Best of the Bay 2003

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And the Winners Are…

Best Overall Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Yellowfin
It’s new. The décor is fresh, unique and exciting and eye catching. It’s just minutes from the heart of Annapolis.

Yellowfin serves seafood, but it’s not just another seafood restaurant. Bay Weekly reader’s voted it the best overall restaurant.

At this new posh locale, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re really still in Chesapeake Country — or Miami’s South Beach.

Editors’ Choice: O’Learys Seafood Restaurant
When you’re craving a taste of the big city, dress up — but not too much, because you’re only going to Annapolis — dust off the credit card and head to O’Learys.

The decor is warm and exciting, with deep, mustard-colored walls, high ceilings with exposed beads and ventilator pipes painted barn red. The understated tables are spaced enough for privacy. Service is helpful, arrivals timed perfectly and presentation expert.

Best of all is the food. O’Learys specializes in the freshest fish and changes its offerings to suit the season. In addition to a full menu, each evening boasts eight fresh fish with up to four styles of preparation — lightly blackened or with Creole cream, for example. A crowd-pleaser sure to warrant a doggie bag is the whole lobster stuffed with crab imperial.

Dinner includes your choice of house salad or Caesar. Appetizers range from crab cakes to oysters to Beluga caviar. An extensive wine list offers selections for every taste and for every pocketbook, with prices ranging from around $20 to several hundred dollars.

Fans of fresh seafood cannot go wrong at O’Learys, but even meat-eaters are sure to find relief with entrées such as the espresso-rubbed steak. But unless you like going out with a big wad of bills in your pocket, be prepared to charge this great evening.

Most Romantic Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Cafe Normandie
“Between the fireplace, ambiance, and interior design, our customers feel quite comfortable here,” says owner Suzanne Evennou. “The biggest compliment we can get is when a customer is traveling and stops by Annapolis to come see us.” She also promises you will be pleasantly surprised by the value, prices and wonderful food.

Editors’ Choice: Vera’s White Sands
As wide as a river St. Leonard’s Creek shimmers, struck silver by the setting sun. As the light dims, the creek puddles pink as Vera Freeman’s patio. As darkness creeps in, patio and creek glow lavender.

Vera, whose tastes were formed in Hollywood, has arranged this spectacle for you. She set the stage with bargeloads of white sand planted with palm trees. Pointing to the mouths of the creeks, she erected a glass fronted building tapering to a boatlike prow. She furnished it with mermaids, sea shells and diving bells gathered in her travels to faraway places.

Hold out for a table by the window, then order a tall, cool drink. Chat a bit; you’re in no hurry. Watch the sun drop off the hazy horizon.

Nightly (except Monday) from May to October, Vera’s helps you keep your promise to give your sweetheart the world.

Most Scenic Restaurant ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Charthouse
Where’s the best place to watch the hustle and bustle of Annapolis’ water traffic and cityscape? Kicking back with a cool brew or glass of wine at the Charthouse in Eastport.

The view from the bar looks directly to City Dock, Main Street, the State House and the Naval Academy. Come at sunset and have a few drinks by the bar. In winter, sit near the fireplace with friends. The Charthouse bar is also the best spot to watch the Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights in December.

Readers’ Choice: Lighthouse Inn
One of the many appealing qualities of the Lighthouse Inn is that every seat has a wonderful view with double-tiered windows overlooking Back Creek. For a closer view, sit outdoors. In and out, dress is casual — people wear everything from shorts to suits — but the service is always polished, polite and attentive. While waiting for a table, many readers enjoy a cocktail at the bar, a hand-crafted, scale-model skipjack with the barkeep at the helm. It’s a true masterpiece created by Solomons’ own shipbuilding legend Pepper Langley. The food, readers say, is as good as the view.

“We want everyone who comes here to experience the whole package: food, atmosphere and service. That usually brings them back,” says manager Jennifer Jordan.

Editors’ Choice: Chesapeake Bay Beach Club
One of Chesapeake Country’s great assets is the number of restaurants perched overlooking the Bay and its many creeks and rivers. With a great view of the water, your dining experience can only get better.

Chesapeake Bay Beach Club on Kent Island has lured diners from both shores of the Bay. Sure the food is good, and the drinks are cold. The atmosphere of the outdoor, three-season dining room is a tropical hybrid of Jimmy Buffett’s Caribbean meets the Bay.

