Volume 12, Issue 36 ~ September 2 - 8, 2004
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Every Vote Counted in This Year’s
Best of the Bay Readers’ Poll

For four years, we’ve asked you to settle some scores as to what’s best here around the Bay, from who has the best burger to where you’ll find the nicest playground and even who has the foulest bathrooms. Once again, you’ve given us plenty to think and write about, leading to this year’s best-ever Best of the Bay.

Along the way to putting this issue together, we at Bay Weekly have learned a lot. You’ll notice that many of the issues in Best of the Bay — such as Best Talk of the Town (Slots, again) or Worst Use of Public Funds (Too Many Words, Too Few Deeds) are topics you regularly read about in these pages. Some of your responses that didn’t come out winners were still intriguing, and these will likely appear as stories in upcoming issues.

We’ve eaten a lot, too, based on your responses to the Food and Drink category, letting out our waistbands in the process. But it’s all in the name of fun and journalism, and we’re glad to have escaped from our keyboards in the cause of research.

As in year’s past, the Readers’ Choice awards are based solely on your ballots filled out and returned to us earlier in the year. This is no fine science, but all ballots were counted by hand — not scanned and read by some hackable computer. Some races were photo-finish tight, and you will notice several ties. Here, we figured, let the winners share the glory. But it just goes to show you that — at least with Best of the Bay — every vote counts!

For a second year in a row, we’ve added another category of winners, Editors’ Choice, where we at Bay Weekly believe we have an insider’s edge or we feel the need to recognize some dark-horse contenders for their work.

Congratulations to the winners, and also to those who didn’t finish first. There’s always next year. Best of the Bay 2005 ballots will appear in our first issue of January, so keep your pencils handy and be ready to cast your ballot. But for now, read on and enjoy.

Whether you agree with all the winners or not, we think that you, like us, will find food for thought as well as new experiences in eating or drinking all along Chesapeake Bay.

Politics on the Bay
Best Thing about Chesapeake Country

Readers’ Choice and Editors’ Choice: the Bay

We smell it, hear it, name our streets and towns after it. We dive in it, harvest from it, build bridges over it. It gives us weather, gives us pleasure, gives us tranquillity.

From outer space the Bay is a blue void. To extraterrestrial tourists to the Chesapeake, it might be hard to imagine how a community revolves around a wide blue plain that looks, at times, so empty in the midst of this bustling pocket of civilization.

We know it is far from empty. Crabs, flounder, rockfish, jellyfish, oysters, clams, horseshoe crabs, eels, gulls, terns, osprey, bald eagles, ducks, kingfishers, swimmers, boaters, fishermen, crabbers, tubers, water-skiers, plankton, jet skiers, algae, sailors and paddlers swarm the Bay every day.

The Bay is more than just a place to make a living or explore or relax. It’s like a god, something different for everyone. Big enough to hold all our definitions. But only something like a god, for our Bay is not infinite. We can destroy it.
Biggest Gripe

Readers’ Choice: Pollution

Editors’ Choice: The Same Old Story

Could it be the trash littering our roadsides, shopping centers and waterways that’s got our readers’ goat this year? Yes it could, for, from smoked-down cigarette butts to worn-out couches, litter surrounds us in bottomless abundance.

But another kind of pollution is more troubling, readers tell us, and that’s the corruption of Chesapeake Bay. All the indices agree that the Bay is in a bad way, but the dead zones of last summer — repeated in 2004 — have pushed all of us — readers and editors alike — over the edge. We know we’re the problem, so we’re willing to pay the price; have been, dollar by dollar, since 1984. What we want now is an accounting of what’s been done with our good money and good will by the scientists, politicians and bureaucrats we’ve trusted for solutions.

Bay Hero
Readers’ Choice: Bill Burton

Bay Weekly readers trust Bill Burton to tell them the truth. That’s why he’s their hero as well as their favorite writer. In a time when it’s hard to tell what’s true about the Bay and what’s not, readers tell us they rely on Burton to see clearly and judge accurately. He’s spent much of four decades on the Bay and its tributaries, so he knows of what he speaks. He’s looking at the real thing, not computer simulations, and he’s got no ax to grind, no agenda to push. When he tells us the fish are biting, we go fishing. When he tells us where he’s caught one, that’s where we cast our line. When he tells us the Bay is hurting, we feel the pain. Been there, done that and on target: He’s our man on the Bay.

Editors’ Choice: Howard Ernst
It only took looking at the water, counting the numbers of crab and the lesions on rockfish to know that something wasn’t working with Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. But it took Howard Ernst to name a major problem: the political process that neutralizes down every remedy to upset no major constituency — whether it’s the poultry or wastewater industry, watermen, farmers, or recreational fishers. Ernst named the reality: The Bay is not being saved. Suddenly, all kinds of organizations perked up to new levels of action, and even the state legislature managed to pass a minimum flush tax. If you haven’t yet read Chesapeake Bay Blues, get it now!

Best Talk around Town
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Slots

Who’d ‘a thunk it? Once again this year. Everybody in Chesapeake Country — indeed everybody in Maryland — is still talking slots. Good Golly Governor: Don’t let these one-armed-bandits make your administration a one-horse show.

Best Use of Public Funds
Readers’ Choice: Clean Up the Bay

Estimates on how much money it will take run high. Untold billions have already been spent, and another $19 billion or so in this decade will be needed to restore the Bay to health, the experts say. A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

Where does all that money come from?

If you know the answer, it’s not a question.

It comes from you, me and our fellow Marylanders. It comes from the citizens of our sister states in the Bay basin. It comes from citizens of all the other states, too, because money like that flows only from federal faucets.

Yet Bay Weekly readers say we’re willing to make the investment because Chesapeake Bay is the best thing we’ve got going for us. Indeed, it’s a treasure shared by the whole nation.

But we’re about ready, readers tell us here and elsewhere on this survey, to get some bang for our bucks. We’ll keep supporting the Bay, but it’s time we got an accounting of how our money’s spent and what it’s bought.

That’s why we like Maryland’s new flush tax. We may be paying to flush, but our money’s not going down the drain. Sixty sewage treatment plants will send purer water into Chesapeake Bay. Maybe there’s even hope for improving septic systems house by house.

Welcome would be some equally straight talk on where in the Bay the rest of our money’s going.

Editors’ Choice: Land Preservation
Gov. Robert Ehrlich has said he’s spending his smart-growth money on “priority places,” partnering with developers to repopulate abandoned spaces. Nothing wrong with that idea. In fact, it’s one we share and celebrate. Problem is, even as Ehrlich is pushing one good idea, he’s dissing another as “purchasing large tracts of rural land that might never be developed.” That’s what his planning secretary has said of buying up land to store in the public treasury, which was an investment valued by his predecessor, Parris Glendening.

Glendening’s predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, has made friends with Gov. Ehrlich. So we know our new governor will listen to the wisdom of age, even if it is poured from a bottle bearing a Democratic label. We’re hoping Gov. Ehrlich will listen to the wise words of another old Democrat now deceased, Louis Goldstein. Himself a man of property, Mr. Maryland reminded us that land was always a good purchase as the Good Lord is making no more of it.

Think on those words, Gov. Ehrlich.

Worst Use of Public Funds
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Too Many Words; Too Few Deeds

Yes, a pattern is emerging. Bay Weekly readers are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

Two decades’ worth of hope, money and science has been spent on saving the Bay. But whistle-blower Howard Ernst says the reality is many decades longer. He traces the first attempt at a “Bay-wide” study back to 1933 as part of a multi-state program that was then called the Chesapeake Bay Authority.

The second major study and first “definitive study,” Ernst says, was completed in 1973 under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a seven-volume multi-million dollar study that took more than five years to complete.

The third study and second “definitive study,” also directed by the Corps, was completed in 1977. It was 12 volumes in length.

So, Ernst says, saving the Bay has been underway since long before the EPA issued its study sounding the alarm in 1983.

Even without Ernst’s perspective, readers have their own: We’ve heard all that. Now it’s time for action.

Issue Needing More Attention
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Bay Pollution

As Bill Burton says, Enough Said.

Best Effort to Improve the Bay
Readers’ Choice: Asian Oysters

Readers are hoping that Chesapeake-adapted descendants of the Asian oyster Ariakensis will turn the tide. Only a chromosome or so different from our native Virginica, Ariakensis are said to look and taste so much like our natives that only experts know the difference. But, unlike their local cousins, they’ve so far showed themselves immune to the diseases that have all but destroyed Virginica in Chesapeake Bay. They grow faster, filter the Bay and produce a live bottom that attracts fish and fishermen. Not to mention their potential commercial value.

What could be wrong with such an oyster?

