Recommendations for St. MarysCity & Williamsburg
My daughter and I will be heading to St Marys College & William & Mary for College tour ..summer '07 in a few weeks. Any favorite places for some nice father/daughter meals? We are both big seafood and asian cuisine fans. Thanks!
May be too late, but my favorite W'burg restaurant is Whitehall, with the Trellis and Blue Talon in close second. It's down the street from the Chicahominy House about 5 - 10 minutes from campus. Delicious European dining and service that I think would make a very special father/daughter evening. And for those of drinking age, they recently renovated their bar into an incredible lounge that's more reminiscent of Manhattan than W'burg. I believe they serve a full menu in the bar.
I was back down at my friend's cabin this past weekend, and I finally got to try the Brome Howard Inn. I had the Chicken Orzo soup, the appetizer of tomatoes (reportedly grown on the premises), fresh mozerella, olive oil and basil, the "Fruits of the Sea" entree (mussles, shrimp, sea bass and calamari in a spicy tomato broth over orzo, rice on the side - an odd "double starch" if you think about it), and a blueberry cobbler for dessert.
All of them were quite nice, but there just wasn't a "Wow!" for me, though there wasn't anything that I would consider out of line in pricing, or lacking in execution. Given that I was dining late on a Saturday night, it may very well be that fatigue was setting in in the kitchen just enough to drop things a couple notches back from "their best". Even the best get tired. after a full service on a weekend night.I think that if I went back, I might try one of the their meat entrees, since other than the "mandatory" crab cake, none of the seafood dishes seemed to take advantage of the local catch.
I still feel that the place is worth a visit. It's a lovely location, and the kitchen is clearly quite capable and creative. As I said, I may simply have caught them at a time when they weren't at the top of their game.
On Sunday, I had the three-course prix fixe dinner ($21.95 - available 5-6 PM M-Sat, 12-6 Sunday) at Cafe des Artistes in Leonardtown. I think this is the "fine dining" bargain of the entire area. I had a lovely potato-leek soup, an entree of Vietnamese Catfish ("Swai") in a lemon caper butter sauce with rice and steamed broccoli, and the chocolate fondant for dessert. Every item of the meal was prepared with care and precision, and it just all worked really well. One got the sense of a chef who was really "on". Of course, it may have helped that I was the first customer of the afternoon! Whatever the reason, it was one of the best meals I've had in a good while, and I think the secret was simply the obvious care and attention to every detail that raised it from the level of "competent" to "what the chef is really capable of". It's not often I feel that the old line about "give my compliments to the chef" is warranted, but this was one, and I explained to the waitress/hostess exactly why I was so pleased. I hope the message got passed on.
The only thing that distressed me a bit at both places is that Southern Maryland is a bountiful place for both seafood, meat, and produce. It seems a shame that I haven't seen more evidence among the restaurants to foster an appreciation for the use of local ingredients. In some areas, that sort of thing is much harder to do, because suburban sprawl has pushed farm life further and further from city centers. One hopes that the local chefs and cooks appreciate the advantages they have. I suppose, though, that it may be so natural to take advantage of local supply that they see no need to even mention it, but I still see a lot of items on the menus that are clearly "from someplace else" - the Vietnamese catfish, while delicious, being one example.
Your last paragraph really tugged at me. I lived in St. Mary's County for about ten years in the 70s and early 80s. The situation was *exactly* the same then -- very tough to find anything local unless you dealth with the Amish. A true Farmers' Market was unheard of; corn by the side of 235, maybe, but not much else. I asked a farmer to sell small zucchini to me instead of the behemoths he offered and he actually laughed. "I sell by the pound" he answered, "why would I pick 'em small?". No amount of explanation that I'd happily pay more made a difference.
As for a fish market, forget about it. With the exception of Thompson's, quite a way up the road (i.e. north) of town, there was no place to buy the abundant fresh fish. If you had a dock or a friend with a dock, crab pots were an option but buying local rockfish, bluefish, etc was impossible.
Today, the situation is even a bit more grim with the proliferation of chain eateries. I'll be there early next month and will plan a meal at Broome Howard as well as Cafe des Artistes.
Thanks for the post.
In Williamsburg -
Emerald on Rt 60 towards Busch Gardens has good Asian with a Thai slant.
Also, Chez Trinh on Monticello behind Books a Million has very good Asian with a Korean slant. When the Asian journalists come for the LPGA tourny they return every year to Chez T.
I like the delis. We are usually at Paul's after every home basketball game. I don't know if I would go now. They will probably be very quiet during the summer.
For a good, casual breakfast, lunch or dinner you can also check out Aromas, a coffee cafe on Prince George St. It is a big student hangout.