But it’s the view that stands out the most. Sitting on a deck atop stilts at the shore of the Bay, you can hear the water lapping below. The Bay Bridge snakes westward like a Marion Warren photograph. Heron, egrets, osprey and seagulls flit about, sometimes so close you think they’re coming for your lunch. But they’re just enjoying the view.

Best Splurge Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Lewnes Steakhouse
“When I hear splurge,” says Lewnes’ Steakhouse manager Paul Miguez, “ I think of people who eat out once, twice, maybe seven or eight times a year tops. People who go out for birthdays and anniversaries and expect it to be great. When they go out, they go all out.

“We live up to that. You’re paying some money, but you’re getting a lot for it. You’re getting a portion that’s large: the New York strip is 18 ounces. The fillet is 14 ounces. Tuna and salmon are 12-ounce portions. The experience and the food are well worth the money.”

Editors’ Choice: Northwoods
From time to time we have occasion to splurge on fine dining: birthdays, anniversaries or an attempt to impress someone special. Considered one of the finest spots around, Northwoods in West Annapolis offers not only great food and precise service but also a prix fix option.

For some 18 years, Northwoods has been serving local and imported dishes with flare and creativity. While the menu features a variety of a la carte selections, every night but Saturday the best way to enjoy true pampering is to select the complete dinner special. Four courses, including choice of anything on the menu, as well as specials: appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert for around $30. It may sound gluttonous, but plan ahead and save your appetite because it’s all worth the indulgence.

Best Place for a Cheap Date
Readers’ Choice: Happy Harbor
Happy Harbor is the best place for a cheap date because they try to support their local community and keep costs down. They also thrive on staying open all year round. “Most people say it’s the cheapest date in town, and now they can go on vacation,” says owner Barbara Sturgell. “It’s important to me to have an establishment that is reasonably priced, and I think the locals know that.”

Editors’ Choice: The cheapest date begins in your own kitchen. If your date’s a homebody, eat in. If adventure’s on the menu, pack a picnic to one of Chesapeake Country’s scenic spots. Can’t cook? How do you expect to find a mate? Oh well. It’s ice cream a la Bay for your cheap date. Get your cone at City Dock or in the Beaches.

Best Bakery
Readers’ Choice: Great Harvest
Great Harvest calls itself a scratch-bakery because they bake from scratch and grind their own wheat every day. They also knead the dough by hand and use only the freshest ingredients. It takes lots of dough and lots of ingredients to make a day’s bread. Honey whole wheat and honey white breads are baked daily. Then there are daily breads and monthly breads, including pumpernickel for September.

“What would you like a taste of?” are the first words to greet you when you enter Great Harvest Bread Company. On the board in front of you are the day’s breads, scones, muffins and cookies. The staff cuts you a generous slice of cranberry crunch bread. It’s good, but maybe you’ll like the lemon blueberry bliss better. You’ll have to try that too, and the blueberry oat muffin and the caramel-coconut scone.

Each of those breads and sweets is baked with love and dedication, starting at 3:30am when the first baker arrives.

Once you’ve made your choice and carried it home, you can enjoy it up to 10 days — even though owner Linda Rodrock says

Great Harvest uses no preservatives.

Editors’ Choice: Whole Foods Market
Maybe you have served time eating bread from plastic bags before you know what a boon Whole Foods has been to bread lovers. Finding bread with substance and flavor was a quest. Before Whole Foods, if you were lucky your quest might lead you to a specialty bakery, where bagels or French bread or raisin bread or whole wheat toast and sandwich loaves satisfied your hunger. Then came Whole Foods, which does it all — even cornbread and whole-wheat pita. Nowadays, when good bread is abundant, connoisseurs may find one loaf or another lacking. But perhaps you’d rather be eating bagged bread.

Best Deli ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Chick & Ruth’s Delly
Despite it’s odd spelling of delly, Chick & Ruth’s is as close to a real Jewish deli as you can get in downtown Annapolis. With kosher pickles on the table and pastrami, corn beef or chopped liver on your rye bread, that’s pretty close. On the other hand, Chick & Ruth’s can be your favorite greasy spoon, with a grill serving up eggs with piles of fried potatoes. Then again, it can be an ice-cream parlor, where you sit up at the counter on bar stools to sip giant milkshakes. Again, it’s the insiders’ hangout, where local politicians have a sandwich named in their honor.

