Newcomers to the Chesapeake Bay Dock & Dine Scene

Elnicki Wade

When warm weather rolls into the Bay, everybody eagerly anticipates the arrival of new restaurants in the Chesapeake Bay to pick crabs and savor local seafood. Change inevitably comes with the new season. Some restaurants don't survive the winter hibernation, and beloved watering holes occasionally disappear from the shores. But before long, hopeful new owners reclaim prime locations, and the intoxicating aroma of Old Bay seasoning fills the air to announce they're open for business. This year's rookie crop of waterfront restaurants covers the gamut from dock bar dives to upscale eateries touting farm-to-table ingredients. Chefs are taking advantage of the region's uptick in the crab population and a cornucopia of delectable sea creatures to create dishes that waitresses are proud to present at your table and you can't wait to devour. Here are 15 new Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurants for you to explore.


Deale, MD.

With a quaint hotel, swimming pool, playground and stellar view of the marina, this was already a sweet destination. But in October, the owner cranked up the fun meter by building an outdoor bar from an old boat. Patrons belly up to the SouthernBelle's wooden sides and sit on bar stools made of boat jacks, while bartenders inside the hull pour exquisite orange crushes. Crab pots rest on top of the boat's roof; a huge Maryland flag and outboard motors hang from the rafters. The stone fire pit is surrounded by comfy rocking chairs. A food truck serves a limited menu of bar munchies and sandwiches.


Baltimore, MD.

In the coveted Fells Point location where Waterfront Kitchen once dominated the farm-fresh scene, a new restaurant is sporting a modern groove with upscale expectations. The dining room and bar area feature massive wooden beams, smoky mirrors and vibrant murals, while the outdoor deck showcases a spectacular view of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Herbs and greens grown by Living Classrooms help deliver a new twist on classic Maryland dishes. It's all next door to the Frederick Douglass Museum and within easy walking distance to other upstarts in the Harbor East neighborhood.


Baltimore, MD.

While Under Armour founder Kevin Plank rekindles the heritage of Maryland rye whiskey at his Sagamore Spirit Distillery, he's also putting the spotlight on Chesapeake cuisine at his new restaurant adjacent to where the liquor is fermented. You can relax on the lawn in wooden easy chairs and marvel at the massive ships docked along the water. Or step inside to enjoy a décor that artfully blends an industrial elegance design with a welcoming pub vibe. The food is first-rate and delivers the Bay's best seafood ranging from Tuesday's crab-stuffed deviled eggs to Sunday's hearty crab pot pie.


Glen Burnie, MD.

When Nabbs Creek Restaurant caught fire a few years ago, folks at the marina longed for the days of waterside merriment. Fortunately, new owners stepped in and built one of the liveliest new Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurants, with palm trees and tiki touches on a spacious outdoor deck. The building's casual nautical design promises oarsome food, beer and fun, and it delivers. The menu offers comfort food with dishes to please everyone from salads and flatbreads to rockfish and burgers. Tater tots loaded with crab and melted cheddar are way too addictive.


Solomons, MD.

The iconic Pier at Solomons Island is under new ownership but continuing the tradition of good times on the Patuxent River. Gone is the seafood market, but a local winery's tasting room now resides next door. The geese and waterfowl artwork that once garnished the dining room have flown away, replaced by a fresh coat of blue-gray paint that refuses to compete with the colorful sunsets over Gov. Thomas Johnson Bridge. Tables are laden with fist-sized crab cakes, fried rockfish and tender oysters pulled fresh from the Chesapeake Bay.


Ridge, MD.

The white house at Point Lookout Marina with a wrap-around porch that used to hold the sign for Spinnaker's is now home to Sunset Cove. The serene location captures the gentle spirit of the Bay and lulls you into a laid-back state of mind. Boats chugging into the marina, a new fishpond and outdoor gazebo keep children entertained while waiting for their dinner. Stained glass mermaid artwork and a tiki-inspired mural add to the homey atmosphere inside. At this restaurant, guests can look forward to classic Chesapeake Bay dishes teaming with regional seafood.


Tilghman, MD.

