Best of the Bay 2006
We asked you, our loyal readers, to choose your favorites of 2006 in everything from restaurants to clean bathrooms to Bay Weekly stories. Here are the results.
written by Aubree Stafford with Sandra Olivetti Martin
Bay Weekly Readers’ Favorites
Best Bay Weekly Feature Story of 2006
Who can resist a good dog or a good dog story? Certainly not Bay Weekly readers, from near and far, who insist that Kat Bennett stole the show with her in-depth look at the history and qualities of the dog bred for and on Chesapeake Bay.
Best Bay Weekly Subject of 2006
Volvo Ocean Race
Those round-the-world sailors carried off Chesapeake hearts after their two-week visit in Baltimore and Annapolis. Three reporters contributed to our months of coverage: Kat Bennett, who also wrote Bay Weekly readers’ favorite story of the year, covered the race coming and going in a weekly column. Steve Carr contributed a column and a feature on his experiences as a volunteer land crewman for Brasil 1, following the team from Baltimore to England. Finally, Al McKegg described the tornado that chased the Volvo 2002 race out of the Bay.
Best Bay Weekly Columnist of 2006
There’s a lot of life in the old guy, yet. Writing in his 80th year, despite a leveling fall that took him off his feet and away from his computer for weeks, Bill Burton still wins the prize.
Readers feel connected to Burton by personal, two-way ties. You trust him to tell the truth, in reporting the facts accurately. And you love him as a storyteller, the friend who shares the magical gift of spellbinding with the trademark style of the salty, old sportsman, peppering his factual reports with yarns, opinion and sound environmental sense. Most readers say you even love him when you hate him.
That’s all right with Bill Burton, for all he wants is to keep the conversation going another year.
Best Bay Weekly Blunder of 2006
Bay Weekly? We thought it was the voters who decided 2006 was the year to slam Republicans.
Politics on the Bay
Best Thing about Chesapeake Bay
You’ve surely witnessed an out-of-towner’s first reaction to Maryland crab picking. Often, you’ll hear something along these lines:
“You do all this work to get that little bit of meat?”
Yes, we do.
Crabs are more than just a meal; they’re summertime for Marylanders. Roll out the brown paper. Get out the mallets and knives. Fill bowls with vinegar. Then crown your table with Old Bay.
This year, Bay Weekly readers voted crabs the best thing about Chesapeake Bay. Do we really love those crustaceans that crawl around the muddy Bay floor? Or do we love the event itself, spending a Saturday afternoon under a shady tree, rubbing elbows at a packed picnic table full of friends?
As we dip lumps of delicious crabmeat in a vinegar bowl and transport the delicacy to our eager mouths, the reality that crabs support the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, just as any other creature does, isn’t a likely topic of conversation.
Crabs are the garbage collectors of the Bay. The bottom-dwelling predator feeds on a variety of live and dead fish, crabs, clams, snails, eelgrass, sea lettuce and decayed vegetation. A reduction of any predator creates an imbalance in the ecosystem. Crabs are not so pressured as other signature Bay species, but their numbers are still below the long-term average.
Experts debate the exact cause of the decline in blue crabs, but whether it’s over-harvesting, pollution or destruction of habitat, Chesapeake citizens can help restore the crab population.
Become active in Bay grass restoration projects, such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Grasses for the Masses.
Pass on female crabs: A single female blue crab can produce up to eight million eggs in one mating season if it isn’t caught.
So as you anticipate summer 2007 with your hands covered in Old Bay, remember the value of our blue crabs in Chesapeake Bay and what you can do to keep them there.
Best Friend of the Bay
Every year, retired Maryland state senator Bernie Fowler dons coveralls and white sneakers to wade into the Patuxent River until his shoes disappear in memory of the clear rivers of his boyhood. But his actions for his beloved river go deeper.
Twenty-nine years ago, Fowler and the three southern-most counties in Maryland first sued the state, then the federal government. Fowler and company won that battle, gaining hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage-treatment plants. But the government didn’t deliver on its promises.
Last year, Fowler lobbied for a bill to place regulatory limits on nitrogen for all wastewater facilities on the river, not just the major facilities. “The purpose of [Bernie’s Bill] was to bring the river back to vitality and to honor the state’s commitment from the initial agreement in the ’70s,” says Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman.
The General Assembly passed a watered-down version of the bill, but Bernie Fowler isn’t through yet. He plans, with support from Sen. President Mike Miller and Calvert Del. Sue Kullen, to reintroduce the bill.
In 1997, Fowler challenged Maryland’s Tributary Teams to conduct wade-ins in their watersheds. This year, teams conducted wade-ins in nine different areas, ranging from the Patapsco-Back River to the Upper Eastern Shore. The wade-ins not only educate us about the health of the Bay and its tributaries, they also encourage communities to take responsibility for their own local watersheds.
We can’t see many of the Bay’s problems, but Bay Weekly readers can all see what Bernie’s doing.
