Fresh, local and sustainable have become bywords. But you might still be surprised to find native translations in a nationwide hotel chain: In that, Azure at the Annapolis Westin Hotel, takes the lead under the direction of chef James Barrett.
“I keep as local as possible,” says Barrett, a local guy who grew up on Chesapeake Bay in Fairhaven. “I buy with a touch of Maryland. That’s my goal.”
He reaches his goal in products from beef to oysters to seasonal produce to honey.
Chef James serves three daily menus — changing with the season — to take you from early morning to late at night. Each is guided by his belief that the chef’s job is “good, fresh food speak for itself and use flavors to enhance it, not hide it.”
Breakfast adds an eclectic, healthful touch to American standards from smoothies to breakfast panini to smoked salmon and tofu. Eggs are laid by cage-free chickens. Taste it all at the breakfast buffet.
You can order soup — crab bisque, waterman seafood stew or chili — and a salad or sandwich for lunch or dinner. Have a burger anytime, choosing from beef, salmon or veggie. Or a milkshake. Or chicken and dumplings Azure style, with gnocchi replacing their American cousins.
A welcome choice is salad to order: Construct your perfect salad from a list of greens and toppings, including grilled romaine hearts or spiced apple salad.
At 5pm, Monday thru Thursday, unwind at Westin’s happy hour, featuring drink specials and half-price small plates. Mondays feature signature martinis. See chef demonstrations Tuesdays at 6pm. Wednesdays feature wine and Wii.
On Thursday February 9, Goose Island Craft Beer Makers pop in for HOPPY Hour from 6:00 to 7:30, with five beers paired with Chef James’ creations, among them Pere Jacques with wild boar with turnips and apple chutney. You’ll need reservations.
Or spend Valentine’s at Azure with dinner and hotel specials February 10 to 14.
Kitchen daily 7am-11pm; lounge 2pm-2am
100 Westgate Circle, Annapolis, 410-972-4365, www.azureannapolis.com
Debendra Sapkota springs from a family whose business was growing Basmati rice, tea, spices and livestock on the eastern edge of Nepal near the border with India. Interested in traditional foods since childhood, he moved to Maryland in 2000 with the goal of opening a restaurant dedicated to Indian and Nepali cuisine.
Now Debendra and his two partners, Tara Chand and Harjeet Pal — both Indian chefs — are about to open their own Indian cuisine restaurant. In memory of the many hours Debendra worked in the Basmati rice fields in Nepal, they have named their restaurant Basmati.
Basmati features a daily lunch buffet and a dinner menu with a wide selection of seafood, lamb, chicken and vegetarian dishes. Basmati also offers a full bar and wine selection.
2444 Solomons Island Rd., Annapolis, 410-266-6355, www.Basmatiofannapolis.com
Lunch buffet M-F 11:30am-2:30 pm; SaSu noon-3pm
Dinner Su-Th 5-9:30pm; FSa 5-10:30pm
California Tortilla sounds far away, but it’s locally owned. Every dish is cooked to order and served with salsa made in small batches throughout the day.
“People are always surprised and pleased to find that kind of quality with fast service,” says Annapolis and Bowie owner Laura Richards.
That means food fresh-made every day. “We come in at 8am,” Richards says, “which gives us till 11 to make everything fresh every day. We use Roma tomatoes, Haas avocados, all-breast chicken that’s never frozen, hand-cut USDA sirloin steak.”
“We serve a broad menu to please little kids, people who hate spicy food, women on a diet and big hungry men,” Richards says.
Vegetarians and vegans, too, with the vegan-friendly Nomeato Burrito.
Vegan or meat eater, if you like it hot, you’ll be drawn to the Wall of Flame, with its 70 hot sauces you can sample, including the signature California Screamin’ sauce. “That’s one of our claims to flame,” Richards says.
On Thursdays, one kid eats free with each adult buying an entrée, and kids get to use what Richards calls her “spaceship-like soda fountain,” an innovative machine that lets you mix your choice of 125 fountain beverages.
Special promotions add another appeal. On Valentine’s Day, every customer gets a free order of Love Chips, a warm flour tortilla with powdered sugar, cinnamon and Nutella.
California Tortilla is good for parties, too. Cartering starts at under $10 a person, delivered.
California Tortilla Fresh Pico De Gallo Salsa
(Makes about 10 cups in 20 minutes)
5 lbs. fresh, firm, red, ripe Roma tomatoes, medium diced
1 large white onion, medium diced
1 large jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 cup chopped, cilantro
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice
1 tbs. plus 2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Mix. Chill for 1 hour. Serve the same day you prepare.
Annapolis: 2329 A Forest Dr., 410 897-0333, www.californiatortilla.com/locations/annapolis
M-Sa 11am-9pm; Su 11am-8pm
Bowie: 3841 Evergreen Pkwy., 301-464-6405, www.californiatortilla.com/locations/bowie
M-Th 11am-9:30pm; FSa 11am-10pm; Su 11am-11pm
DiGiovanni’s Dock of the Bay
“Food is love, and love is fun,” says Jack Batten, executive chef at DiGiovanni’s. “If you feel it’s a burden at home, go out to dinner.”
|DiGiovanni’s chef Jack Batten.|
Batten and wife Jan invite you to the Solomons Island creek-front restaurant they bought two years ago. They’ve expanded the menu, with temptations like beef Wellington, seafood strudel, osso bucco and chicken cacciatore. Dishes are lovingly hand-made, from sauces to salad dressings to pasta to cheesecakes and tiramisu. They’ve also lowered prices and added a family-friendly kids menu.
