Appealing to Every Sense

Luxurious furnishings and creative food that provide an escape from the frenetic pace of life. That's what’s in store at the Wildset Hotel in St. Michaels

Written by Joe Willey  |  Photography by Jill Jasuta

Lovingly renovated old buildings are beautiful reminders. They provide a sense of place and an appreciation of a long-gone style. Those buildings can also be a doorway to another world, influenced by luxurious furnishings and creative food that provide an escape from the frenetic pace of life. It is that way with the Wildset Hotel in St. Michaels.

The Wildset Hotel campus contains multiple historic yet thoroughly renovated structures on Talbot Street, the main artery that runs through the town. The owners are young and vibrant members of the Erkiletian family, successful Washington, D.C., real estate developers. The rugged beauty of the Eastern Shore has captivated the family’s attention for 40 years and birthed the idea of this restful escape.

The Wildset is beautiful — worldly but approachable. That is obvious from one glance. There is no pretense in the furnishings or the attitudes of the staff. The experience is still meticulously designed to reflect grace and beauty. Details of handcrafted tiles, natural fabrics, custom furniture, and brass and pewter accents provide a welcoming tactile experience. The clean, light-flooded rooms also offer the technological amenities any guest may need. One would expect that a hotel in a laid-back resort town like St. Michaels would bring many tourists, but locals also use the hotel as an extension of the homes, their out-of-town guests frequently staying in one of the 34 rooms. Some visitors, like Brian Ball, the well-traveled Wildset general manager, even have become locals. His reason is simple: “I fell in love with St. Michaels.”

For many, Wildset Hotel’s historical ambience offers a gratifying portal to another time.

Ruse, the restaurant that is part of the Wildset campus, works with the hotel to create an immersive experience and offers a fresh take on local cuisine. The name even reflects the local history of St. Michaels, known as the town that fooled the British during the War of 1812. The restaurant captures the restful vibe and emulates the meticulous attention to detail of the entire campus. But Ruse is not only about looks. The style of its award-winning executive chef, Michael Correll, is based on classic technique and features the best ingredients from the Chesapeake region and around the world. “He gets food in a way that I’ve never seen anyone else do,” is how Ball describes the chef’s talent and vision.

Photo by Cecile Storm

It is not that the Wildset or Ruse experience rests on one person. “Teamwork” is a word Ball uses frequently in his descriptions of the hotel and restaurant. He is effusive about the group effort that made it possible to not only launch a venture in 2021 but also make it thrive. He admits it was not easy and that everyone worked extra hours to make the Wildset and Ruse an acclaimed experience from its conception to its launch. It has been worth it.

Visiting the Wildset Hotel and Ruse restaurant is a way to fight the blinding pace of life. It is a way to escape into an atmosphere thoughtfully designed to make you appreciate the beauty of touch and taste. It is a place to stop and a place to stay. CS

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