Simply the Best

New Year’s Eve fireworks at Annapolis City Dock. Photo: Visit Annapolis/Courtesy of Bob Peterson.

By Kathy Knotts, Managing Editor

This is the week we reveal who won in our annual Best of the Bay contest, our reader-driven survey of who you think is the best at what they do here on the Chesapeake Bay. And boy, it was a tough competition this year full of close calls and even a few ties.

Winners are determined by online votes in a variety of categories, such as Dining Out, Night Life, Out & About and more. As always, South County had a strong presence, but we also saw some new picks in the Annapolis area and Calvert County. If your favorites didn’t win, encourage them to campaign next year.

This year we also present our Staff Picks for Best of the Bay. We wanted to highlight a few individuals, locations and businesses that are simply making life better for us at CBM Bay Weekly and deserve some praise. We got creative when it comes to categories, because we can all do with a touch of humor these days, right?

Pirates Cove Restaurant in Galesville wins a Best Community Outreach award this year. Along with the other properties under the Irish Restaurant Company umbrella, Pirates Cove went above and beyond helping out during the height of the pandemic. They fed first responders, kept employees working and hosted fundraiser dinners for a variety of groups. And then they were whammied by flooding in October. Through it all, the staff and management stayed positive and met the challenges head-on. Our CEO John Martino also nominates them for Best Key Lime Pie.

The Best Reality TV Bakers We Can Meet in Real Life award goes to the father-son duo of Tom and Steve O’Leary of Annapolis. They were already local celebrities thanks to the power of the pastry and a cultlike following they have built on social media as the Black Market Bakers, but now that NBC’s Peacock service released the full season of Baking It, a competition food show, the rest of the world knows them, too. Unfortunately, it means the lines at their food truck are just going to get even longer. Sigh.

The town of Crisfield on the Eastern Shore gets our award for Best New Year’s Eve Drop. Created by local boat builders Chesapeake Boats, the town drops a giant 5-foot tall fiberglass oyster to welcome the new year. At midnight the oyster opens up and the pearl inside is a mirrored disco ball. It doesn’t get more Chesapeake Country than that, does it? UPDATE: The Oyster Drop is now Dec. 31 at 11pm.

We have no shortage of great places to eat here on the Bay. If you are looking for a dining experience, we say the Best Paired Dinners are at Harvest Thyme Tavern in Davidsonville. Owner and Chef Rik Squillari knows a lot about great food and great drinks to go with that food. Watch for their special events that feature wine and spirits with an inventive dinner menu. They also do a pretty awesome Sunday brunch, as well.

Executive Vice President Tara Davis nominates Rise Up Coffee’s coffee smoothie as Best Caffeinated Drink in town. And on a hot summer day on the Bay, she says that the Best Grapefruit Crush can be found at The Point.

For you single people out there, CBM Director of Marketing and Client Experience Krista Pfunder has her own award to hand out. Best Place for a First Date goes to Hook & Vine in North Beach. She says she likes its casual and laid-back vibe while offering a robust menu, great drinks and excellent service. When calling for a reservation, staff ask if you are celebrating anything, so be sure to tell them you are coming for a first date. “They don’t hurry you out, but also the food doesn’t take forever to come so it’s usually the perfect amount of time,” she says. Fire pits keep you warm on the outside patio or deck and inside there’s a “cute little bar area.” To make the date longer, she recommends taking a stroll along the boardwalk or browsing nearby shops.

If you like to hit the trails, we nominate the B&A trail for Best Place to Run. CBM Editorial Director Meg Walburn Viviano says it’s one of her favorite places to get some miles in. I personally have become a B&A fan, not for running, but for taking a nature break and spotting what I’ve started calling the #trailchickens. A tiny flock of fowl regularly forages along the trail near my home and they are a small source of delight for me when the world feels a little sad.

Our award for Best Readers goes to you. Thank you for continuing to support CBM Bay Weekly and our advertisers, the small businesses that keep our community running and thriving, even in the darkest times. We like to think we are the region’s best free weekly publication and hope you feel the same. Happy New Year to you and let’s be the collective Best of the Bay in 2022.