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, retro night transforms DiGiovanni’s to an old-fashioned Italian restaurant with red-checked tablecloths, candles in Chianti bottles and, best of all, dinner for under $10. Eight entrees, including spaghetti with homemade meatballs and gnocci with prosciutto cream, are priced at $8.50.
Keep up with regular specials, including four nights of Valentine’s dinners.
14556 Solomons Island Road, Solomons, 410-394-6400, www.digiovannisrestaurant.com
Tu-Th 11:30am-9pm; FSa 11:30am-9:30pm; Su 11:30am-7pm
Dream Weaver Events, Catering and Café
With purple and yellow walls, antique furniture and one-of-a-kind salt and pepper shakers, Trish Weaver has created a quirky neighborhood café that’s a local favorite for breakfast and lunch.
Start the day with a hearty breakfast of hotcakes, breakfast quesadilla, creamed chipped beef, breakfast wrap or sandwich, all freshly made to order.
The lunch menu is long, with sandwiches and wraps, grilled favorites and salads. It’s hard to choose between the Naples — filled with fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, onions and lettuce — or the Toulouse with fresh turkey, brie and tomato on a baguette. Eight-ounce Angus burgers are served your way.
Sweet treats displayed at the counter include freshly baked cookies, cakes, pies, muffins, cupcakes and scones. Even after lunch, it’s hard to resist a Kahlua chocolate cupcake.
Dream Weaver Special Events and Catering brings the goodness to you, whether in a delivered boxed lunch or full-service catering.
Prince Frederick Shopping Center, 410-535-4355, www.dreamweavercatering.com
M-Sa 8am-3pm; Su 10am-2pm
Located on Rockhold Creek in Deale, Happy Harbor Restaurant and Bar has been a waterfront landmark since 1933. Vintage fishing and boating gear adorns the walls of this casual eatery. Great burgers, sandwiches and full dinners are served seven days a week. The Bay’s best home-style breakfast is served Saturday and Sunday from 7am until 12:30pm with awesome $2 Bloody Marys.
Dine indoors or, if weather permits, on the waterfront deck. With a fleet of over 20 vessels, The Harbor is also a hub for some of the best Chesapeake Bay charter fishing. Stroll the pier and watch the mates unload their catch.
Come by car or by boat. The Harbor is just a short cruise up Rockhold Creek. Call 410-867-0949 for docking information.
Come to The Harbor for good food and drink at affordable prices served by friendly staff in a casual and neat environment. Visa, MasterCard and Discover all accepted.
533 Deale Rd., Deale, 410-867-0949, www.happyharbordeale.com
M-Th 11am-9pm; F 11am-10pm; Sa 7am-10pm; Su 7am-9am
Honey’s Harvest is named for one of owner Anna Chaney Willman’s favorite local products, “wonderful local honey from West River apiary.”
Also in the harvest are MAXSAM granola, made by James Barrett, chef of Azure at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis; Ivy Neck Farm’s patties of grass-fed ground beef; Calvert Kettle Corn; local wine and skin-care products; and local seasonal fruits and vegetables.
But the heart of the harvest is the deli, the only place in Maryland serving Boar’s Head top-of-the-line, all-natural meats and cheeses. Sassafras River Farm raises the beef for burgers. Breads and pastries are all fresh-made by Chef Tom McReynolds. Chefs Bil Shockley and Dan Bergendahl, assisted by culinary student Kyle Wood, make everything else from scratch.
“Served fresh in the deli or catered, Honey’s Harvest gives you the same quality we’ve been providing for 25 years at Herrington on the Bay at prices approachable everyday,” Chaney Willman says.
Monthly dinners pair beer or wine with a specialty theme. February 11’s $39 Valentine’s Dinner includes four lovely courses and a play, Love Letters, acted by Karen Lambert and Tim Sales.
Saturdays from noon to 2pm feature complementary events and tastings, ranging from books to beer. January 28 is pre-Super Bowl Sub Sample day. But Honey Harvest’s best selling sandwich isn’t a sub:
1 roll or 2 slices of artisan bread
4 oz. Boar’s Head All Natural sliced turkey breast
2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1/2 oz. crisp green leaf lettuce
2 slices Swann Farms tomato (in-season)
4 tbs. cranberry mayonnaise (2 tbs. mayonnaise mixed with 2 tbs. whole berry cranberry sauce)
Grill bacon on parchment paper on a baking pan in preheated, 350-degree oven for approximately 12 minutes or until crispy. Spread cranberry mayo on each half of bread. Add turkey to the bottom bread, top with lettuce and tomato. Place bacon (patted dry with paper towel) on turkey and add bread top.
