Meet newcomers to the Bay’s waterfront dock-and-dine scene
If the pandemic hampered your travels and you haven’t cruised into the Chesapeake Bay for a while, then welcome back to its sunny shores. While you were away, the oyster and striped bass populations blossomed, and blue crabs grew plump in the shallow marshlands.
During the past few years, quite a few new restaurants have opened and tapped into the cornucopia of fine local seafood. Some innovative chefs grace plates with creative flavors and ingredients, while others take a traditional path with family recipes handed down for generations by watermen’s wives. Many concoct ways to consume invasive species, such as the blue catfish and northern snakehead, but eateries that nail up a sign declaring “Steamed Maryland Crabs!” attract the most attention.
To help you rediscover the bounty of the Bay, Marinalife has handpicked 10 terrific crab shacks and seafood houses for you to explore.
Bowleys on the Bay Bar & Restaurant
Middle River, MD
For a tropical getaway without long-distance travel, Bowleys on the Bay has created a resort destination groove on Frog Mortar Creek in Baltimore County. Push your toes into the sand on 300 feet of beach surrounded by palm trees while sipping a rummy cocktail and listening to a steel drum band. You can watch boats glide into Long Beach Marina or see planes take flight at Martin State Airport as you nibble on fresh local seafood, hearty sandwiches, and meat dishes.
Where to Dock: Long Beach Marina
In the heart of the historic Fells Point district, The Choptank has risen from the foundation of the 200-year-old Broadway Market. Its menu reads like a culinary voyage around the Chesapeake Bay with steamed crabs, just-shucked oysters, steamed mussels, crab soup and fried chicken. On the spacious outdoor deck, sample 20 draft beers while live bands play tunes, and the stars twinkle above the urban skyline.
Where to Dock: The Sagamore Pendry Hotel & Dock
It’s hard to say what Baltimore loves more — seafood or sports. But if you’d like to indulge in both, head over to Watershed in the Federal Hill neighborhood, which is in easy walking distance from Orioles Park and the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium. A menu laced with classic dishes harvested from the Chesapeake waters entices you to pick a dozen steamed crabs or slurp fresh local oysters while watching games on big-screen TVs. Located in the newly remodeled Cross Street Market, you can belly up to the long wooden bar on the main floor and wash down a platter of Old Bay wings with a cold Natty Boh. Or step up to the roof deck to watch the bustle below on South Charles Street with an orange crush in hand. A casual vibe and live music create an upbeat place to hang out with friends.
Where to Dock: Inner Harbor Marina
Latitude 38 Waterfront Dining
Where the Severn River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, you can order local seafood with a view of boats cruising into Ego Alley, the showplace for vessels visiting Maryland’s state capital. With the new Upper Deck Bar and plenty of event space, this waterfront eatery accommodates groups of all sizes. Take your pick of regional favorites from crab cakes and peel-and-eat shrimp to herb-crusted rockfish and oysters Rockefeller. Chicken, beef and bourbon meat loaf ensure carnivores won’t go hungry.
Where to Dock: Annapolis Town Dock
Every visit to the Bay’s Eastern Shore holds the promise of exceptional seafood along unforgettable waterfronts. From Marker Five’s outdoor patio, you can watch watermen chug along Knapp’s Narrows and marvel as the Tilghman Island Drawbridge rises to let boats pass through. Eagles soar overhead while you peruse the menu of classic Chesapeake fare. It’s almost impossible to resist starters such as Maryland crab soup or smoked corn and crab fritters, and your first bite of pulled pork, buttermilk fried chicken biscuit or pan-fried monkfish will delight your tastebuds.
Where to Dock: Knapp’s Narrows Marina & Inn
Portside Grill on Urbanna Creek
Located in the heart of Virginia’s oyster-growing region, this family-owned and pet-friendly restaurant specializes in taking local seafood from the water to the table. At Urbanna’s only waterfront eatery, you can tie up along the bulkhead and kick back on the patio for casual dining with a spectacular view. Crab tots and fresh oysters will whet your appetite for a Southern style meal of crab cakes, shrimp and grits, and chicken stuffed with Smithfield ham and goat cheese.
Where to Dock: Regatta Point Yachting Center
Deltaville Tap & Raw Bar
In a charming cove along Jackson Creek where the Piankatank River flows into the Bay, you’ll find a seafood eatery with an energetic vibe, live music and a nice sampling of craft brews and cocktails. The expansive view from the back deck matches the extensive list of dishes on the menu. Highlights include hush puppies packed with crab and corn, Jonah crab claws, shucked oysters, and Lowcountry boils with crawfish, shrimp and other local catch. Try to leave room for dessert favorites: deluxe peanut butter pie or raspberry cheesecake.
Where to Dock: Deltaville Yachting Center
The Surry Seafood Company
A leisurely cruise up the James River to Gray’s Creek will deliver you to a seafood-centric destination where you can dock, dine and decompress. Surry’s chefs present delicacies from the local waters such as golden fried oysters, bacon-wrapped salmon and flounder stuffed with crab imperial. If the serene view of the grassy marshlands makes you want to linger longer, spacious hotel suites are available above the restaurant. Boater bonuses: 45 new floating docks, fuel, ship store and bathhouse.
Where to Dock: The Marina at Smithfield Station
The green bamboo shoots on the menu’s border give a clue that this restaurant is blessed with a touch of tiki. While seafood standards remain popular — she-crab soup, cod fish and chips, and Old Bay wings — Longboards also takes you on a culinary journey to Polynesia to taste Hawaiian-inspired dishes such as Singapore shrimp with veggies and Waikiki wings. Enjoy the restaurant’s upbeat atmosphere and stellar sunsets at the marina.
Where to Dock: Morningstar Marinas at Little Creek
The bustle of Norfolk’s recently renovated Waterside District is attracting newcomers from along the Atlantic seaboard. Among the new eateries is Stripers, a seafood haven from the Outer Banks that features 30 beers on tap and a panoramic view of the Elizabeth River. Take a seat on the patio and savor dishes made from scratch, from clams and cod to mussels and shrimp. After a hearty meal, explore the area’s attractions and nightlife.