Readers’ Choice: Robert’s Deli
This is not your ordinary deli. Just look up. A drop-ceiling, each tile painted by members of the Calvert County community. Young and old artists collaborated on this mural above your head. The variety of art doesn’t stop there. You’ll be distracted by it while you try to order from the diverse menu. Daily specials range from beef BBQ to roasted vegetables with pesto in a tortilla wrap, both with chips and drink. You gotta love the regular menu. Sandwiches and subs, burgers and cheese steaks, plus from the grill the standard reuben, chicken breast and cheese.

So what separates Robert’s Deli from the others in the minds of the Bay Weekly readers. The pan-seared tuna steak, veggie sandwiches in pita and the likes of the Flat Top, the Hat Lady and the Charlie Melt.

You’ll have to take a lunch break and head to Prince Frederick to discover the ingredients of the last three.

Editors’ Choice: Giolitti Delicatessen
Established in Rome in 1889, Giolitti’s brings more than a little bit of Italy to Bay Country. Display cases are packed with savory olives, lovely cheeses, rich salamis and delicately smoked Italian hams that they’ll slice as thin as you want. Here, too, is a great selection of Italian wines. And the fresh-baked Tuscan bread and focaccia must not be missed. What more do you need to find bliss in this life?

However, there’s plenty more, both hot in the steam table for lunch or frozen to take home and bake. Freshly made basil manicotti, various lasagnas and other pasta entrees make a rich lunch or an easy way to impress dinner guests with your Italian cooking.

Best Fisherman’s Breakfast
Readers’ Choice: Happy Harbor
Breakfast at Happy Harbor starts at 5:30am. Early hours appeal to most of the fishermen heading out on charters or their own boats. “Most of the time, customers comment that they ate too much,” says owner Barbara Sturgell with a laugh. One customer called her from Tennessee to tell her how much he had enjoyed breakfast while passing through. “It’s just the best breakfast. People leaving tell me they’re full, and that’s what makes us happy,” says Sturgell.

Editors’ Choice: Harrison’s Chesapeake House
If you’re eating breakfast at Harrison’s Chesapeake House, you’ve likely slept there — until a hammer-like fist pounds on your door at 5am to call you to breakfast before a day of fishing. The fisherman’s breakfast is laid out buffet-style to energize you for a day on the Bay. Pile your plate with pancakes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, fruit, toast, biscuits, juice and coffee. Then once you’re out with the fishing fleet, let the Bay rock you back to sleep.

Best Brunch
Readers’ Choice: Rod ’n’ Reel
Yes, Bay Weekly readers know they really shouldn’t do it. But Rod ‘n’ Reel’s stupendous Sunday brunch simply can’t be resisted. in the words of executive chef Murray Schulman, “There’s excitement and exuberance. The variety of food, our service and the number of action stations for waffles, omelets and donuts keep people coming back.”

Readers have voted their hearts (rather than their heart’s health) by lining up for fresh fried donuts; waffles slathered with whipped cream and strawberries; omelets cooked to order full of ham and cheese and veggies; fleets of biscuits smothered in sausage gravy — plus sides of sausage, bacon and ham. Wait, there’s still more: eggs, and don’t forget the potatoes or the bagels or the toast. Still hungry? Try sweet rolls and muffins for dessert. If there’s any room left, finish with fresh fruit.

Editors’ Choice: Carrol’s Creek
Imagine sitting with a mimosa in hand overlooking Annapolis Harbor on a bright, sunny Sunday. Weather allowing, maybe you’re sitting outside on the deck with a cool breeze on the air. Or maybe it’s the middle of winter and you’re snug inside watching the rigging of sailboats rattle in the wind. Brunch at Carrol’s Creek, served year round, offers all this as well as a great assortment of food.

Sunday brunch at its best combines the day’s three meals into one sitting. And so it is at Carrol’s Creek. Fresh bagels, breads and muffins, omelets made to order, chipped beef on toast, bacon and sausage, plenty of fresh, ripe fruit. Smoked salmon, hot and juicy carved roast beef, shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams.

The choices go on and on with Sunday brunch at Carrol’s Creek, and the offerings change to reflect what’s fresh and seasonal. Best of all, you’ll always get your brunch with one of Annapolis’ best views.