7150 Lake Shore Dr., Rose Haven, 410-257-7757, www.honeysharvest.com
Open daily, kitchen until 3pm, market until 7pm
Jake & Al’s Chophouse
Jake & Al’s Chophouse has been serving classic American cuisine since May 2006 in the thriving Lusby Town Center.
The chophouse is locally owned and operated by Jaime Padilla, who lives in Broomes Island. Padilla’s two sons are the namesake Jake and Al of this home-grown restaurant where, Padilla likes to say, his customers can enjoy a freshly made meal and not be “shackled by the big chains.”
Would you be surprised that hand-cut meat, even to fresh-never-frozen burgers, is the specialty of a chophouse? No, but it might be a surprise that fresh seafood shares star billing. Enjoy your seafood heavy — in winter comfort pasta dishes like shrimp diablo and shrimp and scallop scampi — or light, with a dish like blackened honey salmon, served as an entrée or over a fresh bed of salad greens.
Jake and Al’s is also a gathering place, with karaoke Wednesdays, live music Fridays and Saturdays, and open mike night Thursdays. “It is a really good show,” Padilla says. “It brings out the best of our local musicians.”
Ten big-screen televisions make Jake and Al’s Chop House a great place to see sports any night of the week. Or on Super Bowl Sunday with $15 food feast and drink specials.
258 Town Square Dr., Lusby, 410-394-6694
MTu 4pm-9pm; WTh 4pm-midnight; F 3pm-2am; SaSu noon-9pm
Despite its name, Jalapeños won’t sear your tongue. It’s inviting warmth rather than searing heat that’s made the Annapolis restaurant a mainstay for over a decade.
Owners Gonzalo Fernandez and Alberto Serrano serve the legacies of Hispanic cuisine, rooted in Spain and reinterpreted in Mexico.
Begin your visit with a Spanish wine, the house sangria or a margarita while nibbling on fresh chips, salsa and guacamole.
Come for lunch, dinner or happy hour at the bar weekdays 4-6pm, weekends 4-7pm.
Vieras con Azafran
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1⁄4 cup white wine
1⁄10 oz. saffron
6 large sea scallops (3 appetizer servings)
2 oz. olive oil
Sautee shallot and garlic in 1 oz. olive oil over medium heat. Add white wine, and reduce by half. Add heavy cream and saffron, and reduce by half. Let sauce rest.
In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and sear scallops on both sides to medium-rare. Add some of the sauce. Serve over sautéed spinach for color contrast and flavor.
85 Forest Dr., Forest Plaza, Annapolis, 410-266-7580, www.jalapenosonline.com
M-Sa 11:30am-2:30pm and 4-10pm; Su 4p-10pm
Luna Blu serves authentic southern Italian cooking in authentic Italian style, at a relaxing pace in an intimate dining space.
For lunch and dinner, choices range from a slice of hand-tossed pizza to escargots in puff pastry to fresh pasta with one of many homemade sauces to rustic veal, chicken or seafood.
A prix-fixe four-course meal is served nightly for $35. Valentine’s Day features an especially romantic four-course dinner for $50.
The wine list offers a generous selection and price-range of Italian wines. For the exceptional deal, visit on Monday or Wednesday nights for half-price bottles.
For southern Italian cuisine and style on the Eastern Shore, visit sister restaurant Rustico in Stevensville.
4 shrimp, completely peeled and deveined
3 tbs. large capers
3 tbs. Kalamata black olives
1/4 cup diced Roma tomatoes
4 pieces of Italian bread or 2 rolls, halved
4 tbs. fresh minced garlic
3 tbs. white wine
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
4 large leaves fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper
Mix tomatoes, basil, 2 tbs. garlic, 2 tbs. olive oil and salt and pepper. Marinate tomatoes a few hours.
In a pan over medium heat 1 tbs. olive oil with 2 tbs. garlic. Add shrimp, and flip after about 20 seconds. Add white wine, tomatoes, olives and capers. Cook for 3 minutes and turn shrimp again for an additional 3 minutes.
Cut and toast bread or rolls until they are crisp. Top each piece with one shrimp and top with tomato mixture.
36 West St., Annapolis, 410-267-9950, www.lunabluofannapolis.com
Lunch M-F 11am-2:30pm; Dinner nightly 5-9:30pm
A taste of Italy without leaving Calvert County is what you get at Mamma Lucia Restaurant. Owners Sal and Maria Lubrano have been serving Calvert County since 1997; first in Dunkirk, and at a second location in Prince Frederick. The warm atmosphere, friendly service and authentic Italian experience keep customers coming back.
|The Mamma — amd Pappa — behind Mamma Lucia, Maria and Sal Lubrano|
At both locations, dine on authentic southern Italian cuisine choosing from a wide variety of pasta, chicken, veal and hand-tossed pizzas. All are made with only the freshest ingredients, and homemade bread is baked fresh daily.
Mamma Lucia Restaurant specializes in seafood dishes, the most popular being Bowtie del Mare, a combination of lobster claw meat, jumbo lump crab and asparagus served in a cream sauce over bowtie pasta. On the American side, there’s delicious Surf & Turf, and a stuffed pork chop on the weekends.