Best Bay-Area Political Happening
SPCA Walk for the Animals
The SPCA of Anne Arundel County’s first walk at Quiet Waters Park, in 1992, involved around 200 people. In 2006, the most successful year yet, 2,000 people walked to raise over $195,000 to help more than 4,000 needy animals that come to the shelter every year.
“This year was an incredibly successful year, and we look forward to seeing everyone April 29, 2007,” says SPCA of Anne Arundel County executive director Sue Beatty.
Readers love this annual event because it gives like-minded people and cute animal companions a chance to commune for a good cause.
Best Use of Public Funds
Quiet Waters Park
Bay Weekly readers can’t get enough of Quiet Waters Park, voting it tops in four categories, counting SPCA’s Walk for the Animals.
So it’s no wonder you also voted it best Use of Public Funds. In 1987, Anne Arundel County used $4.5 million Open Space funds to purchase 326 acres of land, with four miles of shoreline on the South River and Harness Creek. Barely outside Annapolis just off well-traveled Forest Drive, the now 340-acre park keeps over 600,000 visitors a year in touch with nature.
Walk, jog or bike over six miles of paved trails, through the forest, over grassy knolls and along the scenic waterfront. Navigate the waterways in a rented kayak, canoe or pedal boat from April to October. Tour the native plants garden; then pretend you’re in a Jane Austen novel as you meander through the landscape architecture of the formal garden, established and maintained by Maryland Master Gardeners. Two galleries showcase changing exhibits from regional artists. Now, you can see glassworks of the National Capital Art Glass Guild.
Visitors from Anne Arundel county and beyond bring their beloved canines to frolic along the shores of the county’s first dog park and beach. Dogs run off-leash, for exercise and socialization, in the two fenced areas. Owners of small pooches needn’t worry: the area is divided into two sections, one for larger dogs and one for small or elderly dogs.
Best Place to Picnic
Quiet Waters Park
So many choices: Spread your blanket on a hillside overlooking the South River; fill a cooler for a barbecue on park grills; reserve a pavilion for up to 100 people. Leave the beer at home, but bring horseshoes, a volleyball and net or a football to play in the park’s wide-open spaces. During summer months, listen to live local musicians as you picnic.
Best Place to Let Kids Run Wild
Quiet Waters Park
If you’re looking for a place to let your kids run wild, without under-the-breath grumblings from other people, Bay Weekly readers recommend Quiet Waters Park. The kids will have a grand time imagining that crossing the monkey bars is really venturing over an alligator pit. Ample swings await. After scaling new playground structures, kids pick between a swirling slide or a fireman’s pole as their escape. Don’t worry about a hard landing; the playground is cushioned in rubber.
Worst Use of Public Funds
Since 1778, a Market House of some type has served Annapolitans and visitors to City Dock. So Bay Weekly readers took it hard when Market House closed in late 2004 and remained so until this year.
First, it looked like Dean & DeLuca, known for its trendy groceries in upscale neighborhoods like SoHo and Georgetown, was moving in. Then Annapolis Seafood signed an agreement, but after a heated city council meeting, Annapolis Seafood pulled out of the deal.
In March 2006, the city of Annapolis announced Site Realty Group, which operates Eastern Market in Washington, as the new management company of Market House. The new tenants serve up tourist-friendly foods like crabcakes, pizza, ice cream and fudge much as the old ousted tenants did.
Taxpayers resent the money lost under the agreement with the original tenants the city generated $110,000 a year and the year-long eyesore. Other problems, like insufficient air conditioning, keep popping up and stick in our readers’ craws.
Most Important Voting Issue of 2006
Bay Weekly readers are wise. You realize that environment isn’t an abstraction or a pretty painted landscape. It is our home, hearth and health, the great symbiotic chain sustaining life of creatures tiny and mighty, including ourselves, the big brains capable of blowing this life system all up or setting it back into an ice age. Save the Bay and save us all, you said in casting your votes this fall. Now we must follow our votes with vigilance, insisting that the politicians we chose make the environment their most importing voting issue of 2007.
Biggest Issue Needing More Attention
Health of the Bay
Nothing new here. That’s what the long thinkers, including our columnists Bill Burton and Steve Carr, have been saying for years. Could 2007 be the year we need to march on Annapolis to remind the politicians we elected what we’re thinking? Watch 8 Days a Week in ’07 for lobbying days.
Life on the Bay
Best Bay View ~ Tie
North Beach Boardwalk
North Beach’s seven-block boardwalk is one of the rare places everybody can get close to the Bay. It also has a million-dollar view, all the way to the Eastern Shore. The town of North Beach built it and rebuilt it after Hurricane Isabel and found that if you build it, they will come. People from near and far have come, making it a true promenade, strolling, speed-walking, dog-walking, visiting, dreaming. It’s the heart of North Beach and a lesson to all of us that people need, and love, a place to get together, especially if it has a great view.
Sandy Point State Park
Sure there are plenty of recreation choices at Sandy Point, but the view alone is worth the trip. The park offers sweeping, closeup views of those architectural wonders that are the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Before and beyond the bridge is Bay, Bay, Bay, traveled by boats of every kind: elegant sailboats, seagoing freighters, speeding powerboats and recreational fishing boats. Bring your camera and make a memory.
