|Lagoons Island Grille:
Dreaming of One Beach at Another
If you havent been to Chesapeake Beach, or North Beach for that matter, in recent years, you may be surprised at the amount of growth. And, while its no major metropolis, the activity level on a weekend night is contrary to the once sleepy Bayside community of yore. Like all Calvert County, Chesapeake Beach is growing and attracting all kinds of attention.
Part of that growth included the addition five years ago of Lagoons Island Grille. Owned and operated by husband and wife John and Ann Remy, Lagoons is a Caribbean-themed restaurant and nightclub located in a small strip shopping center opposite the Bay. A good deal of attention and promotion at Lagoons is focused on the live entertainment/nightclub side of the business, while the moderate-sized restaurant (50-plus) offers some nice surprises with some imaginative daily specials on its island-flavored menu.
For the uninitiated, the main entrance is the farthest to the left (immediately behind the outdoor deck). The door on the right gains entrance to the nightclub known as The Jungle. While food is served in The Jungle, youre likely to be more comfortable on the Lagoons side for a serious meal.
The atmosphere and service is casual and friendly. Several booths and 10 unadorned tables are available in this non-smoking section (however, ventilation is not the greatest during peak party time, and smoke from the bar has trouble finding anywhere else to go). A small bar is at the back of this room and the doors to The Jungle are to the right. A full wall mural sets the scene with a sunset beach and bikini-clad strollers. A chalk board featuring daily specials prominently hangs above the booths.
As luck would have it, our recent dinner visit coincided with a weekend-long live music showcase and early Mardi Gras party. The mood was festive and rocking. While business was booming, most revelers did not have dinner on their agenda. Lucky for us, it allowed our party of four comfortable access to a booth.
Once settled, we ordered beverages and took some time to consider the menu and the daily specials. Keeping in theme we ordered some Jamaican beer, Red Stripe ($3.50), and a large frothy margarita on the rocks ($4.25). Water is served upon request in small plastic cups.
The specials for the evening included an Oriental beef noodle soup; shrimp and scallops in a lobster cream sauce with puff pastry ($15.95); a mixed grill plate including chicken, tuna and Cajun sausage ($13.95); and the fish of the day, red snapper or tuna, prepared to your liking.
The newly revised menu runs from munchies, through sandwiches, soup and salads, to entrées. A kids menu features five options with a soda and side for only $3.95.
To start, we bypassed the nachos ($5.95, $7.95 with chicken) and Jamaican jerk wings ($6.25), and ordered the quesadilla ($7.25 with chicken or $8.25 with crab) and smoked salmon plate ($7.95). Unfortunately, they were out of smoked salmon, so we went to plan B and ordered Gator Bites ($5.95).
No false advertising here. These are real chunks of alligator, beer-battered and served with a dipping sauce. The flavor is a cross between chicken and a dense fish. While some of the pieces had a strong flavor, others were mellow. The quesadilla was a step above the standard with small pieces of moist chicken and a very good salsa. It could easily suffice as an entrée when paired with soup or salad.
For lunch or dinner, Lagoons offers a variety of Gilligans Island-monikered sandwiches, including The Professor ($6.95), tuna steak grilled with herb butter or blackened with Cajun spices; The Movie Star ($6.95), Cajun turkey breast, provolone and pineapple grilled on Bahama bread; and the Gilligan chicken sandwich ($6.95) grilled with provolone cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce.
More serious dinner entrées include Surf n Turf ($16.95): barbecued shrimp or crab cake with pork chop or 8-ounce sirloin; Rasta Pasta ($9.95 to $13.95): angel-hair pasta tossed with fresh vegetables, sautéed in garlic, olive oil and herbs, on its own or paired with jerk chicken or crab meat; and Crab Imperial ($14.95). Dinners are served with a basket of fresh bread and johnnycakes (think cornbread) and choice of two sides.
Our table went for two of the evenings specials: the mixed grill and the shrimp and scallops with lobster cream. The mixed grill was a nice combination of the three distinctly different flavors all chargrilled and served with garlic mashed potatoes with gravy and a small green salad. The shrimp and scallops was served piping hot in a small casserole topped with a lightly browned pastry crust with mashed potatoes and a fresh mix of lightly sautéed vegetables.
The other two ordered off the menu with smoked pork chops ($12.95), served grilled, blackened, jerk or barbecued. Our special request for one jerk and one barbecued was easily accommodated. The chicken veggie wrap ($6.95) grilled chicken, sautéed vegetables and cheese wrapped in a tortilla and topped with a lime cilantro sour cream sauce rounded out our order. It was dried out and lacking in flavor.
Still enjoying the people-watching, we were lured into sampling the two desserts for the evening. While not made in-house, the key lime pie ($3.75) and chocolate walnut pie ($3.75) made a sweet conclusion.
Lagoons Island Grille
8416 Bayside Road Chesapeake Beach 410/257-7091
Proprietors: John and Ann Remy
Reason to go: An island clubhouse setting with surprisingly good eats.
Something to think about: If you prefer to avoid the rockers, you may want to schedule your visit around the music calendar.