Choose a glass or bottle of wine from the extensive wine list. Monthly wine specials feature six to eight bottles not on the regular list.
“Our customers have become more to us than clients,” says Maria Lubrano. “They have become friends, and we treasure every one of them.”
Winner of Bay Weekly’s 2011 Best of the Bay readers’ poll for Italian Restaurant, Mamma Lucia’s is a favorite.
“We are proud of what we have established here,” Lubrano says. “Calvert County is our home and we plan on serving the community for many more years.”
Dunkirk: 10136 Southern Maryland Blvd., 301-812-1240
Prince Frederick: 862 Costley Way, 443-486-4701
M-Th 11am-10pm; F-Sa 11am-11pm; Su 11am-9pm
Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge
“We always try to do things that are new to town,” says Gavin Buckley, himself from Australia. And do them first, filling the gaps.
“We didn’t have the kind of classy place you could get great croissants and coffee in the morning and come back for a glass of red at night.”
In the morning, breakfast at Metropolitan is a treat for locavores, the “first restaurant in town doing organic food,” Buckley says. Ingredients fresh and as local as possible are prepared in inventive and delicious ways. You might order eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon or crab or potato pancakes topped with cured salmon and herb cream.
At Metropolitan, B&B stands for breakfast and bar. “Everybody else is doing wine bars so we’re doing a liquor bar,” says Buckley of the collection that shares the breakfast room. “This is a great time to do liquor in America. There are little distilleries all over the country doing vodka and gin and whiskeys … and of course the craft beer scene.”
For lunch and dinner, menus are cosmopolitan, ranging from chicken and sweet potato waffles to bouillabaisse. Choose from small plates, entrees, flatbread, burgers and greens plus head-turning sides.
Metropolitan is a high rise of sorts, with each floor serving a different purpose. The second floor is a performance venue where evening heat up and carry into the night with local music, DJs, comedy and burlesque.
The top level reopens in spring, the only open-air rooftop for dining and drinking in town.
Morning, noon and night, Metropolitan wants to be your bistro.
169 West St., Annapolis, 410-280-5160, www.metropolitanannapolis.com
M-F 8am-11pm; Sa-Su 8:30am-2am
My Butcher and More
Mike Smollon personally selects every cut of meat he sells at My Butcher and More. All his beef, pork, chicken and lamb — plus milk, butter, eggs and ice cream — come from local producers. To guarantee you the highest quality, he visits farms, inspecting livestock and their quarters. In his shop, Smollon butchers whole animals so he can deliver any cut you want. He also makes sausage, cures pancetta and prepares empanadas. Sandwiches sold over the counter are built, not made.
The More at My Butcher is personal service. Smollon is almost always on hand to talk and advise — from a product’s pedigree to how to cook it.
Here’s how to transform a cut enjoying renewed popularity, pork belly, into carnitas.
Carnitas: Braised and Fried Pork
4 pounds fatty pork belly or shoulder, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups water
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, cut into 2 pieces
1/4 cup pork lard or vegetable oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 tbs. sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. dried oregano, preferably Mexican, crumbled
2 tsp. fine salt, or 4 tsp. kosher salt
Put all the ingredients in a wide 6-to 7-quart heavy pot (don’t worry if the pork is not completely covered) and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer vigorously, stirring and skimming occasionally, until the pork is fork-tender and the liquid has completely evaporated, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Discard the orange pieces and bay leaves.
To make half a batch, cut the amount of pork, salt and oregano in half, but use the same amount of the remaining ingredients and water. Use a slightly smaller pot.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Transfer the pork and fat to an ovenproof dish, and brown the pork, uncovered, in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes. No need to stir.
Carnitas keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days.
1410 Forest Dr., Annapolis, 410-295-7500, www.mybutcherandmore.com
Tu-F 11am-7pm; Sa 10am-6pm; Su noon-4pm
The Old Stein Inn
At the new Old Stein Inn, beer and wine flow as plentifully as ever. Ten taps open cold kegs of German draught beer, with the 10th changing with the season. Many more are served in bottles. Good wines, mostly German or Austrian, back up the beer.
Food is better than ever. The traditional German favorites — sauerbraten, wursts, schnitzels — have a new lightness while remaining every bit as delicious. Side dishes of red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzel and kartoffel pfannkuchen are so good they tempt you to vegetarian dining. Fish dishes are excellent, with a Munster and Crab Suppe that can’t be passed up.
Chef Jason’s specialties, changing weekly, make meaty Teutonic reference. Winter’s game menu fits right into the profile. But you’d never have expected beef tenderloin tartar over arugula or a venison slider at the Old Stein.
New, too, are a late-night menu Friday and Saturday and happy hour at the bar Thursday and Friday. Best of all, the biergarten opens on moderate nights in winter with heaters as well as stout food and drink to ward off the chill.
Old Stein Munster Crab Suppe
Try your hand at Old Stein’s Munster Crab Suppe and it might taste almost as good, as ours, says owner Mike Selinger, admitting he’s withheld a couple secret ingredients. We’ve reduced his restaurant-sized recipe to one gallon — still a lot.