Nothing, readers are hoping, along with Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who’s approved testing in Maryland waters in hopes of proving Ariakensis can take over where Virginica left off.

What could possibly go wrong? They’re an alien species, and in plants and animals, other species of aliens have adapted sometimes too well, creating new problems as tenacious as the old ones.
Editors’ Choice: Native Oyster Restoration

We agree that filtering and habitat benefits — not to mention taste and commerce — make native-oyster restoration essential to saving the Bay. What’s more, we’ve signed onto the official Bay Program goal of increasing native oysters tenfold by 2010.

We’ve followed with great interest the many ideas for creative restoration, from breeding disease-resistant strains to farming oysters in floats and building new reefs so oysters can get out of the silt and outgrow the diseases dermo or MSX.

So we’re sad to report that an idea that began in this Best of list has lately turned into a Worst of. That’s the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to jump start a population by “carpet-bombing” regions with vast numbers of young oysters. As you’ll read in this week’s editorial, “The Corps’ Cow-Nosed Ray Feeding Project,” that plan’s been sent back to the drawing board.

Life on the Bay

Best Public view
Readers’ Choice: Annapolis City Dock

he views in Chesapeake Country are plentiful. Just about anywhere you can glimpse water affords a great view. Some may even argue that the best view is in their own neighborhood. But the best public view, where anyone and everyone can revel in a picture perfect spot, is from Annapolis City Dock.

Everything converges at City Dock. “There’s so much to see: natural beauty, activity, panoramic views and magnificent architectural details,” says city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty. “You can see the Naval Academy Chapel, church spires, the Capitol, the Bay Bridge, billowing sails, all different types of boats and transoms from all over the world.”

Sailors and boaters come from far and wide to navigate Chesapeake waters.

“Just last week I saw a boat from Chicago and was guessing the water routes he took to get there from here,” said Hardesty, who’s even seen boats from as far away as the Canary Islands.

So City Dock gives you not only the best view in Annapolis but also a view on the wide world.

Editors’ Choice: Fairhaven Road
The best view of the Chesapeake Bay can be had for the cost of a pleasant drive.

As you travel along Route 2 at the southern end of Anne Arundel County, turn east on Route 423, Fairhaven Road. Just after a sharp right bend, keep alert. In a moment you’ll spy two bands of water.

The lower band is a salt marsh and the upper is the Bay. Slow down as the Bay view widens to see the splash of water along pilings channeled to the narrow bridge. On a clear day you’ll see all the way to Poplar Island on the Eastern Shore. Nearer you’ll see the small cliffs that give Fairhaven Cliffs and Owings Cliffs their names. Slow down. You’ll see beach cottages, boats anchored out, people fishing or crabbing from the bridge, walkers, bikers, an osprey nest atop the telephone pole by the bridge. Some times you might even have to stop for a turtle, possum, swan, black snake or butterfly. It’s the best public view of all. But go slow. It doesn’t last long.

Best Place for People Watching
Readers’ Choice: City Dock

Bay Weekly readers also love people-watching at City Dock.

“It’s the diversity of people who come from different places all over the world wearing different clothes and all different styles,” explains Hardesty.

As well as style, it’s how people come and go that catches the eye.

“People are coming in on kayaks, sailboats, cigarette boats — all manner of conveyance from all over the world.”

At a junction of so many people — travelers, sailors, skateboarders, businesspeople and locals — you’re bound to find someone intriguing.

“I think that any of us love the romance of travel and adventure that comes with being around the dock,” says Hardesty, summing up the appeal we all recognize.

Best Place to Meet Someone:
Readers’ Choice: Downtown Annapolis

Watching may lead to meeting people, according to Bay Weekly readers.

“People associated with the sea and maritime are inherently friendly,” says Hardesty, explaining they’re used to travel and meeting new people. Annapolis City Dock area and downtown’s friendly atmosphere may make for easier conversation.

Travel makes a conversation starter. All that’s going on downtown on any given day makes plenty more to talk about. Concerts, gallery hops, boat shows and other events open the way to between strangers.

Restaurants, shops, bars, ice cream stores and coffee shops open more doors.

“Because there are so many hospitality sites, also known as watering holes, at City Dock, it lends itself to conversation,” says Hardesty.

Editors’ Choice: The Gym
Mr. or Miss right hasn’t strolled into view at City Dock. You’re not into the bar scene, and you find the Internet a let-down. Now what? Follow our advice, and even if you don’t find love, you’ll look and feel better. In these post-Olympic days, we’re thinking gym.

Next time you are on the stationary bike next to that hottie, strike up a conversation. When you’re preparing to lift some weight, ask for some spotting help from that cutie you’ve been longing to meet. Don’t want to flirt when you’re grunting and sweating? Most gyms have open house nights when it’s no sweat to mingle with other members.

Best Place to Get Married
Readers’ Choice: William Paca House

If you think grassy green lawns, terraces and gardens make a picture-perfect wedding site, you’re in agreement with Bay Weekly readers, who voted Annapolis’ William Paca House the best place to get married.

What’s so appealing about the Paca House is not just its present beauty but its significant past.

“It’s the history,” says Greg Stiverson, president of the Historical Annapolis Foundation.

The restored 18th century Georgian-style summer home looks out over two brick terraces and a two-acre pleasure garden.

“It’s a dramatic space,” says Stiverson. “There’s so many opportunities for wedding photographs — on the bridge, terraces or the summer house.”

The space can cater intimate weddings to wedding extravaganzas with 250 guests.

“You have to see it to understand how unique and beautiful it really is,” says Stiverson.

Best Place to Picnic
Readers’ Choice: Quiet Waters Park

Just a stone’s throw from busy bustling Annapolis is serene Quiet Waters Park. Readers voted this tract of waterfront land the best place to picnic.

“We have a beautiful setting, art sculptures, wonderful trails, a brand-new children’s playground and special events,” says chief park ranger Mike Murdock. “People seem to love it. There’s nice areas where you can get away and find a quiet picnic spot.”

Readers also praised the layout of the park. With enough distance among groups, “you’re not intruded on by other people or loud music nearby,” says Murdock.

There are also monthly art exhibits, sculptures and special programs such as the summer concert series.

“We’ll often have music groups and art that won’t be showing elsewhere in the area,” says Murdock.
600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis: 410-222-1777.

Editors’ Choice: Lake Waterford Park
Lake Waterford in Pasadena isn’t just another pretty park. It’s the best picnic park in Bay Weekly territory. Picnic tables are right by the parking lot, but step past the split rail fence and you’re in an old-fashioned picnic grove under tall shady oaks.

For kids there’s an imaginative wood playground within the picnic area. Elsewhere in the 108-acre park there are softball, basketball, tennis, football courts and fields, hiking, fishing and bird watching around the 12-acre lake.

Open daily 7am to sunset. 830 Pasadena Road: 410-222-6248.

Best Playground
Readers’ Choice: Dunkirk Park

As far as playgrounds go, it’s the kids who know where to find the most fun. But their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, sitters and nannies are weighing in, too, awarding the play area at Dunkirk Park the best on the Bay.

“It’s big, it’s new, the colors are still bright and it’s not damaged,” says Vivian Zumstein, Bay Weekly contributor and soccer mom. The playground consists of two main structures: one taller for older children, with a faux-rock wall, plenty of slides and a handicap-accessible ramp. The other structure, for younger kids, is lower with tubes to climb through and a steering wheel.

There are swings and safety swings for tots, a spinning merry-go-round, and a safe seesaw with toucan and pelican.

With the grainy, rubber-like mat surrounding the equipment, it’s like walking on plush carpeting. Soft wood chips fill in the rest. Benches and shaded picnic tables surround the periphery of the playground.

But the Dunkirk playground has more going for it than its equipment. Its location in the park also suits families.

“It’s next to the picnic area, near where families can have picnics and see what’s happening without walking across the park,” says Doug Meadows of Calvert County Parks & Recreation. Restrooms are also close to the playground.

“It’s centrally located in the park; Parents with older siblings can entertain little ones while their older siblings are on the playing field,” says Zumstein. Tennis courts, picnics pavilions, softball and baseball fields are all within a short walking distance.

Off Route 4, Dunkirk: 301-855-1243.

Editors’ Choice: Newman Street Park
Tucked away off Compromise Street is the freshly remodeled Newman Street Park’s playground. The play area sits close enough to City Dock for a quick play visit if you’re downtown, but far enough from the traffic to want to spend time there.

The new playground structures, beige with dark green accents, cater to your tots and bigger kids.

Younger kids will flock to the smaller structure, only five steps off the ground with short slides and tubes for climbing through.