Sandy Point State Park also scored Best Bay Beach, according to Bay Weekly readers. The biggest, most accessible beach on this side of the Bay, Sandy Point, opened in 1952, brings people to the water. Kids, families, musers, long-distance swimmers and polar bear plungers, they come year-round, in the largest numbers for January’s Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Maryland Special Olympics and May’s Bay Bridge Swim. Land-lovers plant beach chairs and umbrellas in the sand, or hike the Symbi Trail, through an old pine forest, or the East Beach Trail through the woods and over the marsh.
As well as a beach and trails, this 782-acre park offers 22 launching ramps for boaters, another rarity along the Bay, plus rentals of motorboats or rowboats. Other Bay pleasures include crabbing or fishing off one of the park’s several piers and jetties. If you forget your supplies, or don’t have your fishing license, the Marina store provides both necessities, with the added bonus of sustenance.
Even this time of year, there’s something to love at Sandy Point, as Lights on the Bay, sponsored by the Anne Arundel Medical Center, transforms it into a winter wonderland.
Best Place for People Watching; Best Place to be Seen
Annapolis City Dock
Whether we’re there to see or be seen, City Dock brings us all together.
The hot and humid summertime months bring big crowds and big boats to Annapolis’ City Dock. Take a seat on the sea wall or alongside Alex Haley: Boaters sail or motor Ego Alley to show off their treasures, as onlookers ogle. Human-dog couples saunter down the sidewalk, as other dog lovers rush up to heap praises on furry friends. Human couples stroll to romantic restaurants, hand in hand, as young singles make their way to dance the night away. Whatever category you fall into, you’ll fit in just fine.
Best Bay Museum
Calvert Marine Museum
With Drum Point Light House, a pair of otters, a tank of skates, a time machine to take you far back into regional history and the annual Waterside Music Festival, it’s easy to see why Bay Weekly readers choose Calvert Marine Museum as the Best Bay Museum.
Not only does Calvert County’s 35-year-old museum link locals to a lifestyle that’s quickly becoming history; it also brings the big, famous country and rock musicians to out-of-the-way Southern Maryland.
“My grandfather and family members were watermen, so for us locals it’s important to stay connected to our history,” says Ben Connelly of Lusby. A guitarist and big favorite of Bay Weekly readers in this poll, Connelly bridges the two sides of the museum, also playing for museum audiences. “It’s a great place for the community in general, but especially if you want to learn about the fisherman of the Bay,” Connelly continues.
Bay Weekly readers agree.
See the current exhibit, It Ain’t Like It Was Then, and the rest of Calvert Marine Museum including live otters and lots of interesting stuff on sharks, skates and rays as well as a boat house and light house daily from 10am to 5pm. $7 with age discounts: 410-326-2042.
Best Local Performer, Musician or DJ
DJ Zuke, aka Jason Zukowski, plays every Friday night at O’Brien’s.
Best Charity Fundraiser ~ Tie
MSP Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Maryland
Grown men in their skivvies, women in their bikinis, barreling full speed into freezing water all for the sake of charity. Who wouldn’t want to see this?
Each year, the Maryland State Police, partnered with every major police agency in Maryland, holds its Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics Maryland. Plungers collect pledges, then rush into the Bay at Sandy Point.
This Maryland fundraiser is the largest plunge-style event in the world. In 2006, 20,000 spectators and plungers stormed Sandy Point State Park. “The Polar Plunge raised almost $1.3 million for Special Olympics Maryland,” says event founder Tom Schniedwind. “In 2007 we hope to raise $2 million.”
You don’t have to completely submerge yourself to be considered a plunger, just dipping your big toe counts, too.
Rod ’n’ Reel’s Celebration of Life Gala
What’s not to like about the Celebration of Life Cancer Gala, a fundraising party thrown by the Donovan family of Rod ’n’ Reel and their staff of volunteers and a league of contributors. Here thousands feast on lavish buffets of the finest food lobster, oyster, crab, shrimp, barbecue, fish and prime rib and drink, from beer to martinis to margaritas to champagne annually raising more than a quarter million dollars for the American Cancer Society. This year’s Gala raised $467,500, $100,000 more than was raised in 2005. In 25 years, this fundraiser has given almost $3 million to cancer research and services for local people.
Good and Services
Best Bay Friendly Business
Bay weekly readers have spoken. So even if Chesapeake Bay Foundation isn’t strictly a business nor Fabulous Brew environmentally innovative, they both improve our quality of life.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation fights for the Bay in all seven states the estuary straddles, but it’s got local roots with Bay Weekly readers. “They’re a great organization that really helps the Bay,” says John Howser of Annapolis. “And they’re right down the street.”
The foundation works to Save the Bay on different fronts, from writing middle school curricula to crafting legislation to growing oysters. Its Maryland headquarters, the Phillip Merrill Environmental Center, was the first building to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum rating for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
At the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, field trips aren’t just for kids. Individuals and groups venture through wetlands and woods, canoe the Bay and its tributaries and work on floating classrooms. To care for the Bay you’ve got to experience it.