1 small bunch celery, minced
2 carrots, minced
1 large onion, minced
3/4 lb. butter
3 cups flour
5 bay leaves
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup Old Bay
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sherry wine
1/4 cup Tabasco
1 tbs Worcestershire
1 tbs. white pepper
3 qts. heavy cream
1 cup muenster cheese, shredded
1 lb. claw meat.
Slowly sweat vegetables in the butter until water is evaporated. Add flour to make a roux. Add all ingredients except cheese. Mix well and bring to a light simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.
Remove from heat. Add Muenster cheese and crab meat. Garnish with fresh-chopped parsley and grated muenster.
1143 Central Ave., Edgewater, 410-798-6807, www.oldstein-inn.com
WThSu 4-9pm; FSa 4pm-midnight
The Inn at Pirates Cove
Around the turn of the century, Italians who had been fishermen in the Mediterranean settled in San Francisco. One of the culinary traditions they brought with them is the basis for one Pirates Cove’s signature dishes.
At the end of the day, the local fisherman would gather on the beach or dock and build a fire. To the communal boiling pot of broth, each fisherman would contribute fish, mussels, clams, shrimp or whatever was left from the day’s catch. This chipping in from each fisherman was called a chippino.
Cioppino was soon adopted by local chefs since it was both delicious and helped the restaurants use their kitchen’s excess seafood.
In San Francisco, Pirates Cove’s first chef David Perry discovered the dish and brought it back to Chesapeake country.
Fresh herbs, classic Bay spices and mostly indigenous seafood make Pirates Cove’s Chesappino distinctive. The tomatoes, garlic, onions and a whole slew of fresh herbs are grown in the restaurant’s own gardens.
Along with the new herb gardens, this winter has also seen the renovation of some of the dining rooms to complement the upgraded menu. You’ll sit comfortably in new booths in the waterfront dining room, and you’ll enjoy the remodeled banquet room and many other improvements.
All the upgrades add to quality and selection, not price.
Along with many new items, you’ll also find the tried-and-true favorites such as the Gabby Crabby, Chesappino and others.
Pirates Cove Chesappino
Makes a half-gallon of soup, enough to feed four hungry people.
In a saucepan, combine a quart of seafood stock and a bit of shrimp base to taste. Add a fat pinch of fresh, coarsely chopped parsley, chives, oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary. For zest, add a pinch of sea salt, garlic pepper, lemon pepper and black pepper and Old Bay (optional).
Heat a separate large sauté pan, start with a little butter and add chopped onions, chopped clams and garlic. Cook on medium-high until onions are clear, stirring often. Add some fresh-chopped tomatoes. When thoroughly cooked pour in about a cup of white wine. Let it simmer up to 10 minutes.
Finally add whatever seafood you want, preferably a few scallops, shrimp, some fish and a few clams and mussels. Add stock until the seafood is partially covered. Simmer until the mussels and clams open and you can’t resist eating it.
4817 Riverside Dr., Galesville, 301-261-5050, www.piratescovemd.com
M-Th 11:30am-9pm; FSa 11:30am-10pm; Su 9am-9pm
River Bay Roadhouse
River Bay Roadhouse opened in September of 2010 when Arnold resident
|Mother and son restrauteurs Pat and Daniel Miller.|
Daniel Miller and his mother Pat converted the former Bella’s Restaurant to the new steak-and-seafood family restaurant.
The Miller family, who built their home in Cape St. Claire in 1964, had close ties to the old Bella’s. “Danny was named there,” says his mother and partner, Pat. “His father left the hospital to have a beer at Bella’s with his brother. They were talking about names when the juke box played Danny Boy.”
That’s it, the brother said.
After Danny had grown up and Bella’s changed, he felt the Cape still needed a good family restaurant.
Pat’s story resumes: “He said to me I want to open a new business. Could you lend me some money. As it was a restaurant, he wanted more than a couple dollars, so of course I had to get involved,” she says.
With seating for up to 114 people, Riverbay is decorated with rustic wood paneling and assorted memorabilia, including a working juke box. There are flat-screen televisions throughout and a sports bar with plenty of seating, Keno, full menu and late-night live entertainment Thursday thru Saturday.
The menu has been tweaked over the past year and has drawn rave reviews locally for its features of steak, ribs, crab cakes, grilled chicken, fresh salads, homemade burgers, sandwiches, wraps and delicious soups. Signature items include the crab pretzel, fried pickles, barbeque ribs, New York strip steaks and fresh Maryland crab cakes. A kids’ menu features a half dozen items. Fresh steamed local crabs were a big hit last summer, and they will return again this summer.
Nightly specials include wings and fajita night on Mondays, Italian night on Tuesdays, burger night on Wednesdays, prime rib night on Thursdays, fish fry on Friday and a steak special every Saturday night.
1374 Cape Saint Claire Rd., Annapolis, 888-673-5372, www.riverbayroadhouse.com
Su-Tu 11am-11pm; WTh 11am-midnight; FSa 11am-1am
You can’t avoid waterfront dining at River’s Edge, which puts you as close to the Patuxent River as you can get without getting wet.