Older kids will seek out the taller and more challenging structure to scale a short faux-rock wall, slip down a number of curvy slides or swing from loop-like monkey bars. Kids also become paleontologists when they discover a dinosaur skeleton.

Adults can also enjoy the playground from benches under shady trees.

This is also Annapolis Elementary School’s playground, so at any time of the day you’re sure to find kids on the equipment.

The new playground’s just the beginning for this park. Annapolis Rotary, with the city of Annapolis, have plans for a rain garden and other improvements to the front of the park.

Corner of Newman Street and Compromise Street, Annapolis.

Best Sculpture
Readers’ Choice: Alex Haley at Annapolis City Dock

Front and center in downtown Annapolis, Alex Haley casually sits watching City Dock and telling stories.

“It’s a statue of local, national and international importance to people,” says Leonard Blackshear of the Alex Haley-Kunta Kinte Foundation. “We have people who are making pilgrimages to visit the memorial.”

Annapolitans can be proud of their unique memorial and where it stands.

“No where else in America is there a dedication to enslaved Africans in the heart of a downtown city,” says Blackshear.

From the statue itself, you can walk the memorial’s message wall, which speaks the universal truths of love, perseverance and courage, among others. These sayings are important to not only African Americans, but everyone. Like many visitors, you may have a favorite plaque on the site.

“The memorial stands for story-telling, reconciliation, reflection and healing,” says Blackshear. “It stands for so much. People who visit feel a connection to the memorial and a connection to its importance.”

Editors’ Choice: George Rickey’s Three Red Lines
There’s something mesmerizing about George Rickey’s Three Red Lines. Lie on the green grass at Annmarie Garden in Solomons and be rocked by the gentle swing of the three red blades that arc with the slightest breeze. Contemplate the blue sky and white clouds. Compare the sway of the nearby woods with the sway of the three long arms. Watch the children swing their two small arms.

There is no history to learn here. No politics. No tortured life story to read into the sculpture. There is only this moment and this dance-like movement. All is grace, beauty and response to nature.

If you can pull yourself away from the spell of Three Red Lines, there are eight more sculptures from the famed Hirshhorn collection as well as lesser known pieces. On Dowell Road just off Route 4 at the north edge of Solomons: 410-326-4640.

Best Charity Fundraiser
Readers’ Choice: Hospice Cup

Chesapeake Country generosity allows for many charity fundraisers, all with unique and worthy causes. This year, readers award the trophy to Hospice Cup.

In its 22-year history, the race of some 100 boats has raised over $6 million to benefit six area hospices.

“Hospice provides skilled and compassionate care, comfort and dignity to the terminally ill and their families and friends, regardless of their ability to pay,” according to Terry Murray, president of this year’s Hospice Cup.

More than the regatta, the two-day Hospice Cup includes social events, a reception and a silent auction.

Pulling off all those events takes hundreds of people. As well as the sailors, an all-volunteer group solicits sponsorship and advertising contributions.

“It’s a year round-effort of area business leaders and volunteers who commit their time for the benefit of Hospice,” says Blair Adams, Committee chairman of Hospice of the Chesapeake.

Many of the volunteers have experienced hospice care in their lives or lost a loved one.

As the regatta nears, individual hospices and their committees collect sponsorship and items for the silent auction.
The goal for this year’s Hospice Cup, on September 11, is to raise $500,000.

Editors’ Choice: Rod ’n’ Reel’s Cancer Gala
Since 1982, Southern Marylanders have come together to celebrate life at Rod ’n’ Reel’s annual Cancer Gala, in support of the American Cancer Society. So great is their support that citizens and sponsors routinely contribute a quarter of a million dollars, with each year topping the previous record. All that money goes to fight cancer through local support, state research and national collaboration.

That’s how it was once more this year. On August 5, thousands of folks joined together at the water’s edge to keep up the tradition. What an evening it was, with several open bars, a banquet including lobster and crab, roast beef and barbecue, sides and desserts galore and live music.

Where else can you eat, drink and be merry while helping raise $300,000, 2004’s all-time record, for a cause everybody can relate to?

Best Bay Writer
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Bill Burton

In his own words: “It is with appreciation and humility that I thank readers of Bay Weekly for voting me this honor via their Best of the Bay ballots this year. Truly, it’s not easy to express appropriate thank-yous, but I must say all of the credit goes to other writers and editors of this publication, and also to readers.

“A writer is only as good as his sources, and my sources in great part are readers of this publication via letters to the editor and to me personally, and other writers who have been published in these pages. I only mull over their thoughts and gripes, then in frustration write to ask why their questions and suggestions aren’t acted upon appropriately. I thank you all.”

Bay Weekly editors know that Bill Burton always speaks the truth, but of himself he speaks it too modestly. So we’ll share the secrets of his success.

First, Bill Burton always has a good story to tell because he’s driven by curiosity. He pays attention to this rich world, and wonder takes him beneath the surface into the mystery of things. Second, Burton long ago achieved what every writer seeks: He speaks his own mind in his own voice, with all his idiosyncrasies and values showing. Authenticity is the big word for it; more simply, what you see is what you get. Third, Burton is not only talking straight; he’s talking straight to you, engaging you and connecting. You may agree or disagree; he hopes you will, for writing and reading connected in dialogue is what Burton’s after. Like the tree falling in the empty forest, his words are soundless until you read them.

Goods & Services

Best Art Gallery
Readers’ Choice: ArtFX

In a city filled with shops, galleries and art stores, Bay Weekly readers said this year’s favorite is ArtFX. Located just off Church Circle on West Street, ArtFX combines gallery with monthly exhibits of local artists and one-of-a-kind, eclectic gift shop. It’s that three-point accessibility readers praised.

ArtFX, in turn, credit its success to, says owner Erik Evans, “the fact that we support local artists and have so much unique art that you can’t find anywhere else.”

This month, the gallery shows Greek history-inspired ceramic wall sculptures by Jewell Gross Brenneman.

You’re in for a treat if you’ve still to make your first visit. Says Evans: “You’ll be surprised at the talent available locally.

Editors’ Choice: ArtWorks @ 7th
We love it when a new gallery braves its way into existence. This year that ArtWorks @ 7th, which opened in May of 2004 above Nice and Fleazy Antiques on the corner of Seventh Street and Bay Avenue in North Beach.

Sure that’s after balloting closed, but you’re only new once.

ArtWorks @ 7th is a cooperative bringing together 25 Southern Maryland artists. That’s one factor in our scoring, for we’re partial to local artists. When we go to Italy, we see Italian artists. In Santa Fe, we like native and southwestern art. In Maryland, we like Maryland art.

Members take turns staffing the gallery, handling the sales and representation of artwork. That’s good, too, because knowing the artist adds to the value of the work. The work shown here is diverse: paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic and pastel, ceramic sculpture, wood sculpture, photography, stained glass, collages, collographs, seashell mosaics, scratchboard art and handmade tile.

Even as big buildings go up, North Beach remains a town made by its people. So we also like what ArtWorks @ 7th has done for its town, adding depth and flavor that prove again that a good town is a reflection of good people who’ve put down their roots and made a commitment beyond the personal to the collective.

Best Coffee House
Readers’ Choice: Hard Bean Coffee & BookSellers

According to reader votes, not all cups o’ joe are created equal. Hard Bean Coffee & BookSellers stood out as best coffee shop. Whether you’re an espresso-nut or a chai-addict, they’ll serve your favorite coffee drink the way you like it time and again.

“We go to great lengths to get the best product we can and keep that product the exact same every time,” says Gary Amoth, Hard Bean Cafe’s owner.

What’s more, their customer-focused mantra keeps buyers happy.

“At Hard Bean, the customer’s always right,” says Amoth. “We get lots of comments that our staff is really friendly. They’ll do handsprings to help customers.”

Just behind the Market House in downtown Annapolis, Hard Bean serves up more than just plain coffee-on-the-run or coffee while you book browse. You go for the ambiance.

“The atmosphere’s low-key and kind of funky,” says Amoth.

Whether you stay for some reading and coffee-shop aura or take your coffee to go for a stroll around Annapolis, Hard Bean Cafe’s your place, readers told us.

Editors’ Choice: Caffé Pronto Coffee Roastery
Another proof that small is wonderful: Tucked between the exotic lumber yard and Gold’s Gym just off West Street on Russell Street in Annapolis is Caffé Pronto, a fabulous little spot for coffee. They fresh roast the beans on premise so you know you’re getting a good cup of joe. You can grab a cup to go or take a bag of fresh ground home.

Best Antique Store ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Nice and Fleazy

Chesapeake Country’s history affords us not only good lessons and good tourism. Some pieces of history can also be bought and enjoyed at home. Nice and Fleazy is once again a favorite place of Bay Weekly readers for that sort of shopping.