Where can you sip a tasty vanilla latte, peruse a bookcase of old records, then try on vintage gloves all in the same store? That would be Deale’s Fabulous Brew.
Owned and operated by Bob and Diane Franklin, above, Fabulous Brew is appreciated because it was a long time coming. Part local coffeehouse and part antique store “It’s not like a traditional coffee shop, it’s like home,” explains Bay Weekly reader Nicky Pyles.
She voted for Fabulous Brew because “they make you feel like you belong, that you’re welcome.” In a world where we’re losing personal contact, a neighborly shop is unique and welcome.
Best New Business of 2006
Original wares by local artists dot the selection of housewares and gifts at SeaScapes in North Beach, which opened last Memorial Day weekend.
“They have a great selection of nautical decor, wall decor and home gifts. A lot of it is water-oriented and you can’t find that in the cities, you have to go to these shops on the shore,” says Bay Weekly reader-voter Elena Wendell, who drives from Pasadena to shop at SeaScapes.
With SeaScapes, owner Lisa Payne has made a splash.
When Ocean City’s Fractured Prune opened a franchise in Deale, South County readers got to know their fancy-flavored frosted donuts. Now Fractured Prune has left Deale and opened shop in Annapolis Market House, so many more donut lovers can personalize their fried pastry by choosing from a selection of 16 glazes, nine toppings and three sugars, with flavors like maple-glazed, a cinnamon-sugar-dusted French toast creation.
Best Antique Store ~ Tie
Nice & Fleazy
Owner and repeat Bay Weekly Best of the Bay winner Dale Thomas of Nice & Fleazy dealt antiques in North Beach long before the town’s shopping renaissance. In the business for 34 years, Thomas still feels the thrill of collecting and matching people with amazing artifacts, from fine furniture to a vintage fur wrap to what-nots and, oldest of all, sharks’ teeth.
“They have a fabulous selection of unique items that you can’t find anywhere else, very eclectic,” says reader-voter Diane Burr of North Beach. Burr means you have to thread your way through the marvels. “Plus, Nice & Fleazy is a great name for an antiques store,” Burr adds. “It fits the place perfectly. It’s so down-home and cute.”
Owner Will Conard has more recently parlayed his passion for antiques into a thriving North Beach business. His young store, antiques-brocante (In French, brocante means second-hand trade), specializes in American, French and English antiques.
Unlike many other antique stores, antiques-brocante favors an organized display style.
Best Art Gallery or Shop
An art fixture on Solomons Island for 23 years 10 in an historic turn-of-the-century island home Carmen’s Gallery sells custom jewelry, sculpture and housewares, in addition to the works of over 50 well-known artists.
Owner Carmen Sanders is “very particular about what she shows and the product she sells,” says reader-voter Peter Siegert of Lusby. “If it’s not just right, it’s not in the store. She’s in competition with my wife [who owns Grandmother’s Store on Dowell Road] but I admire those qualities in her.”
Carmen’s Gallery custom-designs frames to complement and preserve artwork. The gallery also recently partnered with interior designer Nancy Walrath to offer full-service commercial and residential space planning and interior design.
Carmen has also opened a second gallery in New Orleans.
Best Coffee House
City Dock Coffee
Annapolis is a mid-sized town with a small town feel. So it makes sense that Bay Weekly readers voted City Dock Coffee a coffee shop that prides itself on its neighborly ways as Best Coffee House.
With at least three other coffee shops within walking distance, what makes the City Dock cup of joe a shot above the rest? Maybe it’s the friendliness of baristas who remember your name or favorite drink each time you return.
Best Gift Shop
The Magnolia Shoppe
Located in the tiny village of Friendship just above the Calvert County line in Anne Arundel, The Magnolia Shoppe boasts a gift selection contrary to its small size. As well as gift shop staples like candles and Christmas decorations, the store displays diverse, alluring merchandise ranging from artisan jewelry, broaches and bracelets to floral handbags accented with beadwork.
“We’ve just got unique gifts. I think that’s what draws people,” says shopper and employee Loren Scalera of Dunkirk. “There’s something for everyone.”
Every grocery store sells fruits and vegetables. But few pack in the produce-seekers like Whole Foods in Annapolis Harbour Center, where you can buy a succulent star fruit or trumpet-shaped Chanterelle mushrooms.
“I think they have the best produce and meats around,” says reader-voter Michael Foertch of Stevensville. “I drive from Kent Island just to shop there.”
With a vast selection and commitment to buying local produce, Whole Foods delivers scope and freshness. Its organic choices listed on a board in the produce department each day also help health-conscious shoppers avoid the array of chemicals and fertilizers used in conventionally grown produce. Whole Foods keeps its variety and quality up by shopping at the international marketplace for out-of-season fruits and vegetables.
Alexander’s of Annapolis
At Alexander’s of Annapolis in the Festival at Riva shopping center, you’re wrapped in an atmosphere of luxury. That’s the quality that makes Alexander’s a repeat Bay Weekly Best of the Bay winner.
