Sunday, August 5, 2012

Waterman's Crab House

21055 Sharp St
Rock Hall, MD 21661
410.639.2261
www.watermanscrabhouse.com
Waterman's Crab House on Urbanspoon

The father of a good friend of ours' is in a band that plays 50s & 60s music and this past weekend, they played in Rock Hall, MD.  This was the perfect excuse for a bunch of us to meet up somewhere that wasn't a big city and it's never a bad thing to go to the Eastern Shore.  This isn't the Eastern Shore of Ocean City, MD or any of those beach towns up and down the Atlantic Coast.  This is the Eastern Shore where you take a quick left after Kent Narrows (instead of the right to Ocean City, hon) and into sprawling farmlands and winding waterways.


But first, you have to get there.  Yeah.  From the DMV, there's really only one logical way to get to the shore and that's across the Bay Bridge which is a 4.3 mile bridge that crosses the Chesapeake Bay and can sometimes be backed up for twice as long as that.  I didn't go up on Friday night when traffic could be at it's worse but Saturday morning traffic is no slouch.  There's a total of five lanes from the two bridges and traffic flow is adjusted according to traffic patterns.  On this Saturday, there were just two lanes heading east and so going was slow.  You're probably wondering:  "WTF, he's writing about traffic?".  Yeah, I guess I am.  If you grew up in Maryland, then you'd understand.  Bay Bridge traffic is almost a rite of passage.

I got up to Rock Hall a bit earlier than some of my other friends (who were coming from NYC) in order to get the keys for the cottage we rented for the weekend and get some supplies (water!).  I had thought I was going to stop for lunch in Annapolis but once I saw the traffic, I decided to just get through to Rock Hall and find some lunch there.  The nice woman at the motel (where I got the keys) recommended that I try the Bay Wolf Restaurant just off the main strip in Rock Hall.

Bay Wolf Restaurant on Urbanspoon

The Bay Wolf is supposed to be a sort of Austrian/German kind of place or at least it used to be when I lived in these parts a very long time ago.  I didn't get that when I looked over the menu but I also wasn't too interested in schnitzel or any type of wurst.  When I'm in the Eastern Shore I try to eat as much crab as possible as they always seem to be more flavorful and meaty in these parts.   So, I ordered the Maryland Crab Soup and the Crab Cake Sandwich.

The soup is a hot tomato based soup (like Manhattan Clam Chowder) with some vegetables and is usually spicy.  This particular one didn't quite have the heat that I expected but did have plenty of crab and flavor.  The seasoning was spot on and the tomato sweetness was just enough to highlight the flavor of the crab meat.  The Crab Cake Sandwich didn't look like much when it was put in front of me so I tried the fries first which had this wonderful sea salt sprinkled over them along with a nice crispiness on the outside while being really fluffy on the inside so my initial thought was, "at least the fries were great".  Hold that thought.  The crab cake did look a little burnt and brimming with filler rather than crab but when you bit into it, it had a nice  crunch with plenty of crab meat and plenty of flavor.  Serves me right for doubting anything to do with crabs that are served in these parts.

Fish Whistle on Urbanspoon

When my friends finally got here, we decided to meet up just a bit south in Chestertown, MD which is another one of these idyllic Eastern Shore towns that has a river running through it.  We all met at the local college in C-Town and took a quick drive through reminiscing about the old times.  We didn't have much time to get to Waterman's for the band so decided to have one quick drink at the Fish Whistle which is right on the water.  They had a variety of beach-y type drinks which really packed a punch and the menu looked pretty good (this wasn't around when I lived out here but I wish it was).  Even without those things, the view from the deck off the back of the restaurant is worth a visit unto itself.  It has a stunning view of the Chester River and the bridge that comes into Chestertown.  On a sunny day with the breeze rolling in, you feel as if the world has stopped and there's no where you'd rather be.

Except that we had to be at Waterman's in about an hour so after a quick round of drinks, we went to the cottage to settle in, drink a touch more and get ready for a night at Waterman's.  I wanted to mention here that I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of the band.  I don't know why but I have no clue what they're called.  If you're reading this and you were there please post a comment about their name. So, from now on, I'm just going to call them the band.   The band, by the way, was fantastic playing music from Elvis to Chuck Berry to the Temptations.  They packed the dance floor all night with fans ranging from the really young (3 yrs old!) to those that probably lived through the times when this music was king.

Okay, before I talk about the food, I'm going to preface it by saying that Waterman's is one of my all-time favorite places.  It's on a little inlet off the Chesapeake bay with another spectacular view.  It's really only something like 15 miles from Baltimore by water and most of the seating is spread out along a massive deck. If you haven't had a chance to come to Waterman's from the DMV, it's really worth a day trip.  So, my point being, I may be biased about anything to do with this place.

The fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) part about this is that my friends feel largely the same way.  However, this nostalgia was different for all of us and when we ordered food, it became...how do I say this?...a sh*tshow.  There were only six of us in total but here's what we ordered (in no particular order):  Two dozen steamed large blue crabs, six pieces of corn on the cob, two lbs of steamed shrimp, two orders of Rock Hall Fries, one order of regular fries, one order of nachos grande, one order of a 1/2 rack of BBQ ribs, two softcrab sandwiches, one order of crab dip, two bottles of wine, three pitchers of beer, three hot apple dumplings and one lemonade cake.  Whew.  In case that didn't make it clear, THERE WAS SO MUCH FOOD.  The good thing is that I can't possibly write about all of it so I'm just going to give quick summaries in no particular order.

They were pretty sparing in their Old Bay seasoning on the steamed crabs so we had to ask for more along with some drawn butter.  Yeah, butter.  I don't know why but this summer is really the first time I've ever ate crabs with butter and I can't get enough.  After we corrected our Old Bay craving, we dove into the crabs, which were big, fresh and really packed full of meat.  There really isn't a better social eating experience then drinking beer and picking crabs and it's made so much better when enjoyed on a deck outside overlooking the water on a nice summer day/night.  I can probably describe the shrimp the same way.  They were huge, steamed nicely with the right amount of Old Bay and just plain fresh & sweet.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the BBQ ribs.  They had a nice thick coating of BBQ sauce which was hearty, tangy and sweet.  The meat pulled right off the bone, tender and juicy.  I didn't think they did anything but seafood but i would take those ribs as a change of pace any day.  I don't know who ordered the nachos but they looked like a heart attack so I didn't touch them.  Rock Hall Fries are fries made with Old Bay seasoning and covered with scallions, bacon and cheese sauce.  What's not to like?  Don't eat too many though.  Seeing that we were in farm country, the corn was really fresh and really sweet and once it was covered with butter, it was game over.

I was give half a softcrab sandwich (soft shell crab sandwich but the menu says softcrab) and while I did find it pretty flavorful, I felt the ratio of crab to bread to tomato to lettuce was off.  There wasn't enough crab and far too much of anything else.  But, when you did get a bite of crab, it was battered nicely and moist as can be.  The crab dip seemed to be an afterthought with the restaurant as it came in a small ball with two sad pieces of bread (if you've ever had crab dip then you know that this is far too little bread).  It seemed to be overwrought with mayonnaise and the crab never seemed to shine through.  We probably should have never ordered dessert since I couldn't finish it but I thought the dumpling to be a little overcooked and dried out and much too much ice cream was included.  I didn't even see the Lemonade Cake.

We, amazingly enough, finished almost all the food and subsequently made the waitress happy with the tip we left.  The bill was actually much less than we expected and certainly much less than what the NYC contingent was used to seeing.  We had a few more drinks, watched the band finish up their set and there may have been some dancing going on.  The highlight of the night could have been when a man in a cowboy hat who looked like he was in his nineties was brought on stage and belted out a Billy Joel tune (I believe it was "You May Be Right") and set the crowd on fire.  Also, there may have been some shenanigans with an inflatable pirate but this isn't that type of blog.  We eventually did retreat back to the cottage for a few nightcaps and ended the night with some great conversation between some old friends.

Ellen's Coffee Shop & Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We woke up the next day, packed up and went back to Chestertown for yet another staple from days gone by.  Ellen's is this tucked away little diner that you can find behind a gas station as you get into Chestertown. It's been there forever and serves the best classic diner breakfast you can get.  I ordered the usual two eggs (overeasy), sausage (patties), hash browns (with onions) and toast (white bread).  It provided the grease taht we were craving after a long night and the friendly service that's a hallmark in towns like these.  We got there early since it packed up pretty quickly which I'm glad to see hasn't changed.  After breakfast, we went on our separate ways and I headed back to the Bay Bridge.  I think one of friends said it best as we were driving down to Ellen's, when he said, "with all the busy things going on in our lives these days, it's nice to come here and just enjoy the quiet".  I couldn't agree more.

3 comments:

  1. I recommend their seafood platter that is great with pasta. You get a generous serving of grab, squid, shrimp, clams and tender salmon meat. Their special sea food chili sauce does wonders to the pickings.

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  2. We happened to pass by Watermans Crab House during one of our road trips. We're supposed to eat there but it's too crowded when we stopped by and we're kind of in a hurry so we just decided to eat on the next diner we see. It's too bad we passed up the chance to taste their specialties.

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  3. We did too Jaclyn, however, we on the other hand is on our way back to our hotel. We spotted the place after a day of touring around and since we're all starving, we decided to give it a try. It wasn't a disappointment.

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