“We have something for everybody,” says Dale Thomas, owner of the North Beach antique shop that’s an institution in Chesapeake Country. “People say it’s more of a ‘real’ antiques store; we have lots of things from the turn of the last two centuries.” It’s easy for people to find things, says Thomas, because he’s laid out his store in different groupings, including a fossils section, kitchen section and oriental section, among many.

The atmosphere is part of the experience.

“We have fun and we’re focused on people being satisfied,” says Thomas. With no pressure to buy, you can browse as long as you like. Extras are good conversation — Dale is usually on hand — and music, from show tunes to classical melodies — while you shop.

But the antiques are what please the crowds.

“We probably have the largest display of antiques, more than the other stores,” says Thomas, “We have a huge assortment of things — from carousel horses to sharks teeth and Roseville pottery.”

Readers’ Choice: Ron Snyder Antiques
Up on the edge of Annapolis just past the intersection of Route 2 on West Street, Ron Snyder Antiques pleases readers with focus rather than multiplicity. “We’re successful because of the quality, the condition and age of our furniture,” says Marilyn Snyder of the store’s collection of fine pieces.

“People tell us we have ‘real antiques,’ which means that the item is over 100 years old,” says Snyder, who says the store’s building is an antique itself. “Our furniture’s all over 100 years old, with the oldest piece dating back to 1730.”

Best Gift Shop
Readers’ Choice: Fairy Tales

When shopping for gifts, Chesapeake readers are looking for more than unique and one-of-a-kind gifts. They want to shop somewhere fantastical.

“Walking into Fairy Tales is like walking into a fantasy land,” says Fairy Tales owner Michelle Micklos. No doubt readers chose this store as Best Gift Shop for its ability to raise spirits.

“People have told me that they feel happy when they walk into the store,” says Micklos.

Specializing in fairies, the shop also offers jewelry, children’s gifts and furniture.

Editors’ Choice: The Annapolis Pottery
Home-owned Annapolis Pottery is unique among gift stores. All its wares — bowls, platters, mugs and butter keepers — are locally made, hand made and one of a kind. Thus it’s a gift shop that’s a gallery. What better place to buy gifts that remind friends and family who’ve visited of the qualities that make our hometown-capital special? But it’s the kind of shop we don’t dare enter very often, because our kitchen shelves are full. We can’t, you see, resist adding ourselves to our gift list

Best Produce ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market assistant produce manager Rob Houck knows why his department was chosen.

“Simply because we have the best and freshest,” he says.

As the first certified organic market in the country, Whole Foods offers another choice: fruits and vegetables grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Not all its produce is organic — organic choices are listed daily — but organic and conventional combine to make the largest selection in the area, including hard-to-find and ethnic items. Whole Foods is a national chain, but each store seeks out small, local farmers, to support the local farm economy and bring fresher produce to the store.

As you walk through the sliding glass doors at the Annapolis store, a cool chill is sweetened with the smell of fresh produce stacked up aisle upon aisle as in a farm store. From fresh local corn and tomatoes to champagne grapes, mission figs and Mount Rainier cherries, you are welcomed with a feast for the senses.

Readers’ Choice: Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market
At the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmer’s Market at Annapolis Harbour Center, customers line up around the crates of bananas, oranges, tomatoes, melons, raspberries, cabbages and onions picking through the produce in search of natural perfection.

Behind the counter, kids and adults keep the line moving as the stream of customers continues.

There are no corporate trucks or management hierarchies here, just farmers making a living as they have for thousand of years: selling the fruits of their labor at markets. This time of year, most of the produce is grown by the Amish who sell it.

For Bay Weekly readers, the farmers’ hard work is paying off.

Editors’ Choice: Farmers’ Markets
Summer fruits and vegetables taste as good as your memories tell you they should. Tomatoes burst with sweetly acidic flavor, corn is sweet, cantalopes perfume an entire room. As surely as it brings those delights, summer brings out farmers and vendors to sell you their bounty.

Even as Maryland’s farm land decreases, the number of farmers who grow to sell to you is up. They’re tobacco farmers and row-crop farmers who’ve turned to table crops because a bushel of sweet corn brings better money than a bushel of field corn. They’re retirees living a dream that nourished their working years. They’re former farm-family folk or claustrophobic urbanites wanting to return to the land.

With farms so small — usually less than 10 acres under cultivation — table farmers are hard pressed to vie with the big commercial growers and shippers who sell wholesale at Jessup. Farmers’ markets give them a way to compete, and at most farmers’ markets only local growers are allowed.

For you and me, that means what we eat tonight was picked today, as it ripened, from a neighbor’s farm. By buying local, we eat, each in its own season, the freshest, sweetest, most nourishing fruits, vegetables, eggs and sometimes meat money can buy. By supporting our local farmers, we help our rural economy thrive and our world stay green.

Best Record Store
Readers’ Choice: Tower Records-Videos-Books

Whether Bay Weekly readers are in the market for hip-hop, R & B, rock, classical, oldies, jazz or world music, they like Tower Records-Videos-Books.

For Tower’s success, Manager Brad Ripplinger credits the shoppers themselves: “We have great customers.”

In turn, Tower focuses on taking care of those customers. The store works to make shopping easy and enjoyable for patrons, who can sample CDs with headphones before making their music purchases. A friendly and eager to help staff also makes Tower Records successful.

“We try to tailor the store’s selection

Best Salon
Readers’ Choice: Alexander’s of Annapolis

In a region full of fine salons and spas, Bay Weekly readers again and again vote Alexander’s of Annapolis the best of the Bay.

We think we know why.

We’re strangers to our own appearance, seeing ourselves as we do only in mirrors or fleeting reflections.

Alexander’s looks and feels like the kind of place that will make us look as good we’d like to look. It’s classy down to the finishing touches. Step inside, and you’re already transformed as you relax and leave your cares behind. From stylish stylist stations to bubbling foot baths to many-jetted steam showers to luxurious, private spa treatment rooms, that good first impression continues throughout your visit.

That positive impression is reinforced by the attention and skill of your hair, nail or make-up stylist or your spa therapist.

“Whatever you’ve come for, we listen carefully so that we can provide a style or service you’ll really love,” says Alexander.

“We constantly educate our staff whether it be with the latest styles and trends in hair or makeup or with the latest in wellness treatments such as therapeutic massage or, one of our newest, ear candling,” he added.

You leave Alexander’s feeling great, and that feeling’s a better gauge than a reflected image of how good you’re looking.

Best Toy Store
Readers’ and Editors’ Choice: Be Beep — A-Toy Shop

Walking into Be Beep-A-Toy Shop makes you want to be a kid again. With kites, blocks, plush toys, dinosaurs, books, games, silly hats, play horses, princess dresses, wooden train sets, knight’s armor, puppets, balls and Frisbees, shopping here feels like playing.

“We try to create a warm, friendly place where people know they can find good toys,” says owner Jeff Franklin. “And we try to promote healthy play.”

At Be Beep you won’t find over-popularized products that form 6am lines at superstores.

“The vast majority of our toys you don’t see on TV,” says Franklin.

But you’re likely to find the classics like Lego and Breyers horses, toys that teach and toys that will stand the test of time.

The staff are having fun, too, and helping you find the right toy is part of their pleasure.

“The people working in our store really love to be here,” says Franklin.

We do, too! said Bay Weekly readers.

Best Restroom
Readers’ Choice: Nordstrom

Readers appreciate a restroom that lives up to its name. Winning again readers’ attentions this year are the restrooms in Nordstrom’s department store.

Manager Frank Androsky attributes success to the housekeeping staff, “It’s something that we work on daily. Housekeeping does a great job.”

But we think he’s too modest. Design and decor are also part of Nordstrom’s success.

Shoppers with kids also love the family restroom.

“It’s a definite bonus: The sink and the paper towel dispenser are just the right height for kids. It’s also easily accessible to wheelchairs, has a changing table and is one of the only family restrooms in the mall. It’s great,” says Androsky.

he women’s restroom boasts both a sitting room and nursing area in addition to main restroom.

Readers’ agree, Nordstrom’s restrooms are the choice pit stop for mall shoppers.

Editors’ Choice: Your Local Coffee House
With 4,081 stores nationwide, Starbucks is now part of the establishment. Its big foot steps hard on enterprising local coffeehouses — though Calvert County’s Common Grounds and Annapolis’ City Dock Cafe have missed being squashed by their bigger neighbor.

But there’s one notable advantage to Starbucks’ omnipresence: You don’t have to drive far to duck in and use the facilities. Indeed, Starbucks has replaced McDonalds as our pit stop of choice. They’re almost as common, they’re cleaner and they brew a better coffee.