Best Pizza
Readers’ Choice: Italia by the Bay
Why do readers love Italia by the Bay’s pizza? Maybe it’s the homemade sauce. Maybe it’s the fresh sliced toppings. Maybe it’s the smoky flavor of an Italian brick oven. Cook Joe Frederickson thinks the secret bakes down to the crust. “The crust is what makes a pizza,” he explains, “you can get the same cheese, the same toppings pretty much everywhere. But no good crust, no good pizza.”

Editors’ Choice: Bertucci’s
Bay Weekly editors are intrepid eaters and believe in unique flavors and methods of cooking. Bertucci’s special method of baking its thin-crust pizzas is its brick oven heated to 850 degrees. It’s in plain sight, so you can see the magic. Flavors of their brick-ovens pizzas range from The Bertucci, with pepperoni, tomato and mozzarella to the Neapolitan Pizza, a white pie made with chicken and margherita sauce. Bertucci’s even boasts a certificate of authenticity from the City of Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza.

Best Mexican Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Jalapeños
Again this year, readers praise Jalapeños — which specializes in both Spanish and Mexican food — for the best Mexican food in Chesapeake Country. What sets Jalapeños apart, explains owner Gonzalo Fernandez, is “the truly traditional Mexican fare that we serve — using products of Mexico and recipes from Oaxaca. It all starts with the recipes: Authentic recipes and authentic ingredients.”

Diners count on quality and consistency. To keep to that standard, Fernandez says “you have to be on top of things. Myself, my partners and my employees understand that in a restaurant, there are no gray areas — just black and white, good and …”

New customers, Fernandez promises, will find Jalapeños “a very friendly, very welcoming place. Each customer I try to keep for life, not just one visit.”

You’ll not only be welcomed but treated to different recipes than you’ll find elsewhere.

“Myself,” says Fernandez, I love to cook with a lot of fresh fish. I love shrimp dishes, lots of garlic, lots of flavor, lots of pizzazz. Our chef, Obed Serrano, is a native of Mexico, from the Oaxaca region.

“But we offer something for everyone, even if it’s not on the menu. We can accommodate special diets, allergies, whatever the customer wants. Everything in our kitchen is fresh and raw, so we can prepare it to suit their needs.”

Finally, says Fernandez, “thanks to Bay Weekly’s readers.”

Editors’ Choice: Mexican Cafe
When it comes to Mexican restaurants, there are those establishments geared to mass markets with lots of sizzling plates of fajitas, enormous bars, brilliant neon and frozen margaritas the size of sombreros. Then there are the smaller, less glamorous eateries. With the latter, the risk tends to run higher, but the benefit can be exponentially rewarding. Mexican Cafe meets this challenge.

Down near Bay Ridge, Mexican Cafe lets you feel as though you’re at a friend’s house enjoying a good meal.

Try the Hungry Amigos, if you’re starved or want to taste a little bit of everything. If you’re in the mood for some excitement, try the margaritas. They are large and strong, enough to wash down that spicy, good food.

Best Asian Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Sakura
Growing up, kids are told not to play with their food. At Sakura, the chefs believe that’s the best way to enjoy your meal. Sit with your family and friends and watch the chefs prepare your order right in front of you. They will slice, dice, slip and launch food before your eyes and even at you — if you’re lucky.

If you’re not in the mood for entertainment or are too embarrassed to have someone throw shrimp at you, try the sushi bar, where sushi chefs aim their knives at fresh raw fish.

Editors’ Choice: Joss
We all enjoy Chinese delivery. When it comes to choosing the Best Oriental/Asian restaurant, we head for downtown Annapolis to Joss Restaurant and Sushi Bar located on Main Street. Space is limited (even with a recent expansion) and waits can be long, but the sushi is fabulous and the menu is full of wonderful Oriental treats.

Best Crabhouse ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Cantler’s
The constant thwack of wooden mallets sounds like a horde of carpenters rushing to finish their work; the smell of Old Bay seeps into your clothes; the brown paper laid across your table makes you smile with anticipation. On a busy night, you’ll sit elbow to elbow with your neighbor, but that’ll give you a chance to observe other crab picking techniques or offer a little advice to a tourist.

Aahhh, just another day at Cantler’s Riverside Inn, which is enjoying its third year as the Bay Weekly readers’ choice for Best Crabhouse.

