What's good in Annapolis?
I'm going to be in Annapolis over Labor Day weekend, and I have one dinner where I'm going to be by myself. So what's good in Annapolis? I was thinking about trying some sort of local cuisine (not sure what that would mean in Annapolis, some type of seafood?) or something else that I can only get in Annapolis (if there is such a thing). Since I only have one meal there, I want to make it count with something I can't get anyplace else or anyplace outside the region.
I lived here all my life. If you want great seafood then you should head over here or over to the Eastern shore. Probably the best restaurant in town is O'Leary's, it is also expensive and you should get reservations. The food is original and very good. Best place to eat hardshell crabs anywhere is Cantler's - better google the address and map it before you try to find it yourself. Carrol's Creek has good food and a great view. If you want to enjoy yourself I always recommend taking the water taxi over to the Chart House (that side of Annapolis is called 'Eastport') and go sit inside their bar and order a drink and something light to eat and enjoy the view of Annapolis Harbor (you can take the water taxi over to Carrol's Creek too if you like, or get off at the Chart House dock and walk over to O'Leary's. You board the water taxi about halfway down the city dock opposite the Harbor Master's building. Then either come back to the city dock by foot - crossing the bridge, or take the water taxi again - it's only about $2.25 plus a tip. Then go over to Aromi d'Italia (behind the Harbor Master's building) and treat yourself to gelato. It's the best Italian gelato I've had in the US and this is the flagship store. If you really love yourself, then buy the sundae with three scoops of gelato (I personally love the Pistachio, Coconut and Wild Berry - but they are all delicious and you can sample all of them), fresh whip cream, berry sauces, liquid chocolate and cookies. It's heaven. It's also nice to have them turn the gelato into noodles.... Other places worth mentioning are Jalapenos, which is technically in Parole, next to the 'new Annapolis town center' - a new huge high-rise complex that you can see from route 50. Jalapenos serves very good Spanish and Mexican food and the service is wonderful, wonderful people work here. If you are only going to be in the heart of the city of Annapolis then I recommend Galway Bay on Maryland Ave off of State Circle for their 'Miss Peggy's crab cake' and their strawberry and rhubarb pie. They also have a good seafood salad trio. Hell Point Seafood also has a good crab cake that is different from the rest in that it has a noticeable mustard flavor that I liked. Their watermelon salad is also very good. You can sit on the patio and look over at the city dock and people watch. Cafe Normandie on Main Street is good and cozy and comfortable for a single diner. They have a very good white bean soup and a delicious strawberry crepe that you want to be sure you get with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Annapolis is for seafood and if you stick with that you should be fine, if you want to eat steak (I don't) all of my neighbors love Lewnes in Eastport (it's also expensive).
First, I have lived in Annapolis for six years and love to eat out. I'm an avid reader of various foodie mags, enjoy cooking shows and love to create things in the kitchen.
Unfortunately, in a world of 32 flavors, I would say that Annapolis is in the vanilla category. It can't seem to overcome the need to cater to the tourist rather than the residents, as such, almost every place has some blue crab concoction, whether a crab cake, ball, cocktail, dip, imperial, omelet, etc. Since the crab population has dwindled, a lot of the stuff isn't even created with local crab. Much is shipped in from overseas or other Eastern States.
Rockfish or striped bass is also popular on a lot of menus since that is the main fish from the bay. Oysters are also in abundant in season, and they do come from local waters.
In this day of globalism, it's hard to think of anything here that can't be gotten elsewhere. Afterall, it isn't an exotic far away location. That said, I would think the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab will soon be something that will be a rarity if it is not already. Can you get it in DC? Sure. But I think the places you can get it fresh from the watermen caught that day is probably the most unique thing you are going to find here.
Not sure if you have ever partaked in hard shell crab eating but it is a messy business and can be off putting by all the non eating parts and pieces of this crustacean. Best place for local crabs is Cantler's. It isn't in the historic district and it is a bit hard to find but at least what they serve is genuine. It's been featured on many a foodie show, so the place is always packed. Go very early if you don't want to be in a line of cars waiting for a place to park. Wouldn't recommend anything but the hardshells.
Don't care anymore about getting something truly Annapolitan? Osteria 177 on Main Street has excellent Mediterranean/coastal cuisine and they use organic ingredients.
Hmmm. Hell's Point has gotten rotten reviews. The Washington Post magazine (reviewer Tom Sietsema) just gave it 1 1/2 stars in last weeks edition. The only somewhat favorable comments were about the appetizers. The entrees, according to the reviewer, were a bust. If you read another thread about this restaurant on chowhound the responses have been underwhelming.
Considering this is a venture from a very highly acclaimed DC chef Bob Kindead (of Kinkead's in Foggy Bottom) , big things were expected and so far it hasn't delivered. The prices even for lunch apps are well over $10. If you want to take a risk by blowing a lot of money on inconsistant service and food, it's your call.
I do plan on going since I often assist Annapolis visitors by recommending restaurants, however, with the majority of experiences being poor, I will abstain from adding it to my list. If I only had one night to dine out in Annapolis, I would prefer a place with a better track record.