It's Easy to Stay at McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar
Not interested in yet another leftover turkey meal this past weekend, I ventured downtown with friends to absorb the holiday spirit and grab a bite at one of Annapolis' landmark taverns -- McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar.
Located in the heart of City Dock, McGarvey's exemplifies what Annapolis tradition is all about. There are plenty of fine restaurants and bars in and around City Dock, but there are only a few with history and reputation the likes of this seasoned veteran.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a pleasant and formidable doorman who took our names and directed us to the bar for our expected 25 minute wait.
Our timing couldn't have been better, for as we approached the large bar several stools cleared. While we ordered our beverages, we observed the milieu with its animated crowd and dark, woody interior. High ceilings and classic tile floors add drama and acoustical balance to a main bar area that is long and narrow. Bar stools are well worn and comfortable. You can imagine the millions of tales exchanged in this room.
To whet our whistles, we ordered mugs of beer. With only three drafts to choose, the house brand, Aviator Lager seemed the natural choice (other selections included Bud and Bud Light). A bit light and not as cold as we would like, it was nonetheless flavorful. Having taken our first sips, we were told our table was ready.
Bobbing and weaving through the crowd, we were led back into the oyster bar and up a grand staircase to the loft, where dining is less of a contact sport. High tin ceilings, dark wood, brick walls and belt-driven, old-world ceiling fans add to the charm and historic integrity.
The menu is nicely balanced with a variety of bar food -- appetizers, salads and sandwiches, as well as some entrees and specials.
If you're a fan of fresh seafood, it would be negligent to overlook the oyster bar selections. Our server assured us that the oysters were from the Chesapeake Bay, so a dozen were ordered on the half shell (market price, $5.95 a half dozen). We also ordered a half-dozen steamed cherrystone clams (market price, $5.95). During Happy Hour, 4pm to 8pm Monday through Friday, a full dozen oysters are served for the bargain price of $3.
The lite fare offerings were tempting and varied. I caught scent of a neighboring table's order of Aviator Wings ($6.95), which looked as good as they smelled and come in three styles: Buffalo, teriyaki or honey barbecue. I also caught a glimpse of the fried calamari ($7,95) and crab dip (market price). Ultimately, I ordered the smoked bluefish ($7.95). All the starters arrived together and made for a great beginning.
The oysters were shucked for slurping and sided with lemon and cocktail sauce. They were fresh and tasty with great texture. The clams were teeny tiny but were also perfectly prepared and delicious; they were served with melted butter and Old Bay. The smoked bluefish was handsomely presented with cocktail breads and crackers and a ramekin of horseradish sour cream. The piece of fish was large and sprinkled with peppercorns. There was more than enough to go around.
For dinner, our group split between the informal and more serious entrees. I was torn between two of evenings specials: grilled tenderloin and Atlantic salmon combo ($17.95) and McGarvey's gumbo ($10.95). Several sandwiches also appealed -- the filet bernaise ($10.95) and Southern style catfish sandwich ($7.95). In the end, I caved to popular opinion and ordered a cheddar cheeseburger ($6.95). Other orders included the crabcake platter (market price, $18.95), bacon Roquefort burger ($7.75) and filet mignon ($22.95). To complement all palates, we ordered a bottle of Saintsbury Pinot Noir ($27) from the wine list ($17 to $60).
Burgers were served with lettuce, tomato, pickle and cottage fries (medallions of fried potato). The filet and crab cakes were served with choice of baked potato, cottage fries or rice and a vegetable medley.
The filet was actually two thick and tender pieces topped with fried onion rings and sided with a cup of bernaise sauce. The meat, cooked perfectly, was a premium cut and melted in your mouth. The crabcakes were ordered, broiled and served on saltines. Our server assured us the crab was Maryland (Crisfield to be exact).
Unfortunately, the hamburgers were both overcooked. Without hesitation, they were taken back to the kitchen for replacements. In what's never a comfortable position to be in, our server was very apologetic, and when bringing our new, perfectly cooked burgers, offered free desserts. A lot of fuss over two hamburgers, but greatly appreciated. Meanwhile, the final result was indeed a very good burger.
After finishing our key lime pie and chocolate marquise, we waded back through the enthusiastic crowd and into the cold. It would have been easy to stay
Market Space Annapolis 410/263-5700
Proprietor: Mike Ashford
Reason to go: Fun and good food in a historic setting.
Something to think about: If you like your meat pink, play it safe and order rare.
| Issue 48 |
Volume VII Number 48
December 2-8, 1999
New Bay Times
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