The tables stretch from one end of the room to the other and the wait staff scurries about, bringing a dozen jimmies here, two dozen there. Don’t forget that pitcher of beer.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a seat outside on the deck overlooking Mill Creek, where workboats and pleasure boats are docked.

Readers’ Choice: Mike’s
Easily accessible and located off Riva Road on the South River, Mike’s appeals to those who want to sit back with a pitcher of beer and feast on crabs the way they should be — presented on a platter with butter and Old Bay at your paper-covered picnic table. It doesn’t get much better than that in Chesapeake Country.

Come by land or by water. Mike’s has lots of parking for your car, truck or boat.

Editors’ Choice: Skipper’s Pier
We’ve learned the hard way that crabs on the menu doesn’t guarantee pleasure at the table. But Skipper’s Pier always does us right — by our appetite and by our dollar. Crabs are always steamed to order (believe it or not, that’s not the rule everywhere), served hot, liberally seasoned and beautifully arrayed. What more could you want?

Attentive service? You’ll get that too, plus a grand creekside view. And you’ll get a special treat these upcoming cool nights when crabs taste so good: At Skipper’s, you can eat your crabs outdoors and still be cozy under their marvelous pink tent outfitted with heat lamps.

Best Crabcake
Readers’ Choice: Stoney’s
Once again, Stoney’s is the champion. Success starts, says Stoney’s Dana Cherington, with the crab meat: half jumbo lump and half backfin lump, so it’s all lump. “We also try to use local crab meat whenever it’s available,” says Cherington, “but even when we order it from somewhere else, it’s the freshest you can get. Then there’s our recipe, which I can’t say too much about, but it has very little filler, just enough to hold the crab together. And we make a light batter out of cracker crumbs, but basically it’s all meat.”

Size, too, contributes to success. Stoney’s serves an eight-ounce cake and a four-ounce cake. Says Cherington: “People order the eight-ounce, and they say ‘Whoa! That’s the biggest crab cake I’ve ever seen.”

If you haven’t yet made it to the original Stoney’s on Broome’s Island, you’ll find their newest location in Solomons as well as their restaurant in Prince Frederick.

Editors’ Choice: Edgewater Restaurant
For a crabcake that’s firm outside, creamy inside and chock full of lumps of crabmeat — all at a price that won’t break your bank — we’ve always liked Edgewater Restaurant’s everyday backfin crabcake.

Best Crab Soup
Readers’ Choice: Pirates Cove
If Maryland is for Crabs, then Pirates Cove is for crab soup. Not for the calorie-conscious, this soup is rich, with more than a little butter and more than a lot of crab. Sprinkled with sherry, this soup is like heaven.

“The consistency of the soup, made by the same person the same way makes a difference. It’s a cream of crab soup made with a chicken and crab base. The recipe is around 20 years old,” said Pirates Cove chef Kent Breeze.

Bay Weekly readers aren’t alone in recognizing Pirates Cove for its cream of crab, as this soup is a regular winner in the yearly crab soup contest at the Maryland Seafood Festival. Out-of-towners have been known to order gallons of the stuff to take home with them, savoring a Chesapeake classic as far away as the Midwest or California.

Editors’ Choice: Old Stein Inn
What goes better than crabs and beer? Crabs, beer and … Muenster cheese — all in the original recipe for crab soup that you’ll find at the Old Stein Inn in Mayo. Concocted by owner Mike Selinger, a lifelong Baysider whose German parents founded Old Stein Inn, this crab soup is a winner. A rich creaminess is the backbone of any cream of crab soup, and it’s that creaminess that highlights the sweet, fresh taste of crabmeat. The addition of a soft, rich cheese like Muenster only heightens the decadence, leaving you popping your chops after each spoonful.

Best Softshells
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Cantler’s Riverside Inn
Nobody wants a leathery softshell, and you won’t find one at Cantler’s, where they shed their own on site.

A look below the outside crab deck reveals Cantler’s secret: Nearly a dozen fiberglass-formed shedding tanks where the “peeler” crabs are sorted by their closeness to shedding. In peak season, these crabs go nary an hour without being checked, and as soon as they’ve discarded their old shells, the crabs are removed from the water and chilled. This stops the new shell from hardening until they are ready to be cleaned, lightly battered, fried and served table-side.