(my husband and I are W&M alums, so we visit the area a few times a year for mini-vacations.)
Two words of caution:
The Delis - My husband would disagree, but I would recommend avoiding the "Delis" located across from the admissions office, which if I remember correctly is where they tend to try and steer you for lunch. The food is decent, but really, they serve food because VA liquor laws require it -- after 7pm they are the primary off-campus drinking hangouts, and they kind of smell like it...
The Taverns – The experience is neat to have once, but the quality of food has decreased dramatically over the years. I remember eating in some of the Colonial Taverns as a child, then young adult, then teenager, and finally as a college student. Each time the food started to taste more and more like they have a giant factory buried somewhere underground churning the stuff out. If you have to pick one, I’d go for the Kings Arms, followed by Cristiana Campbell’s.
I do recommend:
Cheese Shop - Merchant's Square. Misc. gourmet groceries, prepared food in the front, sandwiches during the day in the back. The house dressing is excellent, and the breads used are great. If you want a snack to go, try buying some "Bread Ends and House". Lines can be very long during prime lunch hour, may want to just call ahead your order (or be sneaky and call it in from the back of the line...kind of evil, but if you're in a rush, waiting behind a school group visiting Colonial Williamsburg can be frustrating.) Lunch only.
Pierces Pit BBQ – Fantastic BBQ, you can look at the menu but it seems like 90% of the people just get the JC’s special. A bit of a drive, but it’s worth it http://www.pierces.com/ Lunch and dinner.
Mongolian Grill – I adore this restaurant. Mongolian grill + Chinese buffet + Japanese sushi/random other grilled Asian foods. This is the standard by which I judge all other Oriental buffets. http://www.peking-va.com/ Lunch and dinner.
Blue Talon - Hands down, my favorite restaurant in Williamsburg. I think it is a better value than the other semi-upscale places in Merchants Square, and has a neat atmosphere. My husband and I have never had a bad meal there, although the service was a bit off last time (they had re-staffed after a building fire forced them to close over the Fall and Winter, so we expected a somewhat rocky staff.) http://www.bluetalonbistro.com/ Lunch and dinner.
The Trellis – They serve dinner and lunch too, but we tend to eat at Blue Talon for our one fancy meal during our WSBG vacations, and save the fancy dessert at the Trellis for another night. The Death By Chocolate cake is divine.
Sno-To-Go - A local snoball shop, stuffed with excellent quality soft serve ice cream. A huge local (and college student) favorite – run by a church group, so they seem to care more about serving great Snoballs than trying to squeeze every last dime out of profit out of the place (aka. they don’t skimp on the delicious flavored syrup!). Closed on Sundays. http://www.sno-to-go.com/
I hope you have a wonderful trip to Williamsburg, and I hope your daughter likes W&M! The area has gotten much better over the last few years in terms of things to make a college town interesting.
2229 Richmond Rd Ste 2, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Blue Talon Bistro
420 Prince George St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
403 E Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Peking & Mongolian Grill Restaurant
120 Waller Mill Rd Ste J, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Pierces Pitt Bar-B-Que
E Rochambeau Dr, Williamsburg, VA 23188
410 W Duke of Gloucester St, Williamsburg, VA 23185
Around St. Mary's City:
Courtney's (about 100 yards further down the road to Scheibles) - Mr. Courtney catches it, Mrs. Courtney cooks it.
Bear Creek BBQ - very nice assortment of meats and sides, and I've not had a bad
item yet. There may be other BBQ shacks in Southern MD that out-do them on specific items, but Bear Creek is both closer to where you're going (right up the road on Route 5) and more consistent.
I agree with the recs on Cafe des Artistes - you may want to try to get their for their early-bird specials.
There's also a decent Mexican place across the square from Cafe des Artistes.
I've not eaten at the Brome Howard, but from the little exposure I have had, the food looked and smelled good the times I've tried to get a walk-in - reservations appear to be the way to go there.
Others have suggested Clark's Landing over Stoney's Broome Island location (if you come down Route 4, but I think it's a matter of what you order. In my experience, they've seemed about equal, and I'd add Sandgates into the mix, too. If you come down 235, there are also Copsey's, Captain Leonard's, and the Drift Inn for your crab/seafood cravings.
Other slightly upscale options include The Tides (just off of 235 down toward PAX River NAS), or Casey Jones' Station (I think that's what it's called) in La Plata, but frankly, I'd stick to BBQ and the locally-caught sea food places. You can get better ethnic and upscale cuisine elsewhere, and in my opinion, you're better off going with the area's strengths - and you'll get away with a lower tab, too.
If you can post where you're coming *from*, when going to St. Mary's there may be other suggestions for places that might be good stops on the way.