Your visit to River’s Edge gets you that close to living history, too, in a village that time seems to have forgotten. But you don’t have to travel far in modern time to get there. By car, Benedict is only 13 miles west of Prince Frederick, just across the Patuxent. Or you can get there by boat.
George Holmes’ family has owned the restaurant for close to a quarter of a century. Now he has taken over its management, combining in River’s Edge the best from its earlier identities, Shorter’s and Tony’s Riverside.
“I’ve taken the successes of the past and hired the best former employees,” says Holmes.
Seafood, steak, ribs and sandwiches remain the mainstays. You can choose your fish, both fin and shell, broiled or blackened as well as fried. And you can choose full meals, sandwiches or salads throughout the day.
There’s also a bar so friendly that it will stay open late if you’re having a good time.
7320 Benedict Ave., Benedict
Rod ’n’ Reel
If you’re entranced by the open Bay, the Rod ’n’ Reel Restaurant is the place to see it spread out before you. All the way to the Eastern Shore with nothing but water, sky and boats.
So it’s no surprise that the culinary theme is seafood: crustaceans, shellfish and finfish.
“We use the freshest seafood,” says chef Joseph Misero, formerly of Old South Country Club.
“I stay within the Bay as much as I can for taste and value and to help with the environment and our local economy,” Misero says. “Our rockfish, oysters and crabs come from the Bay.”
“No Asian crab here, ever,” says Orhan Soysal, general manager for the resort owned and operated by brothers Gerald and Fred Donovan and their families.
Rod ’n’ Reel buys Maryland crab in season, Virginia and North Carolina meat in winter. It’s fresh-picked, never pasteurized.
Quality shows in Rod ’n’ Reel’s light, delicate crab cakes.
“The secret is less is more,” says chef Brenda Collinson. “One egg per pound of crabmeat and maybe one tablespoon of mayonnaise. A teaspoon each of Dijon mustard and Old Bay. A little lemon and Worcestershire sauce. After those ingredients are lightly mixed, add panko bread crumbs bit by bit until it just comes together.”
Rockfish and flounder are regional this time of year. Both are served stuffed with crab imperial. A whole deboned flounder, two fillets stuffed with crab imperial, is on special for $18.99.
“The imperial is the old family recipe,” says Misero. “Customers from 20 years ago come in and say wow!, it’s just the same, just as good as I remembered. Even though we are, maybe seven generations of chefs removed.”
Even at Rod ’n’ Reel, not everyone comes looking for seafood. “So we buy the best Angus beef for steaks and hamburgers. We take pride in what we buy,” says Soysal.
For all that, brunch is the meal people never forget.
“Brunch is my baby,” says Collinson. Her Harwood roots means she know Southern Maryland cooking. “I was born and raised to it,” she says. “We make everything fresh in small batches as if you were my company I was entertaining at home.”
4160 Mears Ave., Chesapeake Beach, 877-763-6733, www.chesapeakebeachresortspa.com
M 11am-9pm; Tu-Fri 11am-10pm; Sa 8am-10pm; Su 8am-9pm
Bar open Su-Th to midnight; FSa to 2am
Rustico brings the robust flavors, fresh ingredients and warm, inviting atmosphere of southern Italy to picturesque Love Point in Stevensville, on the Eastern Shore. In the rustic setting of a revitalized historic landmark, partner and executive chef Gino Romano oversees the recreation of the tastes of Naples, his hometown, in such dishes as Risotto Mediterraneano.
Continuing the Italian tradition, Rustico is also a wine bar where you can get to know Italian varietals. On Mondays and Wednesday, most bottles are half-priced.
Like sister restaurant Luna Blu in Annapolis, Rustico offers a four-course prix fixe deal for only $35. Half-priced food and drink specials are served every day in the bar.
7-8 cups shellfish stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup sea scallops
3/4 cup mussels
3/4 cup little neck clams
3/4 cup calamari
3/4 cup shrimp
3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 tsp. minced parsley
2 tbs. unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a gentle simmer.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion, sautéing for four minutes. Add scallops, clams, mussels, calamari and shrimp. Cook for two to three minutes until all shells are open. Add the Arborio rice to the same pan and stir about three minutes. Add the wine and stir until completely absorbed.
Add the stock from the other saucepan ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition. Wait until stock is completely absorbed before adding next ladleful.
Cook the rice on simmer for about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and spoon into warmed shallow bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve. Buon Appetito!
401 Love Point Rd., Stevensville, 410-643-9444, www.rusticoonline.com
M-Th 11am-10pm; FSa 10am-11pm; Su noon-10pm
With an emphasis on fresh, Salsarita’s creates south-of-the-border favorites as you like them, as you watch. Build your burritos, tacos and quesadillas from your choice of chicken, grilled steak, pork, shrimp and veggies. Top with any combination of rice, beans, cheese, jalapeno peppers, red onions, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream.
