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Jul 23, 2007 11:54 AM

Annapolis Favorites and Updates

Ok- we kind of hijacked another thread before so I am starting our own: I used to live in Annapolis and now frequent it because my Mother and Best Friend live there, so I like to know what to try and what not. Plus there are always Annapolis Brunch threads, but never other meals. I know Annapolitans eat more than just brunch. This thread is for people to post their favorites in Annapolis, as well as, updates on new places coming in, with Park Place, Parole Center and the mall expansion and etc I know a lot of new places will be coming in. So to start us out:

Some Old Faves- O'Leary's- hands down best seafood in Annapolis, you better make a reservation (yay they are on opentable)
Carrol's Creek- this is one of my old standby go to places that never lets me down with Annapolis favorites.
Tsunami- I think this is some of the best food in Annapolis, although it can get loud and busy.
India's- the owners are just incredible, the indian food is great and if you talk with the owner or your server about what you want they will make you something perfect. Plus the bread is soo good.
Galway Bay- I think this is Annapolis' best crab cake IMHO although I am sure this will stir a big debate I know there are lots of good places..., I also think their salads like the chiefton and other things on their menu are great.

I also like Wild Orchid Cafe, El Toro Bravo (just went through a major renovation looks like the inside will now look pretty nice), Thai and Doughnuts place I think it is called Carl's (good doughnuts surprisingly). There are lots of others. What are your favorites?

I saw some signs on the front of Park Place for the restaurants going in, but could not catch the exact names, but they don't look like chains? Perhaps we won't get flooded with all chains?

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  1. Oh and Joss- I looooooovvveeee Joss.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      McGarvey's is AWFUL. Full of yuppie drunks, noisy and the worst terrible impolite service imaginable.

      1. re: foodcheck

        If you like mussels their Thursday night happy hour specials rule... whenever I have gone I thought it was full of people old enough I wouldn't really consider them yuppies... of course you could argue most of Annapolis is yuppie I guess. But to each their own. They also have what I consider the best crab dip in Annapolis, with plenty of good warm bread with it.

    2. Since moving to Annapolis about 2 years ago, I always struggle with my restaurant selection when family and friends come to town. I would agree with other posters when they say that in general, the food in Annapolis is mediocre and overpriced. This statement comes with fine print though: I have not been to Lewnes or O'Leary's so I can't speak for them.

      My favorite restaurant is Tsunami. I can honestly say it's the only good dinner I've had in town. McGarvey's is great for lunch, but then again I love oysters. For brunch or breakfast, I like the Boatyard, as I can't stomach the greasy pajamas that they wear at Grumps. The Main Ingredient is also good for breakfast, but lacks any kind of atmosphere (it's in a strip mall off of Bay Ridge Ave) and the service is not consistent.

      I'm really hoping I learn something from this thread- I've only had a handful of good meals here and I always fret over finding good places to take visitors.

      8 Replies
      1. re: sail_mary

        I will agree at first it seems overpriced, but compared to DC it really isn't and with property rates and other costs of living in Annapolis it isn't as overpriced as you would think. Especially downtown and waterfront rent is high for people living there and the businesses, as well. It is just altogether an expensive area. Some cheap eats I didn't mention above:

        The Big Cheese- I posted about this place on the hijacked thread. It used to be in the market house (don't even get me going with that) with the shop her husband owned Sammy's. They moved now to the street going off the harbor towards King George and the naval academy. They have great sandwiches. I don't know if they incorporated some of Sammy's but there used to be a veggie sandwich to die for and other great things at reasonable prices which were great to take down and eat by the water. Anyone know how they are doing since they were shoved out of the markethouse? I used to talk to the owners and they would make me just wanted I wanted almost every other day in the summer. Really great nice people.

        Cheeburger Cheeburger- for a good cheap burger joint.

        McGarvey's Thursday night mussel happy hour, for like $3 you can get a huge plate of mussels that are great.

        I just noticed Sean Donolon's turned into Stan and Joes anyone been? It looks pretty much the same, but what did they do with the food?

        I also noticed Griffin's downtown was turned into Federal something did it change owners style? That used to be a great place for lunch, especially if you could get an outside table. We used to order food to go from Riordan's all the time when I worked in the state house and it was good and reasonable.

        And then my all time favorite lunch place when I worked in the capitol was Potato Valley! Sooo good. I wish they had longer hours, they have one in DC, but it is so far away I can't make it with their hours. I loved their Broccoli and Blue potato and their cajun chicken.

        Rockfish is good, but I think for the same price you can eat at O'Leary's or Carrol's, but if you are in their weird closed in between sunday brunch and dinner time at Carrol's or Chart house Rockfish will be serving (I do this so often).

