A Bite of the Green
by Gabby Crabcakes
A new crop of Irish eateries has sprung up in Annapolis (with another still in development), joining the ranks of old favorites like Riordan's, McGarvey's and O'Brien's. Where Irish pubs come from, they're a part of daily life: a place to relax and catch-up with your neighbors while enjoying a refreshment and some local bounty. Galway Bay, on Maryland Avenue just off State Circle, is just that.
The pub is dark and cozy with a long, inviting bar, plenty of stools with ledges, a couple of comfortable booths and a window table (full menu service is available). There are no boob tubes; the focus is on imported draft beers and conversation. Beer, ale, stout or whiskey are the big sellers. I opted for the Harp ($4.29) while my companion enjoyed his Cafrey's ($4.29) served in imperial pints.
The pub gets noisy and smoky, so if you'd rather focus on your meal, follow Peggy (a lovely remnant of Little Campus) or one of the other hosts into the dining room. Irish bric-a-brac is scattered and mounted throughout this large room, while the tables are simply adorned with shaded candles, cloth napkins and heavy country utensils. Service is wholesome and accommodating.
The menu offers traditional Irish favorites while integrating local specialties (like crab) and a few American standards. Tempting are prawn and crab dip ($6.50), Murphy's lamb tenders ($6.50) and Galway Bay smoked salmon rolls ($8.95). But once I tried Molly Malone's cockles and mussels ($6.95), I haven't wanted anything else. What arrives is a generous serving of tiny mussels and cherrystone clams swimming in a creamy tomato broth spiked with Irish whiskey. Promoted as a recreated family recipe, this is a great dish to share - or order the entree ($13.95) and indulge. Order a mixed basket of brown and Irish soda bread ($1.50 serves 2) and soak up the broth.
There's a nice selection of soups and salads. The chieftain salad - ($5.25) romaine lettuce, Cashel blue cheese, walnuts, cranberries and home-made croutons, with a black currant port dressing - is nice as a side or paired with prime rib ($8.95). Entrees are served with a small side salad; Irish favorites are not.
I was tempted by such daily specials as tuna steak and filet mignon in puffed pastry, but fish and chips ($8.95) won. Three pieces of juicy pollack coated with beer batter and fried golden and hot paired with chips - that's British Isles style for fries. Not a dieter's dish, it definitely satisfies a craving.
My companion experimented with the Irish mixed grill ($14.95), a potpourri platter including a lamb chop, Irish sausage, Irish bacon, Irish black and white puddings (think scrapple), two fried eggs and chips. Best to be a meat lover and have a hearty appetite.
Traditional favorites also include Irish stew ($9.50); shepherd's pie ($8.95), a mix of ground sirloin, onions peas and carrots baked in a casserole with a topping of mashed potatoes; and some slight variations on that theme such as farmyard pie ($8.95 with chicken) and Saint Brendan's seafood pie ($8.95 with salmon, shrimp and clams).
In the shadow of our statehouse, Galway Bay is a trip to the land that created Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
6163 Maryland Ave. ·Annapolis 410/263-8333
Proprietors: Michael Galway (Ireland) and Gary Robertson (Scotland)
Reason to go: It's cheaper than flying to Ireland.
Something to think about: Parking competition is tedious.