In a town steeped in history, but grown used to seeing the old and familiar fade away, a subtle miracle manifested on High Street over the past weeks.
In front of the recently closed Theo’s Steakhouse next to the Post Office, folks sadly processing the demise of another eatery thought they’d spotted a sign from the past. Many, no doubt, had to blink, making sure they weren’t hallucinating. After ensuring that the vision wasn’t a mirage, the warm, fuzzy feelings rushed in, swirled with splashes of curiosity and anticipation.
Clues that began emerging on social media were soon, happily, confirmed.
The High Spot, featuring The Amber Room, was set to return, this time, under the auspices of Ava’s Hospitality Group restaurateur guru Chris Agharabi, who brought Ava’s Pizzeria and Theo’s to High Street several years back.
This will be the third time the name High Spot has hung above the 305 High Street location. The sign was first raised by the Robbins family, who made it a beloved local mainstay for over a generation.
Mary Alice Lipes can still taste the yummy custard ice cream cones she had there as a youngster.
“I remember most vividly the custard ice cream that was a family recipe of the original owner. It was my absolute favorite dessert of theirs. I know they had others, but I honestly don’t even remember what they were, I never wanted to venture beyond the custard! My family went to the High Spot maybe once a month, and after dinner, as we left the Amber Room, we would stop at the counter for an ice cream cone,” Lipes recalled.
Teri Robin Insley’s grandparents brought her to the original High Spot about four times a month. The food she enjoyed there still inspires mouthwatering memories; she can still almost savor the flavor of roast beef with fries and mashed potatoes and bread pudding with hot vanilla sauce.
Catherine McCulley had second hand childhood memories relating to the High Spot. She remembers that during the 1960s and 70s it was quite the gathering place for Cambridge attorneys. One of them, her dad Conrad, met his good friend, former Phillies and Cambridge Cardinals baseball player Fred Lucas there almost every afternoon for coffee.
The eatery’s next incarnation came courtesy of Chef Patrick Fanning, who added “Gastropub” to the name.
After a highly successful run as one of the town’s leading restaurants, Fanning’s fortunes crashed, and once more the High Spot’s doors closed.
Agharabi stepped in and reimagined the space as Theo’s Steak House. Like Ava’s across the street, Theo’s offered charming, heated outdoor cafe dining during Covid, we eventually transitioning back indoors.
But as July turned the corner into August, Theo’s departure notice appeared in the window. Not long afterward, with no fanfare and little warning, the iconic sign simply appeared, as though it had never left: The High Spot, The Amber Room, Fine Dining.
As word began to spread on social media (what serves as a town crier for these times), more details emerged, shared by Ava’s Hospitality Group’s Marketing Director Sophie Ziegler.
On August 3, Ziegler shared a post in the Facebook Group Cambridge Maryland Memories:
“The rumors are true! High Spot is returning to Cambridge– because it should have never left!”
That first post alone elicited 150 comments, among them, this memory from group member Patricia Stephenson Dietrich:
“Hamburgers were the best. With fried onions. Took my mom there every Friday. I grew up in Cambridge; I have so many wonderful memories,” and this advice from Linda Parsons Willey:
“Provide your customers with good food at a reasonable price. Make it a friendly, family atmosphere, and maybe have a few unique things on the menu. This is why the original High Spot was so popular. Wish you success in your new venture.”
Ziegler and Agharabi have continued to reach out and request input from those wishing to share memories of what made the High Spot special to them, and are working to incorporate as many as possible into the evolving menu, which includes a lower front page message:
“As a nod to the original High Spot(s), we are excited to bring back the old and the new. We know that the High Spot is a part of Cambridge History which can never be duplicated. We hope our version brings back a small memory or two. We look forward to hearing your memories and bringing some of them to life.”
Because the custard was mentioned by so many people, Agharabi is eagerly trying as many recipes as possible–currently up to 9–in hopes of recreating it.
“We’re having a lot of fun perfecting our custard recipe, and making it into orange and coca-cola floats!,” Ziegler added.
They’ve also made efforts to impart the original feel of casual, elegant ambiance, enhanced with fresh touches. Subtle, striking black and white water-themed photography harkens back to an earlier era. In the Amber Room, newly lightened walls reframe and highlight the original majestic mirrors.
Artist/Entrepreneur April Dean Goodman, whose Soul Shine emporium is located just a few doors down on High Street, loved what she saw while stopping in during The High Spot’s low key opening day last week. She couldn’t wait to spread the word on her Facebook page:
“The menu looks awesome…affordable, beautifully-made, comfort food dishes served in a tastefully-decorated dining room.
Unpretentious and homey, homies.
Besides plenty of tables for traditional dining, there is also a sweet lounge area under the expansive front windows…with lovely green velvet occasional chairs and leather loveseats. Perfect for casual and relaxed gatherings with friends, family, or business peers. Like hanging in someone’s beautifully-appointed living room. I’m diggin’ it! So well-done.
Happy hour is killer! Half-priced appetizers from 4pm to 6pm every day. Where else can you get crab-stuffed mushrooms for 6 dollars or Buffalo oysters with Bleu cheese for 9? Drinks are also 2 bucks off during happy hour.
The restaurant is generously staffed and everyone seems very excited about the newness of it all! There were tons of staff smiles when I stopped by a few minutes ago!!
Owner, Chris Agharabi is very good at what he does. He owns Ava’s in both St Michaels and Cambridge; 3 restaurants in Rehoboth; and a production facility in Easton. He is generous to our communities. He is also always open to feedback.
Hope to see you down there!”
Ziegler shared what the company hoped the latest High Spot would bring to the city
“We really want High Spot to be a home base for a great meal for the people of Cambridge – people of all ages. We hope it’s a place they can depend on for everything from birthdays and prom night to special family dinners nights out.
We also hope people appreciate the subtle, nostalgic details, like soft dinner mints and stewed tomatoes, which we’re bringing back from the original High Spot,” Ziegler added.
She and Agharabi also wanted to encourage people to continue applying for positions as servers, line cooks, bartenders, and more at https://www.avashg/careers.
Additional staff will allow for additional days and hours to expand the current schedule, Wednesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m.
Ziegler also invited former bartenders to come in and guest bartend to help raise money for local charities/schools at [email protected].
For more information and to make reservations, visit https://www.highspoteats.com.
Debra Messick is a retired Dorchester County Public Library associate and lifelong freelance writer. A transplanted native Philadelphian, she has enjoyed residing in Cambridge MD since 1995.