For lighter fare, choose a taco salad, also made to order. Or nibble on fresh chips, salsa and guacamole while sipping a signature Salsarita’s frozen margarita or a cold beer at the bar.
Take a break from a busy day in comfortable booths by big windows, where you can watch shoppers and library-goers. On nice days, grab a table outside. Or have your Mexican original packed to go. Salsarita’s catering will also bring the fiesta to you.
906 Costley Way, Prince Frederick, 410-535-5580, www.salsaritas.com
M-Sa 11am-9pm, Su 11am-8pm
Sam’s on the Waterfront
Sam’s — named for owner Andrew Parks’ grandfather — is not your grandfather’s Sam’s.
“Nothing’s old except for a couple of our customers,” says Parks. “We’ve got a new chef, a new staff, a new menu and new prices.”
Sam’s prices have actually fallen. Recognizing the times we’re in, Parks now prices two-thirds of his dinner entrees under $20; $16 to $30 is the range, with crab cakes at the high end.
“Sam’s used to be a special events place with much higher prices,” Parks says. “Now we’re much more an everyday locals’ place with great atmosphere and fantastic food. Don’t just think dinner. Come for appetizers, sliders or a Kobe burger.”
On the dinner menu, Kobe burgers and lobster rolls are side by side with fancy presentations of salmon, duck breast and lamb shank. Feeling adventurous? Request Chef Brendan O’Dea’s Mystery Tasting Menu for your party, three, four or five courses paired with wine.
Lunch is served Tuesday thru Saturday. Sunday a la carte brunch is notorious for Timber Toast. “It’s a huge breakfast of logs of French toast filled with cheese, eggs, bacon, onions,” says Parks.
“We are dedicated to sourcing all our produce, seafood and meat locally from organic farmers and watermen,” says Parks. Among his producers are Cedar Run Farms, Gorman Farm, J.M. Clayton Seafood, Gunpowder Bison, Roseda Beef, Tuscarora Co-op, Mt Airy Strawberry Farm.
Even Chef Brendan O’Dea is local. Get to know him at monthly cooking classes, preparing and tasting a four-course menu with matching wines. (Next class Saturday Feb. 18 from noon to 2pm $60.)
Safe harbored at the back door of Annapolis just below Back Creek, Sam’s is always a discovery.
2020 Chesapeake Harbour Dr. East, Annapolis, 410-263-3600, www.samsonthewaterfront.com
Tu-Th 11:30am-9pm; FSa 11:30am-10pm; Su 10:30am-9pm
Sin Fronteras Café
The name tells the story. Sin Fronteras: without borders.
“We try to span Central America and dip into South America,” says Walter Vasquez of his café in the developing Latin Quarter of Annapolis, on Forest Drive.
“We want to be the best place in town for Latin plates,” says the entrepreneur, who comes to Annapolis from El Salvador by way of South Beach.
“Everything is our own recipe,” he says, mulling lime and mint for a mojito that carries a hint of coconut while avocados are being mashed for guacamole.
Authentic recipes, native plates and fresh preparation are his formula. Cooks start at 8am to prepare “everything fresh daily.” Everything but the mole. “The mole is made every two days,” Vasquez says. “It’s thicker and better the second day.”
Pork, an ingredient in his authentic Cuban sandwich, is cooked slowly seven hours until “it falls apart.”
Sweet red snapper is flown in when available for the specialty pescado frito entero, the whole fish scored and lightly fried.
“We give you authentic Latin cuisine — and full value for your money,” Vasquez says. “You are a guest in my house. I want to know who you are. Come in again, and that mojito will be waiting for you — like it or not.”
2129 Forest Dr., Annapolis, 410-266-0013, www.sinfronterascafe.com
Open daily 10am-10pm
Skipper’s Pier Restaurant & Dock Bar
Executive chef John Kozik, a local boy made good, has earned a reputation for serving a top-quality product with flair at Skipper’s Pier under his five years overseeing the landmark restaurant.
From crabs to shrimp and grits to fresh fish to Friday’s seafood buffet, from a 10-ounce hamburger to a great steak, Kosik has delivered quality.
“You buy a very good product, use a proper technique preparing it and not too many flavors, and that’s the best meal,” Kosik says. “Fresh vegetables and good fish or meat speak for themselves.”
That will continue until the last day of Kosik’s lease on Skipper’s Pier, which ends April 30.
You’ll see Kozik next at Bayfish Seafood Market on Rt. 260 in Dunkirk. There he’ll be selling fresh seafood, cooking carryout and catering.
At the same time, Kozik is seeking his next restaurant, prospecting from northern Calvert through Anne Arundel counties.
6158 Drum Point Rd., Deale, 410-867-7110, www.skipperspier.com
Tu-Th 3pm-9:30pm; F-Sa 11:30am-9pm; Su 11:30am-8:30pm
Smokey Joe’s changes over the course of its long day. It begins waking people over pots of coffee, eggs, toast, potatoes and lots of meat.
Midday, Smokey Joe’s becomes a place for working people to eat lunch sitting down, enjoying good food and service at affordable prices. For under $10, you can choose from eight sandwiches and six burgers with seasoned fries. Meal-sized salads climb from $10.50 to $15.