On one side of the salon, hair is the crowning glory. Stylists straighten, lengthen, trim and tint your tresses.
On the other side is Alexander’s renowned day spa, offering a full menu of services to improve your body from top to toe, from eyebrow waxing to massage and whole-body wraps to chocolate pedicures. You’ll leave feeling like a new person, and you might look like one too.
“Alexander’s gives impeccable customer service and they’re friendly and professional,” says reader-voter Rene McMahon of Annapolis.
Best Toy Store
BeBeep A Toy Shop
Toy super-stores provide a selection of Bratz and Ninja Turtles, but often leave the mind a neglected region.
BeBeep, in Annapolis and Severna Park, are a different toy story. “Most of the toys at BeBeep are educational and teach kids to use their imaginations,” says reader-voter Brad Kuklinski of Cape St. Claire. Brain-teaser chemistry sets and dress-up clothes fill the shelves.
“At BeBeep I can ask any employee and they offer great gift suggestions,” Kuklinski continues. “Best of all, they personally hand-wrap each gift in plain white paper that my son can decorate. They even curlicue the ribbon.”
BeBeep might wrap the gift for you, but you’ll be faced with the biggest challenge yourself: which toy to buy. That’s a challenge enjoyed by adults and kids alike in this store’s world of whimsy.
Best Public Restroom
Bay Weekly’s readers range from Pasadena to Solomons. But when those readers want to shop big time, they come together in Nordstrom at Westfield Mall in Annapolis.
Amid the hectic crowds in the mall, Bay Weekly readers have a haven in the clean, welcoming and expansive Nordstrom restrooms (women’s, men’s and family), another repeat winner in Bay Weekly’s Best of the Bay competition.
“When you drive an hour and 15 minutes, you want to have a clean bathroom,” says reader-voter Diane Tarhan of California, in St. Mary’s County. “Plus, we love the Facconable men’s department, which is next to the restroom.”
“Because it’s clean,” Tarhan says, “it’s very popular too.”
Best Golf Course
Renditions’ 18 holes are each a replica from a golf course that has hosted one or more of golf’s four major championships: The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open and The PGA. That quality and diversity is part but not all of the appeal of this 21st century golf club.
While playing Renditions golf course, you must be careful not to hit a freshwater turtle with your cart. Located next to the Patuxent River in Davidsonville, Renditions offers views of wildlife in addition to its greens and holes.
There’s still more to this great golf experience. Rendition’s Club House is a 1930s-style homage to Georgia golfer Bobby Jones, who in one season won golf’s Grand Slam: The U.S. Open, The U.S. Amateur, The British Open and The British Amateur.
At Renditions, you play in style and get back to nature, say Bay Weekly readers.
O’Brien’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant
Visit O’Brien’s around 11pm on a Friday night, and there’s bound to be a line of people waiting to pack this popular bar. With many other bars in proximity, why do Bay Weekly readers prefer O’Brien’s?
Here, seven nights a week local acts entertain. Monday night is reserved for the NFL’s big game; Thursday is Ladies Night; Friday is DJ Zuke.
After a hard day’s work, readers head to O’Brien’s for such happy hour sustenance as steamed mussels and chicken quesadillas. For late workers and partiers, O’Brien’s serves its bar menu until midnight, offering such Annapolis specialties as oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, lump crab cakes and more.
The entertainment changes nightly, but food and atmosphere stay the course.
Best Dock Bar
Pusser’s Caribbean Grill
If you like to spend a Friday night sitting on the dock of the Bay, Bay Weekly readers recommend Pusser’s. On summer nights, with Pusser’s signature Pain Killer in hand, you’ll have a front-row seat to scope out the boats cruising up Ego Alley.
While you take in the sights, feast on Annapolis favorites, like Maryland crab dip and steamed spiced shrimp. Like its name, Pusser’s Caribbean Grill serves island fare that you won’t find elsewhere. West Indian blackened snapper and Haitian Creole seafood gumbo transport you to a tropical climate.
Favorite Place to Pick Up Bay Weekly
What’s a perfect way to relax? Reading Bay Weekly while enjoying a hot slice of Rocco’s pizza.
We’d think Bay Weekly complements Rocco’s, because when readers stop in to nab their paper before it flies off the rack, the aroma tells them they’ve got to eat pizza. Bay Weekly distributor Ralph Camardo delivers near 100 papers to Rocco’s on Bay Ridge every Thursday afternoon, and when he returns the next Thursday, not a paper remains.
Food and Drink
Best Overall Restaurant
Beach Cove’s vote tally suggests satisfaction is found in lots of ways at this Chesapeake Beach restaurant.
The restaurant side balances excellent seafood and steaks, with the first guaranteed fresh by waterman-owner Glenn James, below, and the second, Angus beef cut to your desired thickness. The menu branches out to, for example, chicken Dijon and spaghetti and meatballs and, of course, crab soup.
Bay Weekly readers aren’t the only ones singing Beach Cove’s praises. Maryland Seafood Festival 2006 judges voted Beach Cove’s Cream of Crab Soup the best in the state.