If you find yourself in Caribou country, so much the better. We don’t like the coffee quite so well, but the restrooms have more style. The last one we visited adorned its wall with a nicely framed photo of three outhouses.

Worst Restroom
Readers’ Choice: Sandy Point State Park

With its peak-season price of $4 per person (yes person, not car), you’d expect Sandy Point State Park to keep up its comfort stations. They don’t, readers tell us, and their experience is mirrored by our own. At a recent visit, we opened the door to a portapotty that belonged in one of the nastier circles of hell, not in Maryland’s premier Western Shore state park. Gov. Ehrlich, what will our tourists think?

Editors’ Choice: Your Neighborhood Supermarket
How often do you shop in department stores? Even if you’re a mall maniac, we bet you make more visits, shop more hours and spend more money in your neighborhood supermarket. Yet how do the restrooms compare? In department stores, they’re a customer service: centrally located, at least modestly decorated and kept clean. In supermarkets, with few exceptions, they’re afterthoughts. Hidden behind stage where you don’t want to go, they’re bare bones, broken down and often dirty. How can it be our supermarket chains, that nowadays offer so many other services — from pharmacies to film processing to dry cleaning — neglect this basic? Do they think we’re camels?

We’re disappointed. We expect better.

Best Golf Course ~ tied
Twin Shields Golf Club
Playing 6,000 yards from the white tees and with homes on only one hole, Bay Weekly readers said Twin Shields Golf Club, in Dunkirk, offers golfers a manageable course with peace and tranquillity.

“We’ve been here 40 years,” says owner Diane Shields, whose course is an island of stability in a sea of change. “So the trees and the course are mature.”

Whether the golfer’s game offers peace and tranquillity is a whole different story.
As golfers know, a lush course makes the game sometimes called “a good walk spoiled” easier to play. The game is frustrating enough without homes lining the fairways or designers making the course artificially difficult.

There are seven water holes, but, says Shields, “It’s an easy course to play. Every skill level can play it.”
And for those who still can’t break 100, the long quiet fairways are great for privacy when you break down and cry.

South River Golf Links
Still, readers say, a golf course doesn’t need to be old to be good. The eight-year-old South River Golf Links at Edgewater is a public golf course that will make you believe you’ve been elevated to a grand-style country club.

Grandly difficult, too. Designed by Ault, Clark & Associates, these links can test the patience of even a saint. Watch for the 16th hole, where the green is not only surrounded by sand traps to the front-left, front-right and back, but you’ll also find sand traps through the middle of the fairway leading up to the green. This par 5 will drive some to insanity.

“It’s the course layout and the quality of our customer service,” says pro James Hamric of why voters voted South River as the best course. “From top to bottom we do things right.”

Best Bar
Readers’ Choice: Calypso Bay Sports Bar

Whether you’re looking for a place to watch the Terps or to hang out or to listen to local bands, Bay Weekly readers say the place to go is Calypso Bay Restaurant and Dock Bar in Tracy’s Landing.

According to Mike Brown, owner of Calypso, it’s not the 22 television sets, dart boards, pool tables or live music that makes his bar the best. It’s the customers.

Brown says his customers’ loyalty comes from his reinvesting the bar’s profits in new floors, flat screen televisions and drink specials.

But in the end, what makes a sports bar great is sports. Any televised major sporting event can be seen on one of Calypso’s screens.

Editors’ Choice: Heroes
A good bar is your home away from home, and Heroes in West Annapolis fits the bill. It’s a friendly neighborhood bar with a huge selection of draft beers and a menu that’s priced right. A few nights a week, local live acts play, and come basketball season the place is jumpin’. Food, drink, comfort and company: That’s what we like in a good bar, and that’s what we find here.

Best Place to Pick up Bay Weekly
Readers’ Choice: Your Local Post Office

Once upon a time, people gathered to swap news and stories at the country store. The country store has given way to the neighborhood post office as a gathering place. And perhaps that’s why thousands of people each week pick up Bay Weekly at post offices from Severna Park to Solomons.

Not every post office, however, allows the paper, as U.S. Postal Service guidelines restrict for-profit publications such as Bay Weekly. Still, each Postmaster has the autonomy and the authority, in the end, to decide whether you can pick up your newest Bay Weekly while checking your P.O. Box, sending a letter to your sister in Oregon or just catching up with your neighbors.

Editors’ Choice: Everywhere!
Five hundred stops and shops throughout Anne Arundel and Calvert carry Bay Weekly on their shelves or in our green wire racks. Each location is a solid link in the chain that brings the paper you want to read from our hands to yours.

Food & Drink

Best Overall Restaurant ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: CD Cafe

“Keeping things different adds variety to our menu,” says Debbie Woody, owner of CD Cafe in Solomons. “We don’t keep the same menu all year: For instance, we’ll add a new twist to our crabcake sandwich.”

CD Cafe keeps its atmosphere laid back, comfortable and homey.

“If someone came in by themselves, they’d feel comfortable,” says Woody.

Staff also helps CD Cafe stand out. “They’re here because they want to be here,” says Woody. “They take pride in their jobs, and they’re interested in food, the ingredients and new recipes.”

Readers’ Choice: Pirates Cove
Chesapeake Country is peppered with cuisine for all kinds of tastes, all sizes of wallets and all kinds of atmospheres. In this category, readers voted on the restaurants you love to dine at again and again. What makes a good restaurant?

“We keep things consistent in all areas: in service, in product, in hours,” says Bob Platt, owner of the Pirates Cove in Galesville. “People need to know that you’re going to be the same each time they come back.”

Editors’ Choice: Jalapeños
First, we love the food. Whether we’re wishing we were in Oaxaco or dreaming of traveling to Seville, Jalapeños satisfies us, with food that’s so good we’d have to travel far to meet its authentic originality.

Next, we love the atmosphere. It’s fancy enough that we feel like we’re treating ourselves here, but it’s casual enough that we can relax. Service is prompt and polite, without trespassing into the personal.

Finally, we love the price. Many a restaurant in Chesapeake Country charges far more for far less. At Jalapeños, when the check comes, we have to add it up to make sure they’re not undercharging.

Most Romantic Restaurant ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Lighthouse Inn

Dim the lights. Light the candles. Cue the classical music. Romantic dining comes in style in Chesapeake Country.

“We treat our customers like the night is a special evening for them,” says Lighthouse Inn’s Jennifer Jordon.

Creating a special evening for customers means getting atmosphere and cuisine just right.

“We have proposals quite often,” says Jordon. “People do it in different and creative ways: Sometimes we help by putting the ring in a champagne glass or on a dessert tray.

Readers’ Choice: Treaty of Paris
“Our historical building and historical value of the hotel lends itself to the romantic atmosphere,” says Paul Scime, food and beverage director at Treaty of Paris. “It’s dates back to a long history.”

Candles on the tables, white tablecloths, attractively garnished foods and a good wine selection also lend to romance.

Treaty of Paris finds couples coming back for new helpings of romance.

“We do get people coming through who came here on their honeymoons,” says Scime. “We do host numerous weddings in the hotel, and often people come back for anniversaries.”

Editors’ Choice: Northwoods Restaurant
Northwoods, an Annapolis tradition at 19 years old, is the place we invariably think of when we’re out to celebrate or splurge.

With its complete dinner specials (every night but Saturday) you select three courses — appetizer, entree and dessert from anything on the menu, as well as specials — for $33 and feast like kings and queens.

When recent guests failed to show (that’s another story), leaving two of us to dine alone, we discovered another dimension at Northwoods. Setting and service are so elegantly unobtrusive that only the superb food and intoxicating wine stood between us. So we polished them off, and it was just us two, and we didn’t mind at all.

Most Scenic Restaurant ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Chart House

More than the food makes a good meal. A spectacular view adds delicious flavor for your eyes while your taste buds enjoy the cuisine and beverages.

“We’re the only true waterfront restaurant in Annapolis,” says Chart House’s Anthony Felli. Remodeled after Hurricane Isabel last year, Chart House sits on a square dock from which you can also enjoy watching the boats and marina life.

“We always make sure people get window tables, if we can,” says Fell. The lounge, at the end of the dock, has a 30-foot vault-ceiling that gives the area a roomy, open-air feeling. The lounge also boasts the best view in the house. While sipping your Chardonnay before dinner, you can gaze from the Eastport bridge to the Naval Academy grounds.

Readers’ Choice: Pirates Cove
Pirates Cove brings diners right to the water, as well. If you eat on the patio, you’re actually right over the water. Inside, large picture windows let you look out over the West River and watch the boats sailing in the mid distance or docking close at hand. Some seats face you straight down a long pier filled with boats.

