Solomons MD recap and crab cake competition (long)
Thanks to Cassie, Johnb, Rosco and Pam's Friend Meg for the tips between DC and PAX NAS.
On the way down, I saw Randy's BBQ. They were still open as I went past around 7:30 and looked like my kind of place. However, I wasn't fully in the mood for BBQ, especially in light of good seafood possibilities, so I cruised on. Ended up seeing all of Rosco's recs, but I was most intrigued by Thompson's, as I wanted to get something and then get to the hotel, rather than sit down for a time. I finally did find Thompsons - it's a little further than I thought by the post, but I found it and it was... closed. For brevity's sake I'll skip the rest of that night, which held nothing more of chow interest.
The next day for lunch I checked out the CD cafe. Nice place. Great service, a place you can tell everyone there puts their heart into. Though I was still dying for some seafood, the beef tips special caught my ear, and I wasn't disappointed. Looked like a great menu. I also kept my eye on the place the whole stay, and though it was during the week, it was obvious that it didn't get the traffic as the places closer to the boardwalk did. On a related note, I tried another day at lunch to hit the Dry Dock, to find they're only open for dinner. It just never fit my plans to be able to get there at that time.
On the evening of my first full day there, I had to get to Thompson's, since I had set my sights on it so firmly the night before. Got there and had a softshell sandwich. They put two crabs on it, for 8.95. Beautiful. My first one, but it was nice and light breading. Only thing about softshells now - you still end up eating the mustard - just seems a bit strange. I also got some crab cakes to go - $6 each, made that day. On a side note, I took it out to the one picnic table on the other side of the parking lot and ate it while watching a nasty storm pass to the north.
The next day for lunch I tried to go to Stoney's outpost in Solomons. Service was so bad from the front door that I turned my back and left. I ended up making it on a hunch over to Clarkes Landing Inn. Wonderful spot that appears largely undiscovered until you get close and read the sign that they recommend reservations be made. I had the crab cake sandwich which was divine. Nearly no filler whatsoever, and they used big chunks of crab. Choice of broiled or fried, so I took broiled. Nicely done homemade chips and some good slaw rounded it out. They even served it on a nice platter and the cost was in the range of $15. This is in my list of must visits now for down there. Oh, and I also got the cream of crab soup which was also excellent.
The next day had me heading home. I had in mind the Westlawn Inn as rec'd, and I saw many other favorable reviews, but I also spotted that they closed for lunch at 1:30 and I doubted I could easily get there by then. So I chose to try the Stoneys on Broomes Island.
I'll just break down the Stoney's thing by comparison. I got their famous family crab soup and a crab cake - to give it a run against Clarkes Landing. It cost more, the ambiance is telling of a popular spot, they played Jimmy Buffet incessantly (big neg in my book), they used a styrofoam platter, I think I could only get it fried, and while it was good, there was certainly more filler, small strands of crab with few chunks. There were no chips but more slaw than Clarkes, but the slaw seemed to be exactly half way btwn mayo based and vinegar based. Not a good option to try to please everyone that way. I like both ways of slaw and found this not very appealing at all.
To round out the crab cake comparison, I broiled up the ones from Thompsons last night after getting home. Taste wise I preferred them the best, with a close second by Clarkes. Not the big chunks like Clarkes, but not as stringy as Stoney's.
All in all, I think that Stoney's may be suffering from their success? Even for hard shells, if I'm ever down there again, with all the other options, I don't see myself making it to Stoney's again.
I agree with your crab cake competition notes between Stoneys and Clarke's Landing, although both have their ups and downs, and the service at both is rather mediocre (never having been to Thompsons). I prefer the Broomes Island location of Stoneys as it takes a bit more effort to get there, and you are rewarded with the dock view of the Pax. On a side note, Stoneys has bought Solomons Pier, and is just getting it up and running. They have a limited menu for now, (includes the crab cake), and it looks like they are shooting for a bar/pub atmosphere (at least downstairs, the upstairs isn't finished yet). The deck bar is beautiful for cocktails, sitting directly over the Pax, and is 21 and up only, but they have a small family section inside.
If you were on a seafood hunt, you should have had one of the fish specials at CD Cafe. They do some creative and good things there. My husband never orders off the regular menu anymore, always opting for a fish special.
I'm sorry you missed the Dry Dock, it is one of my favorites here, along with CDs (the back door cafe at CDs has a great small plate menu). Dry Dock requires reservations for dining inside, but has an outside covered porch that doesn't. The menus changes daily, but always has a surf and turf option (filet and crab cake), several fish dishes, including shell fish, and choices of chicken, pork, and veggies usually. Usually well prepared and flexible for dietary concerns too.
For hard crab feasts, nothing beats my back yard - sorry. We catch them off the dock, feed them all week so they are fat and sweet, then toss them in the pot w/ old bay and beer. (sorry)
Thanks for the excellent report. Sounds like Thompsons and Clarkes qualify as chow worthy destinations. I especially hope to get down to Solomons and try the crabcake at Clarkes some day soon.
Your experience at Stoney's on Broome Island is eerily reminicent of my own visit there two years ago. The first crabcake they brought was questionable so I sent it back and they brought me a new one which was much better. So the meal was good in the end but the lapse made one wonder. I posted about it at the time. I have been to the Stoney's on Solomons since and it was fine if not spectacular.
I know that there are times for this and times not to do this, but in taking this trip, that whole area really isn't that far, and I came from Reston. I think it's not a bad day trip to make it down to that general area, and certainly not too bad to make it as far as Thompson's.
I think this applies even more when looking for a real crab feast - everyone has them, they're cheap as heck, and they're everywhere. When I do a feast, it's a multi hour event, why not drive an hour or more to make it right (and more affordable).
And how Thompsons is a joint (and you are correct - but they are nice and friendly), what about the bar/package liquor/drivethru liquor store next door? I forget the name, but I did want a can of beer with my sandwich so I popped in over there. I don't think I've seen a place like that since I grew up near the Missouri River.