        Cafe Normandie is also good.

        There used to be a little italian store behind where the sailboat suntrust and griffins on West St. were, is it still there? It was really really good and incredibly reasonable. They didn't have a lot of tables, but it never was a problem. It is kind of hidden, but it is a gem.

        I have never been to Yellowfin, but Chowhounds seem to say good things about it. Anyway just some more thoughts for you.

        Also a good place to take guests is O'Brians they have pretty good prices and the things people come to Annapolis to eat: crab cakes, rockfish, crab imperial.

        1. re: ktmoomau

          I always find it infinitely fascinating how people can view the same restaurant in completely different ways.

          Big Cheese--fabulous, sooo underrated, and sooo happy they are still in town.

          Cheeburger Cheeburger...blah, same old crap at any hamburger place around here. I do like Five Guys when I'm the mood for a burger.

          Yellowfin is TERRIBLE!!! I don't know how they ever got the reputation for being good. No one could pay me to eat there, ever.

          The deli you mentioned is Giolitti. They have some of the best itatlian food in the area, very cheap. I take people who have lived in Annapolis for years there and they always say "I had no idea!".

          What I don't see mentioned here very often is Mex Cafe. They aren't always 100% but when they are on, they are ON!

          Galway Bay is in my opinion probably one of the best in town. Food is always consistent, good, different than the usual stuff out there, and I just love the place.

          To me, most of the restaurants downtown are good, but nothing out of this world impressive. I eat there when there are folks visiting who want to go downtown, or there is some specific reason, but I don't on a random Wednesday night say, hey, let's go to Tsunami.

          1. re: naptownlady

            I have been going to Mexican Cafe for years and it is the best mexican food I have ever had. I lived in NYC for 7 years and never did find a mex restaurant to rival Mex Cafe. Giolittis is also wonderful for catering. I have had several baby showers and their finger sandwich tray is a huge hit.

            1. re: bb7

              I so enjoyed The Big Cheese at the Market House and I'm glad to hear it's still around in the area. I generally find myself more on the Parole/Annapolis mall side of the city, but I have enjoyed Castlebay on Main Street. I also like India's on West Street. My husband likes Carlson's Donuts and Thai (what a weird combo). On Riva is a nice place called Viet Thai Paradise. It's in the same strip as a Squisito, which is a local chain. Outside of Annapolis is Killarney House (owned by the same people as Galway) and Old Stein Inn which is a fun German biergarten in Edgewater.

              I'm always looking for more ideas, especially kid friendly ones, in the Annapolis area.

              1. re: Mirdith

                Killarney House is awesome. Great Irish food (and no, that's not an oxymoron). Great beers on tap too. It's a great place to go around Christmas after checking out the lights and decorations at Homestead Gardens.


              2. re: bb7

                My God...I'm sure opinions vary, but the Mexican Cafe is the WORST Tex-Mex I have ever experienced. I'm from San Antonio, Texas and admit I have high standards, but this was almost inedible. The enchiladas were like glue, with a chili that tasted burnt. Seriously, canned Old El Paso enchiladas are better. The combination plate was a pile of glop. The only redeeming factor was the beans. Service was horrible - it took 45 minutes for an order of tacos and a Mexican platter. Never again.

                1. re: GianniB

                  I'd have to agree. I think the food is mediocre. Some days, better than others, but overall - definitely not a stop if you're looking for great Tex-Mex. The margaritas, however, are absolutely worth the trip. One or two, and you won't even care about the food. Does get really busy though, so be prepared to wait for your table (while sipping margaritas).

          2. re: sail_mary

            Based on the recs, here I went to Tsunami in Annapolis. Well, that plus I didn't know what else was still serving at 10pm.

            I skipped the sushi in favor of a hearty meal: a "burnt sugar chili" strip steak served with goat cheese mashed potatoes. The steak was perfectly executed. Not sweet at all, mercifully, plus I doubt any chili peppers were sacrificed for this steak. Just a beautiful thick black crust and juicy and red on the inside. The mashed potatoes were served with sauteed onions and some steak sauce, and they made for a delicious gooey mess.

            I also chose the iceberg wedge salad with ginger-soy dressing. The dressing was applied to the wedge like a thick glaze. Unusual and tasty - it worked better than the typical soupy mix elsewhere.

            The music was loud and the lights dim at 10pm, many more drinkers at the bar than eaters at the tables. SInce I was alone I didn't mind.

