By Judy Colbert
Good food, great service, and a place that feels like home are some reasons restaurants hang around decade after decade. Many continue to serve dishes that were on the menu when the restaurant first opened; some have changed with the times.
Despite a pandemic, retirements, and expiring leases causing some restaurants to close their doors permanently, there are a few that survive—and even thrive. Here are a few of Chesapeake Country’s oldest and dearest.
Ann’s Dari-Creme has been feeding as many as 1,000 hungry tummies a day for more than seven decades. Famed for their deep fried foot-long hot dogs (people order dozens before a long trip or to ship to far-flung locales), burgers, and milkshakes, they’re also known for waitresses who never write down orders. A secret menu means that you can create your favorite milkshake flavor (chocolate-banana, pineapple-orange). Their success is due to the many customers who have been coming for 50 or 60 years, says manager Cindy Lombard, who’s been at Ann’s for 47 years. The popularity may soon be tested as a Royal Farms gas station moves next door. 7918 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie. 410-761-1231, Facebook: @annsdaricremeofficial
Carrol’s Creek Cafe, a waterfront dining seafood restaurant, is a relative newcomer to this list, in that it has only been around since 1985. However, their selection of seafood and steak, the view of Spa Creek, and an enthusiastic and efficient staff make it a regular favorite. The fact that it is free of peanuts and tree nuts helps for those with allergies. As can be expected, many couples come here to celebrate their first date and other family memories created many years ago and since. Happy hour with half-price apps Sunday thru Friday 5-8pm. 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis, 410-263-8102: carrolscreek.com
Cantler’s Riverside Inn is the place for all things crabs, including crab soup and soft shells (straight from the dock shedding tanks), with indoor and outdoor dining options. There’s free docking for patrons arriving by boat and limited parking for those coming by car. Offering fresh seafood since Jimmy and Linda Cantler opened the place in 1974, the idyllic setting along Mill Creek is almost reason enough to visit. If you don’t like seafood, they have other options on the menu. Look for the specials board at the end of the bar. Come wintertime, check for the Friday night “buck a shuck” oyster special. 458 Forest Beach Rd., Annapolis, 410-757-1311: cantlers.com
Neptune’s Seafood Pub in North Beach has been serving original culinary creations, seafood, burgers, steaks and salads since 1985. Chef Bill Sherman may serve “Bad Ass” wings with Thai peanut sauce and Gouda mashers, but the steamed mussels (Thai with sesame, garlic, and butter) seem to be the food item that draws people regularly to this corner pub on Mussels Mondays. The crab cakes are pretty good, too. Three big screen TV sets show plenty of sports. Open for lunch and dinner daily (25 percent off all beverages at the bar 3-7pm daily) and Sunday brunch (11am-2pm). I recommend the Benedict Neptune. 8800 Chesapeake Ave., North Beach, 410-257-7899: neptunesseafoodpub.com
The Frying Pan has been dishing up home-style Southern Maryland breakfast with such classics as corned beef hash, grits, country ham and eggs, scrapple, and create-your-own omelets since 1969. Special combo breakfasts are available for those 10 and under and those 65 and over. Schedule the seafood platter (flounder, shrimp, scallops, oysters, clams, and crab cake) for your super hungry dining experience. Or, plan to visit for a Sunday through Thursday dinner special. Note: there’s no microwave oven on the premises. Be prepared to feel like you’re visiting your extended family with cousin Sally at one table, Uncle Frank at another, and other kin cooking and serving. Or, as they say, “come in as a stranger and leave as friends.” 9895 H G Trueman Rd., Lusby, 410-326-1125, Facebook: @TheFryingPan.
Traders Seafood Steak Ale used to be called Seabreeze, when Bill O’Mara established it in 1956. Over 50 years later, it changed hands a few times, and then Jim and Gary Luckett bought the restaurant in 2000 and renamed it, keeping the atmosphere and many long-time employees. Repairs after a 2008 tornado brought renovations and an outdoor deck for drinks and dining. While they offer freshly caught local seafood, they also have steaks, chicken, and burgers. The crab imperial is their signature dish. Check for their drink of the month and dessert of the month. There’s also an active electronics game room. 8132 Bayside Rd., Chesapeake Beach, 301-855-0766: traders-eagle.com