Barbecue — slow cooked baby back ribs, chicken or pulled pork — is Smokey Joe’s specialty. If you’re tempted otherwise — steak, shrimp, fish or crabcakes — you can add half a rack to any other entrée. Or you can build a combo. Monday night is bargain night, with all the ribs you can eat for $17.99
A Western Shore-style chicken and crab cake dinner costs only $16.99. You’ll pay way more than that on the Eastern Shore. Every dinner comes with your choice of two side dishes.
Still hungry? Round up and out with apple fritters or cobbler or peanut butter pie.
Smokey Joe’s is family friendly every day of the week, but Tuesdays one child eats free with each adult from 5:30 to 7:30pm.
4160 Mears Ave., Chesapeake Beach, 301-855-3089, www.chesapeakebeachresortspa.com
Open daily 7am-2am
Snug Harbor Inn is a living tradition in Shady Side, a southern Anne Arundel County community so full of change that history is treasured mostly in memory.
“It’s been here 40-some odd years, as long as we can track,” says owner Brad Holt. Brad and wife Mary Jane Holt have owned Snug Harbor since 2001, and together they oversee it in a very hands-on way. One or the other is nearly always there. Mary Jane is the manager, as well as bar tender bar and prep cook. Brad is cook.
Snug Harbor is family-owned and run for families of all ages as a neighborhood restaurant — and bar — in the old style.
The nice comfortable atmosphere is why the Holts bought Snug Harbor. Brad, whose background is construction, says he always wanted to own a special kind of restaurant: a local one. So he’s keep the old cozy look and old ways, keeping restaurant and bar clean, nice and friendly, so customers can come with their kids — or come to drink at a bar that serves 40-plus beers but no trouble.
Now he’s living his dream. At all hours.
The kitchen stays open till an hour before closing.
“I don’t want anybody going hungry,” Brad Holt says. “We’ll cook for you pretty much no matter how late, and you can get a full menu.”
That’s the kind of place Snug Harbor is.
Most popular on the menu are Brad’s jumbo lump crab cakes, “which are 100 percent jumbo lump; no filler,” he says. Of course baby fall-off-the-bone back ribs, smothered in barbecue sauce, have their fans. And steamed crab legs and shrimp, a pound of crab legs and half a pound of shrimp, “fly out of here.” On weekends there’s a salad bar, free with the purchase of any entrée, because “the crowd is getting more health conscious.”
So lots of vegetables are served as well as meat and fish, and it’s all homemade.
“We promise good time, friendly people and great food,” Brad says.
1484 Snug Harbor Road, Shady Side: 410 867-0911
Su-Th 3pm-11pm; FSa 3pm-1am; Su noon-midnight
Thursday’s Bar & Grill and Thursday’s Steak & Crab House
Thursday’s Bar & Grill and Thursday’s Steak & Crab House are locally owned and operated by David and Angela Hysan.
Thursday’s Bar & Grill was opened in North Beach in March 1998 but will be relocating to the Paris Oaks Shopping Center in Owings in the spring of 2012. Construction is underway.
Thursday’s Steak & Crab House in Galesville was opened in May of 2004 on the Old Steamboat Landing pier. Diners can walk, drive or boat to dinner.
“We offer a wide variety of items,” says Angela. “But we specialize in prime rib, crab cakes, cream of crab and Maryland vegetable crab soup.”
The house crab imperial always wins rave reviews:
In a bowl mix:
2 cups mayonnaise
6 egg whites
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
11⁄2 tsp. Old Bay
1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
1 tbs. fresh parsley
1⁄2 tsp. dry mustard
Mix well with a wisp.
Add 2 lbs. fresh colossal or lump crabmeat
Fold in gently as to not break the lumps of crabmeat.
Bake at 400 degrees in a scallop bowl or an oven-safe dish until golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.
Galesville: 4851 Riverside Dr., 410-867-7200
North Beach: 9200 Bay Ave., 410-286-8695
Open daily 11am-10pm
Umai Sushi House
Visiting North Beach a decade ago, Chang Hee Park searched for a Japanese restaurant. But none was to be found in a wide swath of Calvert and southern Anne Arundel counties.
A year ago, she found the space she needed to open her own restaurant: Deale Umai Sushi House
Translate umai from the Japanese and you get delicious.
That holds true for Park’s tiny and tasteful establishment in the heart of Deale, an unincorporated village known over the years primarily for crabs and the labors of deep fryers.
The sushi is fresh and innovative. We should expect to eat good fish along Chesapeake Bay, and Umai exceeds expectations. It’s first class.
The Korean portion of the menu offers Jap Chae, a sweet potato noodle dish with an otherworldly sauce. Umai’s fiery chicken spicy soup may be unsurpassed for miles as a meal to stoke the insides for winter.
On the east wall is a large photograph, a picture of a handsome man with two admiring young women. He is a soldier, a lieutenant assigned to the Pentagon at present after serving in Iraq, where he was wounded.
You might ask Chang Hee Park about the man, because she is even prouder of him than the restaurant she created. He is her son, Isaac.