          3. My boss keeps recommending Jalapenos. I live in Baltimore and haven't been but he loves it. Is it any good?

            10 Replies
            1. re: jes

              Jalapeno's is excellent. Please don't go there expecting Tex-Mex food because the majority of what is served is finer Mexican and/or Spanish cuisine. I cannot believe anyone likes Mexican Cafe -- that place is filthy and the margaritas have a chemical taste. It's a fun hangout, but it's certainly not the place to go for great Mexican food. That being said, I am still of the opinion that it is impossible to find great Mexican food on the East Coast. I keep urging my sister, who lives in CA, to come out and open a real Mexican restaurant. We'd make a fortune! As far as Yellowfin, I wouldn't say the food it terrible but the atmosphere certainly is. It is entirely too loud and the happy hour crowd is obnoxious. Giolitti's is delicious. Having moved here from NJ, I was delighted to find an Italian deli in Annapolis. It wouldn't hurt if the help there smiled on occasion. And I do enjoy Killarney House -- interesting menu, well prepared food and good but not overly gratuitous service. As far as pricing goes, it wouldn't hurt so much to pay a lot for a meal if quality existed across the board -- atmosphere, service and food. I am not a fussy diner in the least (for example, I have never sent anything back and I can always find something to order from a menu, even if it means piecing together a couple of appetizers and a salad). I find Annapolis to have the worst selection of restaurants of any place I've ever lived, and I have lived all over the country in small towns and large cities. It's a shame because we're a big tourist destination with proximity to so many major markets. We shouldn't have to drive 25+ miles for a great meal and a little variety!

              1. re: thatfarmgirl

                But being a tourist destination doesn't help they only want crabcakes, crabs or fish stuffed with crab imperial. I think I remember you were a vegetarian, maybe not? I can imagine eating in Annapolis would be extra hard for a vegetarian they are very seafood, meat oriented and don't pay near as much attention to the veggies. i am always surprised with St. John's right there in town they don't have more vegetarian/vegan places. They are very stuck on the traditional seafood place, but that is what the tourists and many locals want and it pays the bills.

                I eat downtown a lot because that was where I lived. I remember Maria's having an incredible pink sauce with pasta, but I forget exactly what it was. I haven't had very much else there because I could never order something other than this.

                Some of the best places in Annapolis are very spotty like Sputnik. Sometimes it is incredible food and sometime not. And some it depends on the night and the seafood catch that day.

                I also always wonder about Les Follies a French friend of mine from where I grew up knew the owners and said it was good and I have never made it out there. It really is in an odd spot.

                I do like Jalapeno's but I agree most of our thoughts on what a Mexican restaurant should be like or have on the menu won't be seen here.

                1. re: thatfarmgirl

                  Giolotti's is fantastic. Great prices on wines too.

                  I second your takes on Yellowfin and the Mexican Cafe. Yellowfin is a meat market for the over 40 crowd and the Mexican Cafe is just bad Mexican food.

                  Have you ever been to Diego's in Severna Park? It's so-so. No Tampico or Horchada. Major bummer there. I've only been there once and I can't say that you can judge just on one try and God knows I'm willing to try for good Mexican around here...

                  Jalapeno's is good but it's definitely not Mexican. For those from DC I would put in the same realm as Jaleo.

                  I think Annapolis has some good places to eat but you have to look. Rule of Thumb -- if it's near City Dock, beware of the tourist trap. Here are a couple that come to mind:

                  Luna Blue on West Street is usually good.

                  I love the Wild Orchid Cafe.

                  Rockfish is so-so; I wouldn't waste your money.

                  Chart House is good.

                  Lewne's is excellent; I can't believe that Ruth Chris's actually competes against it.

                  The Boat Yard is nice for a meal with the fam and their food has gotten better. Plus they carry Leinekugel's beer, so I'm stoked.

                  Ram's Head would fall under the same category as the Boat Yard but their food is not the greatest. Good beer though (and that makes up for a lot with me).

                  I second the recommendation for India's.

                  Yin Yankee is good but Joss is way better (and cheaper too).

                  One restaurant that always gets overlooked is OB's Prime on Main Street. I've always had good food and they had a nice cigar smoking section (I'm sure that is gone now -- thanks Maryland nanny-state Legislators).

                  Severn Inn is nice and their food is gotten better. Plus their deck is a nice place to sit and look out at the Naval Academy. I still think it's too pricey for what you get...but you've got the view.

                  The only restaurant in Annapolis that I'd like to go to but just never have is Northwoods. Anyone ever been there?

                  Again, there are good places to eat but you may need to get off Main Street (what a shocker!). In fact for Annapolis's size, we have some really great places to eat.