On the other side, Beach Cove’s lounge features live entertainment weekly and Texas Hold ’em Night every Tuesday and Thursday.
The lounge adds to the fun atmosphere of Beach Cove, but James says the “quality food and good service” is what sets Beach Cove apart.
If you have a hard time making decisions, start thinking about your menu selection before you set foot in Yellowfin, perched on the north side of the South River.
Fine-dining restaurants abound, some specializing in surf, others in turf. At Yellowfin Steak and Seafood House you get the best of both culinary worlds.
If seafood’s on your mind, choose between fresh dishes like macadamia-encrusted mahi-mahi, or a three-and-a-half pound New England lobster.
Decision-making isn’t any easier on the meat-lover’s side. A one-pound New York Strip steak comes topped with beer-battered Vidalia onion rings, while a sun-dried cranberry demi-glaze covers the rack of lamb.
Stuck? Dine on appetizers, which many grazing regulars favor.
The entertainment here is the fine river view. Yellowfin’s popularity is evident by the packed parking lot and jammed lounge any night of the week.
Most Romantic Restaurant
Romantic. The word implies adoring gazes on faces softened by candlelight. Flames flickering from a fireplace as a soft melody places in the background.
Add views of rippling Spa Creek highlighted by the moonlight, and you’ve got Chart House, Bay Weekly readers choice for Most Romantic Restaurant.
Most Scenic Dining
You need more than a water-view to impress Bay Weekly readers. Perched on the Eastport side of Annapolis, visitors to Chart House soak in views of the State House, the Naval Academy and City Dock, in addition to Spa Creek and the Severn River.
Chart House plays to its strengths too, with a double-story, window-filled room allowing ample views of the view.
When you want to show off Maryland’s capital to out-of-towners, Chart House will impress. But you don’t need to be a visitor to enjoy this scenic view.
Best Splurge Restaurant
The Westlawn Inn
In a previous life, The Westlawn Inn housed Bay-side vacationers to North Beach and neighboring Chesapeake Beach. When owner Lee Travers purchased the house and renovated it as an upscale restaurant, he kept touches of that previous life. Travers crafted wainscoting from salvaged guest room doors and added a Victorian bar, without televisions.
He hired chefs to give the same attention to his menu, serving dishes like truffle lobster risotto and coffee-crusted duck.
Starters, like cinnamon-dusted baked brie, range from $9 to the $14 pumpkin risotto with butter-poached prawns. At less than $10, soups and salads are more moderately priced. Entrees start at $20 and continue to the mid-$30s.
“It’s a classy restaurant with a well thought-out menu, like a Washington D.C. restaurant in Calvert County,” says reader-voter Shirley Mihursky of Port Republic.
Venture over the Eastport Bridge and play your part in Annapolis culinary history. Owned and operated by the Lewnes family since 1921, Lewnes’ Steakhouse serves up Old-World tradition in addition to 24-ounce T-bone steaks.
Bay Weekly readers also voted Lewnes’ Best Steak, but U.S. Prime beef isn’t the only stand-out on this menu. Chefs pan-sear fresh yellowfin tuna, with an end result of flaky fish surrounded by a crisp, black crust.
U.S. Prime steaks range from a $30 ribeye to a $40 filet. Lewnes’ offers a deep selection of wines, and educated servers advise the best food and wine pairings.
At Lewnes’ the flavor and experience are well worth the splurge.
The Bagel Connection
Located in Arnold, The Bagel Connection bakes its bagels from scratch daily, using the freshest ingredients with no preservatives.
“I start at around 2:30am baking bagels,” says employee Paul Pleyo of Crownsville.
The Bagel Connection’s creations are authentic New-York-style bagels, made with flour, water, sugar, yeast, salt and flavorings.
“We make our bagels from scratch. We put that extra quality into our bagels, and I think that makes the difference,” Pleyo says.
Scones, croissants, muffins and cinnamon buns come pre-made, but bagel knots cinnamon-raisin bagels tied in knots with icing drizzled on top are also made fresh every morning.
“Our cash-cow is the bagel here,” says Pleyo.
“They’re the best bakery because all of the selections are fresh, and they have a large and beautiful selection of baked goods. They have great lunch sandwiches too,” says reader-voter Michelle Trott of Dunkirk.
Sweet Sue’s Bakeshop and Coffee Bar, located just off the boardwalk in North Beach, is more than just a bakery.
Of course you’ll see sweet staples, like muffins, brownies, cookies and elaborately decorated cakes, all baked on premises with no added preservatives.
But when your growling stomach just won’t be satisfied with sugar, Sweet Sue’s offers specialty sandwiches, soups, salads and wraps. You can even buy a vegetable or fruit and cheese platter for a holiday get-together. If diversification is the key to business, Sweet Sue’s can open the lock.
Chick & Ruths Delly
Where can you equate a governor with turkey and a newly elected senator with corned beef? Chick & Ruths Delly on Main St., Annapolis.
The Robert Ehrlich is white meat turkey, lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat toast. The Ben Cardin is grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye.
