Bay Bites

Vol. 8, No. 13
March 30-April 5, 2000
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Hard to Go Wrong at Neptune’s Seafood Pub

With spring in the air and ants in my pants, I was ready for a weekend of antiquing in North Beach. Just thirty miles south of Annapolis, the Bayside community North Beach offers an impressive selection of antique boutiques and shops. My goals were minimal on a clear Sunday afternoon: Spend some time window shopping and day dreaming — with the ultimate reward of a hearty lunch at Neptune’s Seafood Pub.

While there aren’t a plethora of restaurants in North Beach — or its neighbor Chesapeake Beach for that matter — you still have to know where to look to find Neptune’s. You’ll find this small (seating approximately 50) pub at the corner of Chesapeake Avenue & Rt. 261, where it’s been since 1985.

Owner/operators Rafflas, Pickens and Baughman are family by birth and marriage. They’ve recently expanded the old Neptune’s, adding a solarium dining room three years ago and expanding the kitchen/grill two years ago. Neptune’s is still small, but you’ll feel the intimacy and warmth most in the bar, the smoking section. The enticing L-shaped bar seats less than a dozen, and its popular stools are coveted for their comfort (high-backed swiveled red vinyl) and accessibility. Three TVs offer strategic viewing (mostly sports and lots of NASCAR). Visibility is still fine from the surrounding tables, but you just don’t feel like you’re in the front row.

We were in for some serious eating, so we bellied up to one of the round wooden tables — making sure we had unobstructed views of the basketball game featured above.

Decoration is simple with neon beer signage, ceiling fans, and nautical prints. The flooring beneath the bar stools shows years of wear, giving the impression that this is not an environment for tea totalers. The newer dining room — with its cathedral wood ceilings, wall-to-wall windows and brick floors — offers a smoke-free refuge. However, even with its one TV suspended from the ceiling, you still feel a little like sitting at the kiddy table: removed from the action.

Our recent visit occurred on a Sunday, so we were offered the brunch along with the regular menu. If I had the luxury of dining at Neptune’s more regularly, I might have considered brunch, but since my visits are more sporadic, the regular menu held my full attention. A blackboard hung over the entrance displays the day’s specials including a shrimp and scallop omelet with garlic lemon cream sauce ($7) and fried seafood platter with shrimp, scallops and sea trout ($9).

The open kitchen/grill is amazingly compact (even more amazing if you remember its size just two years ago), but you’ve got to admire the range and quality of the dishes produced within. The menu focuses on traditional pub fare — burgers, sandwiches and steaks — but seals its individuality with house specialties such as mussels, wings and seafood.

To start, “snacks and munchies” include clams casino ($6.95), batter dipped onion rings ($3.25), nacho supreme ($7.95) and New Zealand green lip mussels with sweet chili salsa over mesclun greens ($5.95). Chicken wings are available in several preparations including honey jalapeno, buffalo, BBQ and honey mustard ($5.95).

The item not to be missed is the mussels. They are offered by the pound ($5.95) and available in five styles (Fra Diablo, butter & garlic, marinara, spicy garlic and curry). You owe yourself an order. Through process of elimination I have grown fond of the spicy garlic with a soy based garlic-infused sauce sprinkled with green onions. A one pound order, served in a large aluminum bowl with a plate for shells, wouldn’t be complete without a side order of garlic bread for dipping ($2.95). Soooo good!
Another starter, the fried zucchini straws ($4.95), is a large basket full of freshly cut French fried zucchini in a tempura-like batter served with peppercorn parmesan dressing for dipping. While intending to only sample a few, we surprised ourselves by emptying the basket.

For entrees, pasta, such as linguini with sausage and peppers ($8.95) and chicken parmigiana ($12.75) and dinners such as breast of chicken française (dipped in egg batter and sautéed with lemon sherry and butter $12.95) and petit filet mignon (7 oz. $13.95) were all tempting but too heavy for lunch. I settled instead for the Smaggs sandwich with grilled chicken (also available with sliced steak), onions, mushrooms, and provolone (or cheddar) $7.50 with fries and slaw. My companion chose the self-proclaimed “best burger on the beach” served on a large English muffin with garnish, fries and slaw ($4.95 plus $.75 per topping).

Both sandwiches were large, and both required doggie bags. But what was consumed was truly appreciated. The burger was cooked as ordered and was drippy and juicy. The Smaggs (named for the chef who created it) was a perfect combination of goo and tender chicken breast pieces.

Wash it down with an icy draft beer (Killians, Bass and Bud) — because this is a beer kind of place — and you can’t go wrong. Well, maybe your team won’t win.

If you’re seeking a true bargain, check out Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm for lots of drink specials and cheap snacks and munchies — most only $2.50).

Corner of Chesapeake Avenue & Rt. 261 • North Beach

Proprietors: Mark Rafflas, Jody Pickens, Sonny Baughman

Reason to go: Good bar food that goes one step better.

Something to think about: If you want to enjoy your entree, you may want to skip appetizers.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly