|Hard to Go Wrong at Neptunes 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 Neptunes Seafood Pub.
While there arent 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 Neptunes. Youll find this small (seating approximately 50) pub at the corner of Chesapeake Avenue & Rt. 261, where its been since 1985.
Owner/operators Rafflas, Pickens and Baughman are family by birth and marriage. Theyve recently expanded the old Neptunes, adding a solarium dining room three years ago and expanding the kitchen/grill two years ago. Neptunes is still small, but youll 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 dont feel like youre 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 Neptunes 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 days 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 youve 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, wouldnt 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 cant go wrong. Well, maybe your team wont win.
If youre 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.