Neither Courtney's nor Sheibel's has outdoor seating. But to me, Courtney's is the experience not to be missed. Fresh seafood (oysters come right off the dock, for example) well prepared. The atmosphere is very down home, which to me is a big plus. So both are good, but I give the edge to Courtney's.
Spinnaker's is nearby, in the Point Lookout Marina. Surrounding are nicer on the eyes, but in my opinion, the food isn't quite as good.
Can't help you much with Williamsburg, but when I'm in St Mary's County I always try to eat at Monterey's in California, MD (Rt 235 South, before you get to Pax River NAS). Address: Monterey Restaurante Mexicano 22576 MacArthur Blvd. #340 California, MD 20619
It's some of the best mexican food I've had. Highly recommend the grilled chicken with chorizo and cheeses. Muy tasty!
Southern Maryland Mexican Food:
My wife and I went to Monterey's in the San Souci Plaza on MacArthur Blvd. in California, MD 20619 for dinner a few weeks ago and we really enjoyed it!!! The service was great as our waiter was persistant, yet not pesty, which is very refreshing!! I ordered the chicken fajitas and their portions are MORE than generous for the $10.00 they charged. It literally could be dinner for two adults!! My wife ordered the Taquitos Mexicanos and it came with two chicken and two beef taquitos along with Spanish rice. She enjoyed the chicken ones more so than the beef, but overall she liked it. We also ordered Churros (2 per order) so we got one order, and they were delicious!! They came out warm wrapped in Cinnamon & Sugar (there like a long doughnut - - if you will) they also had whipped cream and choclate sauce, but we preferred them plain.
The menu has a lot to offer if you enjoy Mexican dishes!
P.S. I don't think you need to make reservations, but if you need the number, here it is: (301) 866.5262 and YES, we will return again..soon!!
18281 Rosecroft Road
St. Mary's City MD 20686
Scheible's Crabpot Restaurant
48342 Wynne Road
Ridge MD 20680 (2 miles south of St. Mary's City
Café Des Artistes
41655 Fenwick Street
Leonardtown MD 20650 (15-20 minute drive north of St. Mary's City
St. Mary's City is a very small town in the wilds of Southern Maryland. If you look on a map, it is the small appendix-looking area at the tip of Maryland. There is a lot of fresh seafood available and locals will recommend the best spot for crab, etc. Soft-shelled crabs are easily available here in the summer, so have a feast!
St. Mary's recs:
If you're coming from Route 2/4 (as opposed to Route 5), I highly recommend CD Cafe on Solomons Island. The menu doesn't change much, but there are always great specials and you must save room for dessert--key lime pie is delicious. It gets crowded, but they opened up a bar recently for overflow, and the bar serves a modified menu. I look forward to visiting the area just to eat here. I wouldn't bother with any other restaurants on the Island, by the way.
As for where to eat once you're on the other side of the bridge, I don't have a lot of experience but I've heard excellent things about Scheible's, which is actually past the College. It is supposed to have great seafood.
I graduated from SMC and had a blast. Good luck to your daughter!
I second CD cafe - never got to the Dry Dock but never heard bad about it. Avoid Stoney's for crabs and crab cakes. Instead, across the bridge, up Rt 5 a mile or two and right on Clarke's Landing Rd will, at the end of the road, bring you to Clarke's Landing.
Here's a recap from a few years ago: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/174882
The food at the taverns is overall pedestrian. I have gone for lunch, but for a nice dinner I would not say any qualify.
The Fat Canary and it''s attached gourmet food market/sandwich shop is great. Be sure to make reservations for the Fat Canary, as it's the best higher end place there, right arounf Market Square.
The Blue Talon is a casual french bistro. I'd recommend it.
I'll second the Fat Canary. I like the Trellis for lunch on the porch, but find it to be overrated for dinner.
The Cheese Shop is the shop attached to the Fat Canaryand it is a 'Burg tradition. Get anything with the house dressing. Bread ends with house dressing is a popular College snack.
You'll find that instead of bars the College has a line-up of Delis. Lunch at Paul's (Hot holly or Stromboli) or the Green Leaf (burger) might be a good idea to get the College feel.
I always enjoyed the Taverns, but you have to take them for what their worth.
If you absolutely must have Seafood, try Berret's. It was good (not great) ten years ago.
Pierce's Pit BBQ is another local spot.
I can't suggest any Asian restaurants in the area.
If you have time, it's fun to eat inside the Williamsburg historical district....the food isn't very fancy at the taverns, save for maybe Christiana Campbell's'. But it's all part of the fun. Otherwise, I would recommend the Trellis. Best breadsticks I have ever had, kinda pricey, but very good.