Sailing magazine recently named Boatyard Bar & Grill, located right on Severn Avenue in Eastport (my favorite part of Annapolis), one of world's top 100 sailing bars.
My reaction to that? It's way too nice to be one of the best sailing bars.
Of course, when I said that to my dad, he very simply said, "But sailors are nice." Either way, I have a clear mental image of what a sailing bar looks like - and it looks like Davis's Pub, also in Eastport. Kind of dark, a tiny bit dingy, and an ideal home for the slightly scruffy, windburned, dirty-Docksider and stained-khaki-wearing wannabe pirates (in the Jimmy Buffett sense) I think of when I think of sailors. (I should note: none of the sailors I know personally, especially the ones I'm related to, are pirate wannabes.)
All that said, I really liked Boatyard, both for its atmosphere and the food. It's bright and open and airy and was full of families with little kids this past Saturday evening. Cooper and I actually felt a little strange without Dixon, especially since we spent most of our time at dinner staring at at the Lilly and Ralph-clad toddlers all over the restaurant. Dixon would've had a good time.
The restaurant's design is open and, as my dad described it, well-appointed. (This is where the "artsy" comes in.) There's a ton of stuff all over the walls and hanging from the ceiling. In the pictures on the perfectly horrible website, the overall effect is, well, too much. It looks distracting and busy. In person, though, it's not. Maybe it's the high ceilings or all the natural light, but in person, the overall effect is pretty cool and it's easy to focus on individual photographs and artifacts, looking for the story behind the image. Most impressive to me were the black and white images all over the walls of the back room. I'm a sucker for sailing photography, and the Boatyard walls are full of great shots I'd love to put in my living room.
Of course, the experience isn't just about what's on the walls - the food was good, too. As an appetizer, I had fried conch, served with mango sauce. The conch might have been a little bit over-battered, but it was fried nicely and the mango sauce was sweet and spicy and kept the whole dish from feeling heavy. Cooper had a wedge of Iceburg lettuce with blue cheese dressing - and I was so wrapped up in my conch that I forgot to ask him how it was.
For dinner, we both had specials. I had rockfish piccata, which was cooked really nicely, but not quite piccata-ish enough for me. I would've liked more sauce. As it was, it seemed like the chef had maybe sprinkled a little lemon over the fish and garnished it with capers. Rock is great fish, but it really does need a sauce. Overall, my dinner was good, but not great.
Cooper's entree was the big winner. He's a giant fan of anything smoked (he can't get enough Neopol), so he really had no choice but to order the smoked bluefish pizza. I was a little leery - would it be oily? Would a fishy taste dominate? I shouldn't have worried, though. Somehow, the fish seemed delicate, even while it stood up to traditional pizza flavors. It was interesting and delicious all the way around.
After dinner, we walked back to our car, which was parked by the Summer Garden Theater, by way of the rest of Eastport. I lived there a long time ago, but Cooper hadn't seen much of the neighborhood beyond Severn Avenue, though he'd spent a fair amount of time there, since we had our wedding reception at Chart House.
Eastport's neighborhoody and cute - it has a lived in feel and hasn't been taken over by the monstrous, tacky houses that have recently popped up on every square inch of waterfront property. Walking through makes me miss living there, and having dinner someplace as family-oriented and central as Boatyard didn't help.
If only we could find some way to transport the entire Severn River to the Towson area...