“People enjoy the unique setting, situated right on the waterfront,” says Bob Platt, owner of Pirates Cove. “They like the scenic vista.”

Indeed you do, Bay Weekly readers said.

Best Splurge Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Lewnes’ Steakhouse

If you’re one of the few who wines and dines routinely, count yourself lucky. If your pocketbook limits your ability to indulge your appetite, you make special dining a special occasion. Readers voted Lewnes’ Steakhouse as their favorite place to splurge.

What compliments does Lewnes’ hear the most?

“They like the quality of our wine list and the quality of our beef,” says manager Eric Peterson. “And they say our personable staff makes for quality service.”

Lewnes’ tries to make your splurge worth it with a large portion size: the New York strip is 18 ounces, and the fillet is 14 ounces. If you choose fish, you’ll still get your fill and more. Tuna and salmon are both 12-ounces portions.

“Customer service and quality product,” says Peterson. That’s the secret.

Best Place for a Cheap Date
Readers’ Choice: Happy Harbor Inn

It’s no surprise Happy Harbor continues to be a favorite place for a cheap date. While most restaurants hereabouts price themselves into the D.C. Market, Happy Harbor remembers it’s here in Chesapeake Country, where people work for a living. Where else can you pay last-century prices, eat well and top it off with a water view?

Of course, you could also top it off with cake. Happy Harbor’s tall cakes — chocolate, German chocolate, carrot and coconut — are almost irresistible. Almost, because helpings are big at breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you might have to skip the meal to eat the cake. Cooking is American standard, with a Chesapeake flavor so you can satisfy your cravings for meatloaf, creamed chipped beef, a thick cut of prime rib or a very good crabcake. Side dishes include kale and sweet potatoes.

Happy Harbor’s where real locals go, so you’ll see your neighbors, old-timers and newcomers, too.

“Most people say it’s the cheapest date in town, and now they can go on vacation,” says owner Barbara Sturgell.

Editors’ Choice: Mexican Cafe
Mexican Cafe’s laid-back, intimate atmosphere borders on the fun side of casual, which makes it a great place for a no-stress date. With Mexican music in the background, you’ll feel like travelers stumbling upon a jewel of a restaurant in Mexico, far from busy Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis.

Authentic-style Mexican and El Salvadorian food includes favorites like burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, flautas, quesadillas and even get a stuffed avocado, battered and deep-fried. The menu range will allow for you and your date to find cuisine to your likings, without breaking your wallet: Dinner selections are almost all under $10.

Known for their tasty margaritas, it’s also exactly the type of Mexican restaurant that the makers of Corona had in mind. We think your date will agree.

Best Bakery
Readers’ Choice: Carlson’s Bakery

At Carlson’s in both Annapolis and Edgewater, morning customers line up almost to the door. They wait patiently for cups of coffee, milk or soda. But they can get that anywhere. What they can’t get just anywhere, and the reason they wait, are Carlson’s fresh-baked donuts.

“We’ve been making donuts exactly this way,” says Carlson’s owner July Juriyachaiwat, “for the last 30 years.”

Their customer’s appreciate the hard work and have voted Carlson’s as the Best Bakery in Chesapeake Country.

Juriyachaiwat says her success is due to those loyal customers who come in everyday for the donuts made from scratch.

“They are our best advertising,” she says of the loyal customers who start arriving early in the morning and continue streaming in throughout the day.

And if there are too many carbs in Carlson’s donuts for your diet, you’ve got an alternative: Try the Guay Teow Kee Mao Talay. As well as donuts, Carlson’s also serves Thai food.

Editors’ Choice: Great Harvest Bread Co.
Great Harvest is a great bakery. The shop is filled with the mouth-watering smell of freshly baked breads and sweets. Trays of freshly baked goodies line the walls waiting for you.

A loaf of grocery store-bought bread may last a week or two before getting too moldy to eat, while a loaf of honey-wheat bread from Great Harvest tastes so good that it is gobbled up in a few days. But you can enjoy it for up to 10 days, even though owner Linda Rodrock says Great Harvest uses no preservatives.

Sandwiches taste better on freshly cut, home-made bread. Toast is crispier. Cookies are tastier. Scones are soft and flavorful.

And better yet, try before you buy. A counter of samplings of the day’s breads and desserts give you a generous taste of the different treats, from cranberry to rosemary bread to basic wheat and white, plus desserts that can curl toes with pleasure.

Though pricier than run-of-the-mill loaves at the grocery store, Great Harvest makes up for it in flavor and heartiness.
Great Harvest calls itself a scratch-bakery, meaning they bake from scratch and grind their own wheat every day. They also knead the dough by hand. Honey whole wheat and honey white breads are baked every day. There are daily breads and monthly breads, including apple strapple for September.

Best Deli ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Chick & Ruth’s Delly

Despite its odd spelling of delly, Chick & Ruth’s is as close to a real Jewish deli as you can get in 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 fried eggs with piles of fried potatoes. Then again, it can be an ice-cream parlor, where you sit up at the counter on a short bar stool or slip into neat little tables to sip giant milkshakes. Around again, it’s the insiders hangout, where local politicians each have a sandwich named in their honor. Readers packed a lot into this vote.

Readers’ Choice: Giolitti Delicatessen
Travel in Italy, and you’ll fall in love with the little places you buy the wonders Italians serve at antipasti. 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 the best selection of Italian wines in Bay Country. 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 chilled 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.

“I do things the old-fashioned way, making our own breads and salad dressings from scratch,” says Mary Giolitti. “It’s in the customer service: We really take care of you.”

Readers’ Choice: Robert’s Fresh-Baked 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 sandwich 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: Woodburn’s
There’s more than one reason we wished we lived in Solomons or even nearer to it, but as this is written on an empty stomach, the one that stands out is Woodburn’s. It’s the kind of grocery store you’d expect in Annapolis and long for wherever you live. Why, you think, if a town the size of Solomons can support family-owned Woodburn’s, can’t Edgewater or Prince Frederick or — dare we say it? — Deale?

Of course it’s not just the grocery we long for. It’s the many good things already prepared to eat in — in a very comfortable little cafe — or carry out. First, there’s a coffee bar, where you can grab a cup of Seattle’s Best coffee with a warm, just-from-the-oven muffin — or come back later in the day for a pick-me-up.
Come back hungry a little later in the day and raid their enormous salad bar. Need meat? Visit the wing bar or the sandwich counter, where six or eight paninis — grilled overstuffed sandwiches — are showcased.

Want soup with your lunch? Maryland crab is almost always on the menu, plus seafood chowder, fragrant lobster bisque and another surprise or two.

Prefer fish? Have a pound of shrimp steamed while you wait or choose fresh sushi made before your eyes.
Don’t forget sides. There’s a large cold deli, with homemade potato, pasta salads. Fresh fruit, seafood quiche, sun-dried tomato pasta, Neptune salad and couscous.

Prefer a hot lunch? That’s here, too, in the hot deli with its steam table of casseroles, vegetables and barbecue. Some days you’ll find liver and onions, smothered chicken, meatloaf and fried perch. Everyday you’ll find round roast beef, oven-golden turkey breast or sweet smoked ham dinners with two sides and corn bread for.

Pizza and pasta is created here, too. Pasta is cooked al dente and pizza is sold whole or by the slice.
What’s distance when you’re headed for rewards like that? Woodburn’s, here we come.

Best Brunch ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Carrol’s Creek Cafe

Sunday brunch here combines the three main meals into one sitting. And so it is at Carrol’s Creek. Fresh bagels, breads and muffins, omelets made to order, chipped beef and 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.

The view doesn’t hurt, but having a large assortment and fresh food are the keys to a great brunch, says Carrol’s Creek manager Richard McClure. “The brunch here is a tradition,” says he.

Readers’ Choice: Rod ’n’ Reel Restaurant
Yes, Bay Weekly readers know they really shouldn’t do it. But Rod ‘n’ Reel’s stupendous Sunday brunch simply can’t be resisted. The variety of food, service and the number of action stations for waffles, omelets and donuts keep people coming back.

For the fourth year, 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: Harry Browne’s
Ah, brunch! Who doesn’t love a breakfast that comes with champagne? Our favorite is Harry Browne’s on State Circle in Annapolis, for its location and its classic and tasty brunch selection. With made-to-order gourmet omelet station, biscuits and gravy, scrapple, soup of the day, crab dip and bread and lunch offering that vary weekly), not to mention dessert pastries and a make-your own-Bloody Mary bar, it’s a great way to finish off the weekend.

Best Pizza
Readers’ Choice: Ledo Pizza

When Bay Weekly readers want a slice of pizza pie, they order at Ledo.

