lime juice for drinks or a server taking the time to explain a unique menu item to a patron. “The staff here works much harder than some other places out there,” he said. “This is definitely evident in the feedback from guests that utilize Level as an event venue in one of the three dining areas.”
Though Level will remain the same restaurant that its loyal patrons have come to know and love, the Sowers are excited about always keeping their team inspired and forward-thinking. “People can expect some new dynamic food from Matt, who is fresh to the position of executive chef, and that shows in everything he creates; we’re also giving the bartenders room to create what inspires them in terms of drinks,” Jennifer said. “In keeping with the local theme of the restaurant, we're excited to introduce some featured local artists’ work in the dining rooms as we update some of the décor.”
Level is located at 69 West Street in Annapolis. For more information, visit www.levelannapolis.com or call 410-268-0003.