Don’t expect anything too fancy with these. The dinner is two unadorned soft-shells. The sandwich is served on your choice of white, wheat or rye bread. Like a little spice? Try the New Orleans-style soft-shell po’ boy, a delicacy fitting of the Big Easy.

Best Steak
Readers’ Choice: Lewnes Steakhouse
Bay Weekly readers told us Lewnes makes a great steak. But what, they wondered, does Lewnes do that they don’t. Lewnes’ Steakhouse manager Paul Miguez explains: “We do a USDA prime wet-aged steak. Then we cook on an 1800-degree broiler, which sears in the juices so that you always get a nice juicy steak. Then we put our own seasonings on. That’s how we do it.”

Editors’ Choice: To the many Bay Weekly readers concerned about hormones and pesticides (or worse) in their beef, we recommend firing up your grill for locally raised or organic beef. Shop at Whole Foods or order direct from the farmer. Three we’ve written about are Danny Gibson in Huntingtown: 410/535-1562; Bryan Dowell in Prince Frederick: 410/257-5449; or Michael Heller in Upper Marlboro: 301/627-2549.

Best Barbecue
Readers’ Choice: Adam’s, the Place for Ribs

Adam’s, the Place for Ribs has some of the best BBQ this side of North Carolina, say Bay Weekly readers. “Not many people expect to come in here and get superb barbecue because we are up north. But they are always pleasantly surprised,” say assistant manager George Railey. Consistency, reputation and a product that has not changed in more than 30 years is what drives this vote. “A new customer should expect a nice, good, Southern, wholesome meal when they come here,” says Railey. A lot of hard work and good quality pork with a bistro atmosphere is why Bay Weekly readers chose this barbecue as the best.

Editors’ Choice: Bayside Bull
For a barbecue lover, Chesapeake Country is heaven, with styles spanning the gamut from Kansas City pork to Memphis ribs to Texas brisket to Carolina dippin’ sauce. You can find good barbecue just about anywhere along the Bay, from sit-down restaurants to tiny shacks with thick smoke billowing from a chimney.

That’s what you find at Bayside Bull, off Route 214 in Edgewater. These folks mean business when they open their doors each morning with the fire long ago stoked. The meats are smoked — slow — over an open fire using real hardwood. There’s no seating inside, and so there’s often a mass of cars and trucks parked outside with hungry eaters inside. They come in droves for great barbecue. Whether you’re looking for rare pit beef stacked high or a tangy-sweet pulled pork sandwich, you’re going to get it, day in and day out.

Best Burger
Readers’ Choice: Cheeburger Cheeburger
“We use nothing but 100 percent fresh ground chuck in our burgers. We also hand-patty them every day,” says owner Aaron Benjamin. There are no frozen or processed foods at Cheeburger Cheeburger. Fresh is the key word and that keeps the customer coming back. “They just love our burger and think they are the best they’ve ever had,” according to Benjamin.

Editors’ Choice: Fuddrucker’s
For more than 20 years, the Fuddrucker’s chain of restaurants has focused on one thing: burgers. We applaud their concentration. Not quite fast food, Fuddrucker’s is very much self-service. You order your burger deli-style. Everything’s there to see, fresh. Begin to build your burger by choosing between a quarter-pound burger or a half-pounder. Add bacon or cheese, grilled onions or sautéed mushrooms. There’s even an ostrich burger: less fat than chicken, rich flavor like beef.

When your burger’s ready, they’ll call your name, and then you can lather it up with all the condiments you want, and not just mustard or ketchup. There’s barbecue sauce, cheese sauce, mayonnaise, relish, lettuce, tomato, onions, hot peppers — enough to turn your burger into a salad — if you want to go and mess up such a good and juicy burger.

Best French Fries
Readers’ Choice: Cheeburger Cheeburger
Cheeburger Cheeburger french fries are cut fresh every day and deep fried in peanut oil. “We are not dealing with processed frozen food,” said owner Aaron Benjamin. “Customers just love our french fries, and that makes us happy.” What’s more, readers like doubling their pleasure with Frings, an order that’s half fries and half onion rings.

Editors’ Choice: Edgewater Restaurant
Family-owned 55-year-old Edgewater Restaurant cuts their own potatoes with the skins on and fries them to order. You get the tasty real thing instead of greasy crisps

Best Wings
Readers’ Choice: Bill Batemans
When in Buffalo, the Anchor Bar is the place for wings. Obviously, we’re not in Buffalo. So where do we go to get great wings? In Chesapeake Country, Bill Batemans is the Bay Weekly readers’ choice.