What makes Ledo pizza so desired? “It’s all in the ingredients,” says Robert Beall, says Ledo CEO and owner.

“We do everything fresh right in the store. We hand-make the dough every two hours, the sauce is made every day, the cheese ground every day, and all our produce and meat are local.”

It’s not just the ingredients that you love but also their quantity. Ledo loads cheese and toppings on each of their creations.

“We really pile it on,” says Beall, “A pound of smoked provolone cheese and pretty substantial amount of toppings goes onto the pizzas.”

These pizzas are square, too, meaning you get more for your money than at the competition, says Beall.

Aside from the tasty pie, Ledo tries to create a casual dining atmosphere, one where you can bring the kids.

“It’s a great place for families and children,” says Beall, if you choose to eat in rather than carry out.

Editors’ Choice: Vic’s Italia by the Bay
We’ve eaten them all, but we go back time and again to Italia by the Bay. Cook Joe Frederickson thinks the secret’s in 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.” Roll that crust thin and bake it in an Italian brick oven, and it’s yeasty and chewy as you bite toward the crisp edges. Top it with homemade sauce but not too thick, and you’re on your way to a fine pizza — unless, like us, you love a white pizza rich with cheese and tangy with garlic.

Best Mexican Restaurant ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Jalapeños

Whether you’re in the mood for a quesadilla, a margarita or looking to brush up on your Spanish, you’ve got many food choices in Chesapeake. Two stood out to Bay Weekly readers: Jalapeños for fine dining and Chevy’s Fresh Mex for family dining.

Jalapeños takes Mexican food a step farther by also adding Spanish cuisine.

“We use very traditional recipes and native ingredients,” says Jalapeños’ owner Gonzolo Fernandez, whose pleasure it is to treat his customers to different recipes than you’d find elsewhere.

Not only do readers’ palates appreciate the flavors but Spanish/Mexican ambiance attracts customers, too.

“We try to make people feel like they are in Spain or in Mexico,” says Fernandez, who attains the authentic in indoor arches and decor as well as the food. Doubled in size over the last year, the restaurant has lived up to the challenge. It’s still intimate and the food is just as good.

A third thing that hasn’t changed, says Fernandez, is that “we all understand the customer is number one.”

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.”

Readers’ Choice: Chevy’s Fresh Mex
At Chevy’s, the food is Tex/Mex and the setting a border village at fiesta time. It’s a chain, but a good one, in flavor, atmosphere and service.

“We do everything fresh. Fish, chicken and vegetables are all made on the premises,” says Willy Wilson, manager at Chevy’s. “We even make the chocolate sauce ourselves.”

And Chevy’s customers, says Wilson, come for the portions and the meals that come out to their tables quickly.

Best Asian Restaurant
Readers’ Choice: Yin Yankee Cafe

Asian food is diversifying in Chesapeake Country. From Chinese to Vietnamese to Japanese to Thai, we’ve expanded in the new century to fusion. This year it’s one of those — where dishes from all those countries finished, as the name suggests, with an American touch — that wins highest honors among Bay Weekly readers. Your favorite place for a taste of the Orient, your votes said, is Yin Yankee Cafe, off Main Street in Annapolis.

“We don’t compromise by using pasteurized foods,” says Yin Yankee’s Jerry Trice, “And we only use fresh and local products, which we don’t skimp on.”

Patrons like that they can eat sushi or choose other Asian cuisine, if they’re not sushi-eaters. Says Trice, “There’s something for everyone.” With a new menu, the most popular item has been the jade-seared tuna, the restaurant’s signature item.

Editors’ Choice: Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar
Once again, we couldn’t resist Joss Cafe and Sushi Bar on Main Street in downtown Annapolis, serving creative and always delicious entrees for lunch and dinner. Seating and space are still limited and waits can be long, but the sushi is so good we’ll adjust our schedules to theirs or put our name on the list and take a stroll.

Best Crab House
Readers’ Choice: Cantler’s Riverside Inn

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 and the din of voices makes it too difficult for any serious conversation.

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

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. Work boats, including the ones that bring the fresh catch in, and pleasure boats — possibly yours among them, are tied up at the dock. Some say you can find Cantler’s more easily by water than by land.

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.

“Authenticity,” says Cantler’s Dan Donnelly, “that’s why we stand out. We’re the last of what you would picture as a true authentic crab house.”

Editors’ Choice: Skippers’ Pier
Living by the Bay brings the expectation of fresh, good crabs. But 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, though with crab populations apparently declining, prices remain high even this late in the season.
Crabs are always steamed to order (believe it or not, that’s not the rule), served hot, liberally seasoned and beautifully arrayed. What more could you want?

Attentive service? You’ll get that, too, plus a grand creek-side view. Rebuilt since Hurricane Isabel devastated it, Skipper’s has replaced its pink tent with an open-faced pavilion. So on those upcoming cool nights when crabs taste so good, you can eat your crabs outdoors and still be cozy.

Best Crabcake
Readers’ Choice: Edgewater Restaurant

Bay Weekly readers say they find their favorite crabcakes at Edgewater Restaurant.

The family recipe doesn’t escape the Edgewater kitchen, but once you’ve tasted one, it’s no secret why Edgewater’s crabcakes are highly sought after.

“We use quality crabmeat and an old family recipe,” says Don Davis of Edgewater Restaurant. “It’s the large lumps of crabmeat in our crabcakes that people love.”

The backfin cake is a creamy delicacy with big lumps, the more expensive jumbo lump cake is true to its billing.

“Come early,” says Davis, “because there’s often a line.” He recommends between 4 and 5pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and before 4pm on weekends. Fridays and Saturdays, you can enjoy them at lunch, too, but it’s likely to be crowded.

Best Crab Soup ~ tied
Readers’ Choice: Pirates Cove

“Our only secret is having a good recipe and sticking with it,” says Bob Platt, owner of Pirates Cove, where you add the sherry yourself.

Readers’ Choice: Carrol’s Creek Café
“People like how rich it is,” says Carrol’s Creek manager Richard McClure, “We use large lumps of crabmeat.”

Editors’ Choice: The 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 The 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’ Choice: Cantler’s Riverside Inn

Nobody wants a leathery softshell, and Bay Weekly readers and editors agree that you won’t find one at Cantler’s, where they shed their own crabs that you can see for yourself.

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.

“Our fluffing tank is right downstairs, so customers can actually see the crabs going through the process of becoming a soft shell crab, says Cantler’s Dan Donnelly “So our customers know it’s fresh.”

Don’t expect anything fancy but these fine crabs. 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

If your tastes run towards steak than seafood, you may agree with Bay Weekly readers, who voted Lewnes’ Steakhouse steaks as their favorite.

You can’t make steaks like these at home. Not without an 1800 degree broiler to sear the steaks properly, says manager Eric Peterson. Lewnes’ steaks are seasoned and finally topped off with butter before they arrive at your table.

And the making of a good steak is in the main ingredient.

“We only use top quality USDA prime wet-aged steak,” says Peterson.

Best Barbecue
Readers’ Choice: Adam’s The Place for Ribs

Adam’s the Place for Ribs is a sit-down family restaurant serving a consistently good product, whether you’re looking for ribs, beef or pork sandwiches, and that’s why Bay Weekly readers again voted it best barbecue on the Bay.

“I have a passion for food and I enjoy barbecue,” said owner Billy Bagdasian. “We buy the best ribs available and pay attention to the cooking process. “I don’t consider myself a purist. I don’t smoke the ribs; I roast them in an oven,” Bagdasian admits. “But if you want a tender, falling-off-the-bone rib with a sweet sauce, you’ll like these.”

Besides ribs, Adam’s also serves a pulled pork sandwich that straddles the barbecue line: you can order it with the traditional sweet, ketchup-based sauce; or you can opt for a side of the vinegar-and-red pepper-based Carolina pig pickin’ sauce. With ribs or the pork sandwich, don’t be afraid to experiment - order both sauces. Adam’s also offers a good barbecue beef sandwich with a Texas-style bourbon sauce as well as barbecue chicken so moist the meat drops from the bone.

“We get senior citizens, kids, empty nesters, young couples,” Bagdasian said. “It just shows you the appeal of barbecue.”

Best Burger
Readers’ Choice: Cheeburger Cheeburger

Classic all-American fare, the burger, is popular both at home on the grill and in fancy and casual restaurants alike. This staple menu item at most American-style restaurants can be done up any number of ways, but Bay Weekly readers told us where they go the most.

Winning readers’ approval again is Cheeburger Cheeburger.

