Owner Jamie Merida curates his two-story housewares store, Bountiful (218 N. Washington St.; 410-819-8666), as a revolving showroom, so plan to spend time taking it all in. There's everything from serious investment pieces (statement leather sofas) to unusual silver (deer-head tongs) to sublime accessories (lightweight cashmere throws) to gifts (dishtowels emblazoned with bons mots worthy of Dorothy Parker).
On Saturday—and starting in June, Wednesday—the Easton Farmers' Market (207 N. Harrison St.) and the indoor Easton Market Square (137 N. Harrison St.; 410-822-7778) hum with activity. Flowering shrubs, bison burgers, lavender lip balm, and hand-milled jasmine soap share space with arugula, local tomatoes, and fragrant rosemary. Indoors, you'll find orchids, French pastries, and a stand run by Cottingham Farm, Talbot County's only organic vegetable grower, which sells hyper-fresh produce such as chard and purple cauliflower.
The Talbot County Courthouse (11 N. Washington St.; 410-770-8010) sits at the center of Easton. Built in 1794, this brick building is so picture-perfect in its symmetry that it looks as if it belongs on a movie set. Two years ago, a bronze statue of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in the county, was added to the courthouse lawn. Douglass was locked up in jail, but he later returned to the courthouse steps as a free man and American hero.
The James Neall House (25 S. Washington St.; 410-822-0773), a circa-1810 brick rowhouse offering tours April through November, showcases handcrafted furniture built by the original owner, a prominent Quaker cabinetmaker. In back, a block-long garden provides a quiet oasis to stroll in and benches where you can relax under century-old magnolia trees. Admission is $5.
Grafton Galleries (32 E. Dover St.; 410-822-8922) is filled mostly with painter David Grafton's highly coveted landscapes, many of which are in private collections around the world. Grafton—the unofficial mayor of Easton's artistic community—often hangs out in front of his gallery talking art, politics, and the meaning of life. Visitors can sign up for classes or workshops that he runs throughout the year.
The Avalon (40 E. Dover St.; 410-822-7299), an Art Deco marvel at the center of town, has been wooing visitors since the 1920s. Today the stage welcomes performers including Arlo Guthrie, Rickie Lee Jones, and Aimee Mann. A newer addition is the Stoltz Listening Room, a clubby cabaret where music die-hards get up close to artists such as Jon Anderson of Yes and John Doe of X. Plan on dinner beforehand at Banning's Tavern (410-822-1733). This pub, beside the theater lobby, is a local favorite thanks to such specialties as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and a deconstructed chicken pot pie.
Mother/daughter duo Jane and Andrea Kelley make jaunts to New York to bring back cutting-edge trends in handbags and accessories for their shop, Andrea's Papillon (11 N. Harrison St.; 410-820-4925). The duo's infectious love of fashion means they don't discriminate between high fashion and street looks. You can find everything from pricey, custom-made gemstone necklaces to kicky jute totes for less than $50.
The grande dame of Easton is the Tidewater Inn (101 E. Dover St.; 410-822-1300), a hotel that has been welcoming guests since the 1940s. The lobby's sweeping staircase remains, but a reinvention of the space has brought the property into the 21st century. Have a glass of Argentinean Malbec at the buzzy bar or order appetizers including local oysters and lobster tempura on the brick patio, ideal for people-watching. Guest rooms are small, but an upgrade to a spacious suite with a four-poster bed and sitting room costs about what basic rooms at other regional hotels run. Suites start at $159.
In a gallery town, it's hard to stand out. Artist Betty Huang of Studio B Gallery (24-B N. Harrison St.; 443-988-1818) manages to do that with her unfettered enthusiasm for art and people. The former Washingtonian opens her doors to visitors, who can watch her paint landscapes, still lifes, and portraits while browsing her gallery.
There are few better date-night places than the Bartlett Pear Inn (28 S. Harrison St.; 410-770-3300), where Jordan Lloyd, formerly of Per Se in New York, sends out such culinary gems as saffron-infused bouillabaisse and lobster bisque topped with cognac whip cream. Chilly nights call for a table beside the marble fireplace; balmy evenings, the trickling garden fountain. The inn has seven country-chic rooms for those who'd like to stay the night. Guests get a full breakfast with treats including house-made granola, brioche French toast, and omelets with local cheddar. Rates start at $169.
The Academy Art Museum (106 South St.; 410-822-2787) is a small fine-art space in a historic schoolhouse. The charming exterior with a picket fence and bell tower belies the extraordinary work inside. While the museum frequently collaborates with institutions like the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art to bring exhibits to Easton, the permanent collection is also impressive, stocked with works by 20th-century masters from Rauschenberg to Rosenquist. Admission is $3.
Accolades come as no surprise to chef Andrew Evans, formerly of the fine-dining Inn at Easton. At the BBQ Joint (216 E. Dover St.; 410-690-3641), his newest venture, finger-licking barbecue is all about smoky goodness. Vie for a seat with locals in the cozy boîte with sawdust floors and order a pulled-pork sandwich, classic brisket BBQ, or what Evans calls the "choribon," chorizo stuffed with barbecue ribs, wrapped in bacon, and smoked. Pair that with collards and baked beans and you're in hog heaven.
This article appears in the May 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.