The new kid on the block at Knapps Narrows commands a view that's just plain fun to watch. It overlooks Maryland's only overhead counterweight bascule drawbridge. The passageway is so busy that the bridge rolls open about 10,000 times a year, which gives you a good shot at catching its architectural show. The main distraction from the bridge is the spicy aroma puffing out of the chef 's smoker, which performs magic on beef, chicken and pork. The casual, family-friendly restaurant also serves seafood harvested by local watermen.


Tilghman, MD.

Just south of the drawbridge is a place that opened as a fishing and duck hunting lodge 10 years after the Civil War ended. Over time, it transitioned into a casual hotel property called Harrison's, until last year when new owners converted thebuilding and grounds into a boutique resort complex with a pool, bocce court and water activities. This lovely Chesapeake Bay restaurant features steamed Maryland crabs and other Bay seafood. Bar Mumbo specializes in craft cocktails, easy living and dazzling sunsets.


Oxford, MD.

Jutting out above the water where the Tred Avon River flows into the Bay is a dreamy destination for fans of panoramic views of the Chesapeake Bay and local seafood. Known for decades as The Masthead, the newly renovated restaurant now sports a spruced-up dining room as well as indoor and outdoor bars garnished with swaying palm trees and colorful umbrellas. The expanded menu offers selections of crabs, shrimp, pasta and steaks. Sunday brunch is blessed with bottomless mimosas. Fresh-squeezed margarita pints add a festive flair to Taco Tuesdays.


Whitehaven, MD.

The Red Roost Restaurant is a crab-pick-er's paradise with one small shortcoming it's not located on the water. Last year, the situation was rectified by opening a beach bar where the Wicomico River pours into the Bay. Come by boat or drive and take a shuttle from the Red Roost parking lot to discover this slice of Chesapeake heaven. Seagrass rustles in the wind, lime-green umbrellas shade the sand, strings of white lights twinkle overhead, and a fire pit crackles at dusk. As in other Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurants on the water, you can soak up a spectacular view while nibbling on burgers, sandwiches or steamed crabs, washed down with watermelon crushes, cold beer or rum punch.


Oxon Hill, MD.

Blue crabs and blackjack why not? At the MGM Casino in National Harbor you can double down on a night of gambling and Bay seafood. When the acclaimed chef planned his upscale indoor restaurant, he also included a more relaxed outdoor space for picking crabs and enjoying daily catch from the area's watermen. You can sit on tall barstools or kick back in a lounge chair to enjoy Old Bay-spiced shrimp, corn on the cob, hotdogs, steamed crabs and cold beer.


Washington, D.C.

On the Anacostia River in the bustling Navy Yard waterfront, a newcomer has crafted a triumphant marriage of Chesapeake cookery with New England cuisine. Lobster rolls and clam chowder peacefully coexist on tables with crispy rockfish and fried oysters. You can splurge on a seafood tower piled high with Atlantic seaboard treasures or slurp briny local oysters on the half shell. Cushioned booths and sparkling white tiles create a comfy ambience for casual fine dining. People watching on the outdoor deck offers endless entertainment.


Surry, VA.

Only 2 years old, Surry's has already grown into a favorite watering hole along Gray's Creek. The big red building and deck are surrounded by tall oak trees and a fine-looking waterfront view. Live bands, mainly acoustic guitar, cornhole and chairs around a fire pit instill a lazy summer vibe. The food menu is swimming with local seafood specialties flanked by a few meat and chicken dishes. The beer menu takes you on a journey of domestic and import brews with recommended routes toward local Virginia ales. If you're visiting Williamsburg or Jamestown, you can take the free ferry here.


Portsmouth, VA.

The mounted trophy fish above the bar sends a message that this newly renovated restaurant is serious about seafood. Its raw bar holds a treasure trove of fresh local oysters and clams, and the menu overflows with shrimp, mussels and flounder. The house specialty, Crabassaurus Rex, takes crab dishes up a notch by sprinkling a huge crab cake with jumbo lumps and melted butter. Located on a long dock in the middle of a marina, the two-story building presents a 360-degree panorama of Norfolk's stunning urban skyline and ships cruising along the Elizabeth River. The carefree vibe on the rooftop deck encourages guests to savor the scenery as long as they like.We hope you enjoy these Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurants!

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