Their secret?
“The key to end up with good sandwich is to start with good meat, ” says owner Aaron Benjamin. “We use 100 percent black Angus ground chuck, hand portion them every day and slow-cook them at 350 degree the old-fashioned way, no seasoning added, so juices are cooked. ”

Editors' Choice: Outback Steak House
A good burger is one of life’s great pleasures, but it’s getting harder and harder to find. With scares over beef from e-coli, mad cow disease and more, many larger restaurants now serve their burgers only medium to well-done, which says something about either their beef, their cooks or both. Smaller restaurants and even bars, where you can often find great burgers, can be plagued with inconsistent results from different cooks focusing on a wide range of foods to prepare.

But beef is the specialty at Outback Steak House, and their burgers are good. Whether you’re ordering rare or medium to well, your burger comes perfectly prepared and never dry or chewy. Loaded with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup and mustard and set on a lightly toasted bun, these burgers are juicy to the point of messiness. Dress it up as you like, with bacon, cheese, onions. Just keep plenty of napkins handy, and don’t be surprised if you wind up wrapping half up for later, for these burgers are hefty.

Best French Fries
Readers’ Choice: Cheeburger Cheeburger

Behind every great burger there stands great fries. Not only did Bay Weekly readers favor Cheeburger Cheeburger burgers; you also voted their fries the best around.

What is it that makes Cheeburger fries so popular? The secret’s in the ingredients.

“We use fresh cut potatoes and use 100 percent peanut oil. Then we season with a blend of garlic salt and black pepper,” says owner Aaron Benjamin. “You just can’t take a frozen product and make them taste as good as when you use fresh cut.”

Editors’ Choice: Fresh Cut
No doubt about it, the best fries are fresh cut. We like ours to taste like potato; otherwise, we say skip the fries. We’ve never said that yet at Cheeburger Cheeburger or at Edgewater Restaurant, which cuts their own potatoes with the skins on and fries them to order. Spicy seasoning makes a fry that we find hard to pass up, too. Give us a boardwalk fry soaked in vinegar, and we’ll promise to eat it.

Best Wings
Readers’ Choice: Bill Bateman’s Bistro

When in Buffalo, the Anchor Bar is the place for wings. In Chesapeake Country, Bill Bateman’s in Severna Park won our readers over with its wide selection of wings.

“Wings have always been a trademark of Bill Bateman’s Bistro. We offer a large variety of sauces and spices to compliment 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 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
Readers’ Choice: Middleton Tavern

The best oysters, voters said, are at Middleton Tavern in downtown Annapolis. Chesapeake oysters are in season only from October to March — if you can get them, since wild native oysters are now scarce as hen’s teeth. Middleton Tavern serves oysters all year round.

Middleton gets their wild oysters from Bay’s Best Seafood, which brings them in from both Louisiana and from the Bay before serving them up on your plate — or in your glass.

Slurp them raw on the half shell or as shooters if that’s your taste. Prefer them cooked? Enjoy them roasted Rockefeller style or breaded and fried New Orleans style in an oyster loaf.

“I think that people just like oysters,” says Middleton’s chef Arthur Gross. “We just do the best job that we can — there’s no big secret.”

Editors’ Choice: Circle C Oyster Ranch
We love oysters anyway and any place we can get them fresh and local. Living in Chesapeake Country used to mean you could get them directly from oystermen who’d harvested them that very day. But nowadays oystermen are scraping bottom; Crassostrea virginica is getting scarcer and scarcer. Farm-raised oysters are likely the best bet to satisfy your craving for oysters that grew big in Chesapeake Waters, purifying our waters as they grew.

At Circle C Oyster Ranch in St. Mary’s County, Richard Pelz farms his oysters on Floating Oyster Reefs three-by-10-foot trademarked floats of white PVC tubing. Each reef is seeded with some 1,200 inch-long oysters, lashed to the reefs in mesh sacks suspended inches below the surface of the creek.

Water-column aquaculture, as Pelz’s method is known, places oysters in a zone of food and oxygen where they can feast on the fresh algae that grow there naturally. Managed in this environment, Pelz says he’s grown oysters from larvae to four inches in only nine months.

That’s about the time you step in to change their job from water filter to dinner.

Drive down Route 235 in St. Mary’s County to Airdale Road, and you can buy Circle Cs on the dock where they grew. Last season, we paid $6 a dozen. Shopping at Woodburn’s Market in Solomons, we paid a few dollars more a dozen for Circle Cs.

Order Circle Cs trademark Lineback on the half shell at McCormick & Schmick — an upscale West Coast seafood restaurant with Bethesda and Baltimore Inner Harbor locations — and you’ll pay far more. Circle Cs are on the menu there and at a dozen more fancy restaurants, from Leonardtown to D.C.

The R months are back on our calendar, so oysters are in season again (www.oysterranching.com).

Best Kids’ Menu
Readers’ Choice: Double T Diner

A menu that satisfies both kids and adults is often hard to come by. The children in Chesapeake Country may not be voting for their favorite menu, but their parents sure appreciate a place where both sides of the family will be happy.

There’s really no secret says owner John Kolendrianos: “We just try to have a really big selection.”

Adults might want a big fat gyro platter or salad with their ice cream soda, but the kids, say Kolendrianos, like chicken tenders, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and fried chicken.

The shiny, streamlined retro design and amazing dessert case make the diner a destination for all ages, as do the comfy booths and miniature juke box at each table. Crayons for coloring place mats also keep the youngsters happy until the food gets to the table. All that is why Kolendrianos says his diner sees a lot of families.

Editors' Choice: Bertucci's
Going out with the kids can be tough, because the excitement of a restaurant combined with children’s inherently picky eating habits can make for a stressful dining experience for the parents. But even the pickiest eater loves pizza, and Bertucci’s thin crust, brick-oven pie is hard to beat. Or maybe your little one would prefer the oh-so creamy macaroni and cheese, or perhaps the chicken fingers. Portions from the kids menu should fill up your little one until the near-teens. All come served with soda or milk in spill-proof cups and a cup of ice cream for dessert.

Bertucci’s kids menu isn’t as cheap as the fast food joints, but this isn’t fast food, as the menu offers enough depth and substance to keep the grown-ups happy, too.

Best Dessert
Readers’ Choice: The Melting Pot

When cakes and pies won’t quite cut it for dessert, Bay Weekly readers go for the gooey rich chocolate fondue pot.

You tell us you like to dip pineapple and cherries into the Melting Pot’s fondues of many flavors, from chocolate to white chocolate to hazelnut. We believe you.
Editors’ Choice: Main Ingredient

German chocolate cake, key lime pie, chocolate mousse pie and birthday cakes to order: These are just a sampling of favorite baked goods that you can get at most bakeries, grocery stores and now even big box stores. But if you want the best, Bay Weekly editors agree The Main Ingredient consistently serves the highest quality deserts in the area.

Whether you order a slice after dining in the restaurant or pick-up from the catering department for that special occasion, we find the chocolate more sinful, the cheesecake more cheesy and the decorations more artistic. The Main Ingredient is a cut above.

Best Place for Ice Cream ~ TIED
Readers’ Choice: Maggie Moo’s

Summer’s best comes in a cone or a bowl for ice cream-lovers. And the favorite place for Bay Weekly’s Annapolis readers is Maggie Moo’s in Festival at Riva.

Maggie Moo’s, where you get your cone and go, offers other advantages. The ice cream is made right here, and it comes in a rainbow of flavors. But best of all is watching as your personal flavor choice is created from toppings mushed right into the ice cream on a cold stone right before your very eyes.

Readers’ Choice: Tastee Freeze
Tastee Freeze in North Beach puts the fun back into eating ice cream. Tastee Freeze has both scoopable and soft, and not only chocolate, vanilla and strawberry but also some fun flavors. Here you take your frozen treat to outdoors tables, where, if you look one way, you can watch the North Beach action, and, if you look another, Bay and boardwalk action.

Editors' Choice: Annapolis Ice Cream Company
Whether it’s hot out or cold, ice cream’s a year-round favorite. Making an unbeatable treat even better is this year’s addition of Annapolis Ice Cream Company on Main Street of the capital city.

Inside the small storefront, past the tables and chairs and farther behind the glass-cased counter, some serious ice cream making goes on. Like ice cream parlors of yesteryear, Annapolis Ice Cream Company makes its own frozen concoctions on premises, promising that at most, none of its 29 flavors is more than two weeks old.

A recent visit left the kids happy with everyone’s favorites of chocolate and strawberry — made with chunks of the real fruit. Grown-ups loved the more mature flavors of blueberry and raspberry, with lots of berries suspended in a rich, out-of-this-world mixture of sweet cream.

Even if you’re not in the mood to settle in with a cone or a cup — usually a single scoop is more than ample — pick up a pack to take home. Your family will thank you.

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