                  1. re: SmrtBloned

                    Annapolis does have some very good places. The biggest problem is consistency. One night you have a great meal another visit is seems like a very different place.

                    I am a fan of the new place Osteria 177. After about 4 trips I think they are working out the problems and it is solid most of the time.

                    I find O'leary's and Northwood's to be good, but a bit old school. No creativity at either place.

                    The new thai place Lemongrass is good, but the service is painfully slow and inept at times. I prefer Little Spice in Hanover for Thai. A new place Pad Thai is opening on West street soon and I look forward to trying them.

                    The tapas place Kyma is a place I want to like, but it is just plain bad. Everything seems prepackaged and frozen.

                    I agree with another person that the mexican cafe is very good when they are on. If you can get past the fact that the place is a total dive, you will be rewarded.

                    For crabs Cantler's is the best, but for crabcakes I think the ones you buy at Annapolis Seafood and make at home are tops.

                    Another place I had high hopes for is Cynthia's in Severna Park. After a couple of visits I decided the pastry chef Cynthia needs a new chef to work with. Her husband's dishes are ok, but they cannot hold a candle to the desserts and breads. The wine list is horrible and when you have entrees at the prices points they have, a decent glass of wine served in proper stemware is in order.

                    The Severn Inn is great for their location and nothing else. Good for drinks on the patio and have dinner somewhere else.

                    Cheeburger Cheeburger has great rings and fries, but I find the burgers to be dry.

                    Joss is good for sushi, but to be honest I prefer Kyoto in Severna Park.

                    Luckily for those of us who live in the Annapolis area, we can head into DC for top dining and have some good alternatives if we want to stay local.

                    1. re: Annapolis07

                      Joss has, sadly, been disappointing the last several visits, and is now off my list except for maybe a carry-out order to eat at City Dock. The most recent visit was on a busy night, so it is somewhat understandable that orders were being mixed up left and right. But what is not forgivable is the quality control. Talk about slap dash! They were slapping, they were dashing...bits of food were flying around people sitting at the bar in their rush to get orders down on the planks and out to the tables. No attention to aesthetics, no time to carefully compose, slice the seafood or cut the rolls. Yes, they get points for freshness, and it is a convenient location for tourists, Mids and locals alike, but there's more to a sushi experience than fresh and fast. Joss - please slow down a little and do it right!

                      1. re: crackers

                        agreed, they have some ongoing political and internal issues i think, any reports on the reopened yin yankee?

                    2. re: SmrtBloned

                      I have never tried Northwoods, but also heard great things. Maybe it will be next on my list. If someone has recently been let me know.

                      1. re: ktmoomau

                        Don't rush. They are ok, but nothing special. Solid food at reasonable prices. They have a three course dinner special for less than $35 that they run every night.

                  2. re: jes

                    Jalepeno's is indeed excellent. Agree that it's not Tex-Mex, but the small plates are exceptional. Ownership is very engaged, service prompt and courteous. A top choice in Annapolis

                    1. re: GianniB

                      They did a super job for our bookclub christmas party, nice quiet authentically furnished back room ; owner very pleasant and engaged

                  3. I guess that's my biggest beef -- inconsistency. I find the menus around here very uninspired and sometimes cannot differentiate between one menu and another. My dilemma this week is that I have to feed two vegetarians (they eat eggs and dairy) at a nice restaurant. I'm thinking Carrol's Creek (for the view) and calling ahead to see if the chef will prepare something other than the acorn squash with risotto that is always on the menu (by the way, it is DELICIOUS).

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: thatfarmgirl

                      Carrol's Creek does have a great view. It is just so dated and ho-hum and they serve the Annapolis standards. Probably a good choice if your guests are not adventurous eaters. A safe bet to be sure. Make sure the risotto is not made with chicken broth. I don't know, the pear pasta at Osteria was pretty good last time I was there.

                      1. re: Annapolis07

                        I think Lewnes' is to die for, and Cantler's does crabs better than anyone.

                        Seconding Cafe Normandie for breakfast, and Carroll's Creek is nice for lunch or dinner

                        1. re: Annapolis07

                          I don't find Carrol's Creek ho-hum at all. In fact, I brought a foodie friend from New Orleans there a few months ago and she could not stop raving about her dinner. I don't like that it's so cavernous and the service can sometimes be a bit slow, but the quality of the food is absolutely there! I don't think Osteria has worked out all the kinks yet.

                          1. re: thatfarmgirl

                            Good, I will have to go again soon. I have not been in months. Last time I thought it was pretty boring, but good. You are right, Osteria needs work. Keeping my fingers crossed because when they are on it it good.

                      2. The original comment has been removed