“Wings have always been a trademark of Bill Batemans Bistro. We offer a large variety of sauces and spices to complement our jumbo wings,” said Sean Egan. If you like them hot, try the Atomic or Hell wings. If not, try the original flavor, garlic, New York, lemon pepper, Old Bay, Cajun, nude, honey mustard, chipotle, barbecue, smoke house or bourbon flavored wings.

Editors’ Choice: ACME Bar & Grill
Buffalo (regular, hot, extra hot, or insane), Buff-a-que, Bar-b-que, Caesar, Cajun, Bar-b-cajun, Teriyaki, Chesapeake, Island Zing, Honey Mustard, Lemon Pepper, Memphis Gold. Sweet or tart, hot or mild, Acme’s 15 styles of wings are a diverse and delicious bunch that pay homage to all sorts of taste buds, from the classicist to the die-hard Marylander, from the daredevil to the deep-Southerner. Try them all, but be cautious: According to the menu, “the insane wings are extremely hot. They may not be exchanged or returned for milder wings … consider yourself warned!”

Best Oysters ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Happy Harbor
Happy Harbor’s oysters are tops because they make it a point to get them locally. The best oysters, according to owner Barbara Sturgell, are the medium-sized ones. “That size oyster tends do be sweeter and easier to chew. I also have a secret weapon by the name of Kenny Wilde who is the best shucker I’ve ever had,” says Sturgell. “We only serve oysters during months with an R. Some places don’t do that,” says Sturgell. (R months are cooler, when oysters are not spawning and less likely to harbor contamination.) Happy Harbor is the real deal when it comes to oysters.

Readers’ Choice: McGarvey’s Saloon
McGarvey’s Saloon earns readers’ confidence with a consistent fresh oyster.

“We have one individual who supplies all our oysters,” says the Saloon’s Bill Willin. “He harvests from the best places in the Bay depending on the time of year.

“Our oysters are what you call a ‘salt’ oyster, meaning they’re a low-tidal oyster that picks up a higher salt content because of evaporation. Some people bring their oysters in and leave them floating in shallow waters through two or three tidal changes, but those just don’t pick up the same salinity.

“The key is opening to order, serving promptly and properly and no frills.

Editors’ Choice: St. Mary’s County’s Annual Oyster Festival, National Oyster Shucking Contest and National Oyster Cook-Off
We love oysters any way and any place we can get them fresh and local. We like it even better when we can get our oysters seasoned with local color. That’s what you’ll find at the St. Mary’s County’s Annual Oyster Festival, National Oyster Shucking Contest and National Oyster Cook-Off in Leonardtown.

Here, in a fairgrounds, no-frills setting, you can eat oysters raw, scalded or fried to your heart’s content. You can also sample some amazing things as 12 finalists among hundreds of would-be national champions push the envelope with oysters — serving them up, as past winners have done, as “Lethal” Oyster Cups; Oyster Pizza; Oyster Pie with Black Walnut Stuffing; Oyster Cheesecake; and White Oyster Chili — to wow competition judges.

And that’s not all. You can also see oyster shuckers work their fastest and neatest to win the national championship and the right to compete in Scotland — U.K., not Maryland.

This is also one of the earliest festivals, heralding the season on October 18 this year.

Best Dessert
Readers’ Choice: Charthouse
The crème de la desserts in Chesapeake Country is Charthouse’s Hot Chocolate Lava Cake. This whopper is big enough for at least two, so don’t feast too heavily. It takes 30 minutes to make, so place your order early.

Standing over five inches, this dessert soufflé made with Godiva chocolate liqueur, Dreyer’s vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate sauce and Heath Bar Crunch topping is a monster, monster, monster, monster.

Editors’ Choice: Old Stein’s Bavarian Apple Cheesecake
The perfect end to a hearty German meal — or any meal — is a slice of Bavarian Apple Cheesecake. Its creamy-smooth filling is not as heavy as the typical cheesecake, plus it’s topped with thin slices of perfectly baked apple. Rich. Yummy. Not too sweet. To live for.

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Last updated August 28, 2003 @ 3:01am