Chick & Ruths combines the cooking of a traditional American restaurant with the specialties of a traditional deli serving Jewish-style food with the treats of an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor. Then it piles on great variety and quantity.
Breakfasts range from a one-pound T-bone steak to a Jewish-muffin (bagel) with jelly or butter. At lunchtime, politicians and lawyers mingle with locals, enjoying fare ranging from Kosher-style corned beef to a chicken Caesar wrap.
Readers say they like all the options.
Best Sunday Brunch
Tired of cereal for breakfast? On Sundays, from 11am to 2pm, visit Chart House where a brunch buffet consumes the entire dining room. Indulge in an omelet, made to your liking, topped off with a sprinkling of caviar, or eggs Maryland drizzled with hollandaise sauce.
“It’s fabulous food, always fresh and yummy,” says reader-voter Marie Friedland of Annapolis. If you wash it all down with champagne and orange juice, make sure someone else is driving.
Rod ’n’ Reel
For three generations, the Donovan family has satisfied customers at Rod ’n’ Reel. Perched on the shores of Chesapeake Bay in Chesapeake Beach, it serves a view in addition to the culinary extravagances on its Sunday morning buffet. All you can eat is part of the appeal, so come fasting. Pile your plate with ham, bacon and sausage; potatoes; scrambled eggs; omelets and waffles to order; chipped-beef or sausage gravy on biscuits; freshly made donuts, sweet rolls and muffins plus lots of fresh fruit.
“They have the perfect blend of atmosphere, service and selection,” says reader-voter Melissa Carnes of Lexington Park.
Rocco’s prides itself on its real New York-style pizza on Bay Ridge.
“I’m from Arnold and I go to Rocco’s every Monday and Thursday,” says reader-voter Elaine Mason. “I moved here from New York. You can’t find New-York style pizza anywhere. Every one else tries, but no one can make it happen like Rocco’s.”
The chains may try to recreate this delicacy, but this locally owned pizza parlor, where everything is made from scratch, has reigned supreme for over 30 years.
Best Restaurant for a Cheap Date
Rocco’s is also the place to go when you want to treat your date to dinner on a dime.
Eating pizza on a dark winter night nestled up at home. That’s another pleasure Bay Weekly readers rate a Best of the Bay.
Best Mexican Restaurant
Bay Weekly readers gladly fight Forest Drive traffic to crowd into the oldest Mexican restaurant around, Annapolis’ Mexican Café, to munch on its south of the border cuisine and sip the most potent margaritas around. On a summer night, patrons fill the outdoor patio as well as the small, brightly painted dining rooms.
Open since 1992, the restaurant offers expected Mexican fare like fajitas, taquitos and enchiladas, plus some unexpected ones, like stuffed avocado, a whole avocado stuffed with chicken and cheese, battered and deep-fried.
It also serves a sizable selection of vegetarian and light Mexican dishes, too. There are even Gringo Favorites think burgers and fries to satisfy readers who don’t do, or vote, Mexican.
Best Asian Restaurant
Joss Café and Sushi Bar
If the thought of a spicy tuna roll or salmon nigiri gets your taste buds tingling, Bay Weekly readers recommend Annapolis’ ever popular and usually crowded Joss Café and Sushi Bar as the place to satisfy your sushi craving.
“They have the best tasting sushi around,” says reader-voter Stephanie Leger of Annapolis. “I love the atmosphere and everyone is really friendly.”
Joss offers a wide selection of salads, like the chopped smoked salmon salad, and kitchen entrees like beef teriyaki. As delicious as the salads may be, odds are, you won’t resist the sushi.
Mike’s Bar & Crab House
A fixture on the South River since 1958, Mike’s Bar & Crab House serves up tradition along with Maryland seafood favorites. Wood paneling covering the walls of the bar and dining room suggest that Mike’s hasn’t changed much in its 48 years of operation. One change, though, is the spacious outdoor deck and dock that lures boaters cruising the South River and all other lovers of crabs alfresco.
Spacious tables, covered in brown paper for easy cleanup, fit even the largest groups. Beyond crabs, diners this time of year can indulge in home-style fried oysters, and there’s always Jamaican jerk mahi-mahi and even pizza.
Best Crab Cake
All Marylanders know the hallmarks of a great crabcake: giant lumps of glistening white meat held together with just enough filler, encased in a golden brown crust.
Sounds simple enough, but few restaurants can pull it off. Chesapeake Beach’s Beach Cove accomplishes the feat, according to Bay Weekly readers.
Cantler’s Riverside Inn
What’s this Annapolis restaurant’s secret to crunchy, never leathery, soft-shells? Venture to the outside crab deck and witness nearly a dozen shedding tanks housing peeler crabs.
As soon as they shed their old shells, the crabs are removed from the water and chilled. The chilling prevents the shells from hardening until they are ready to be cleaned, battered, fried and served .
When it comes to the battering and frying, their secret is their secret.
McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar
For consistently fresh oysters, Bay Weekly readers head to McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar at Annapolis City Dock, a repeat winner that stays true to saloons and oyster houses of years past. At the raw bar, seasoned shuckers pop off the shell, and within seconds, the salty shellfish is yours.
Calling all carnivores. If you’re looking to sink your teeth into a succulent steak, Bay Weekly readers recommend Lewnes’ Steakhouse. Serving Annapolis since 1921, Lewnes’ serves U.S. Prime Steak and holds the distinction of being the first restaurant in Annapolis to do so.
U.S. Prime steers lead a life of luxury. They are selected from 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America, and other such clubs, where their owners lavish them with personal attention and pampering. During the fattening six weeks, they indulge in a corn diet, enhancing fat marbling and creating a tender, juicy steak.
By the time these steaks reach your table, you needn’t bother asking for a steak knife.
With four Adam’s Ribs from Severna Park to Prince Frederick, Bay Weekly readers have plenty of chances to savor the best barbecue.
Adam’s barbecue isn’t limited to just pulled pork. Ribs, chicken and shrimp are doused with a generous helping of Adam’s own barbecue sauce.
If you like your barbecue tangy, Adam’s offers a vinegar-and-red-pepper-based Carolina pulled-pork sandwich. For a sweeter selection, try the traditional tomato-based sauce. Or sink your teeth into the beef brisket with bourbon sauce. All, our readers say, is the best hereabouts.
With new locations in Annapolis and Edgewater, Five Guys’ hold on burger-lovers is growing. “There is just nothing better,” says reader-voter Ari Starch, who lives on his boat on Back Creek. “When they moved from Virginia to Annapolis, we celebrated.” Five Guys pledges to use fresh ground beef, never frozen. Toppings are free, so pile them on to your liking.
Best French Fries
“I’ve had a lot of fries in my time, and these are just the best tasting fries, with a really unique seasoning,” says Bay Weekly reader-voter Alex Mewshaw of Annapolis. Five Guys Style is solely salt, while Cajun-style spices things up.
Cluck U Chicken
Mild, Atomic, Nuclear, Thermo-Nuclear, 911, Cajun, Honey Hickory, Gold Mustard, Traditional and Teriyaki. No matter what your chicken wing craving, Cluck U Chicken likely serves it.
Bay Weekly readers like not only the choice of flavors but also the extra-large chicken wings, lightly breaded, then deep-fried to lock in flavor. Be warned: They’re addictive; before you know it, your face and fingers will be covered with sticky sauce.
Best Vegetarian or Vegan Food
Lemongrass, now in two Annapolis locations, boasts nine vegetarian dishes. But beware: the menu marks six as spicy. Forget the idea that vegetarian or vegan is synonymous with tasteless. Lemongrass’ pad thai tofu is full of flavor. Tofu, bean curd, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, scallions and tamarind sauce join stir-fried rice noodles in this dish.
“We’ve got authentic Thai chefs making the cuisine. They understand the flavors, which brings an added dimension of taste,” says Lemongrass owner Gavin Buckley.
Not eating meat won’t deprive you of Lemongrass’ tasty cuisine.
Best Kids Menu
Parents might debate the nutritional value of fast food, but kids all over call for McDonald’s Happy Meal. With their choice of hamburger, cheeseburger or chicken McNuggets comes a toy.
McDonalds attempts to satisfy health-conscious parents by offering more choices. Instead of fries for a side, you can order apple slices; Low-fat milk substitutes for sugary soda.
But kids don’t vote for Best Kids Menu, leading us to wonder whether it’s not the convenience and price that parents like best.
Best Place for Dessert
The Melting Pot
Don’t go to the Melting Pot outside Annapolis to grab a quick bite to eat. “It’s really an event,” says Argie Vassilaros of Annapolis. “We make it a family event.”
Diners cook their own food in a variety of simmering oils in a fondue pot. Appetizers and entrees are delicious, but the desserts of chocolate fondue and an array of sweet dippers win the prize.
Sugar cravings get satisfied at Sweet Sue’s, below, also Bay Weekly readers’ favorite bakery as well as dessertery, praised for its giant cookies, hedonistic brownies, fruit tarts, artfully decorated cakes plus and gelato.
Best Ice Cream
Bay Weekly readers can’t resist Maggie Moo’s ice cream with locations in Severna Park, Festival at Riva and the Annapolis Mall food court. You say you like to create your own flavors by selecting an ice cream, made fresh in the treatery, and adding mix-ins that tickle your fancy. Or choose a Maggie-Moo creation like Cherry Vanilla Vacation: vanilla ice cream with brownies, maraschino cherries and caramel.
Best New Restaurant
“I think Annapolis was ready for something different,” says owner Gavin Buckly of Lemongrass, with its muted tones, relaxed ambiance and Thai classics at affordable prices. “We knew there was a need for a restaurant emphasizing freshness, and that it would be well accepted.” Bay Weekly readers have welcomed Lemongrass, bestowing upon the Thai eatery the Best New Restaurant of 2006 title along with best vegetarian.
So successful is Lemongrass that a second location, off Defense Highway, followed the West Street original, in 2006.