Carrol’s Creek Café Restaurant Review
Apr 27, 2015 11:46AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Carrol’s Creek Café
410 Severn Avenue, Annapolis
Many years ago when I first moved to the Annapolis area, Wednesday night cocktails were a regular event on Carrol’s Creek’s deck to watch the sailboat races. The view from the deck is outstanding and there’s nothing better than sitting outside sipping a margarita, craft beer, or wine, while watching sailboats vying for the finish in the gorgeous harbor right under your nose. As time has passed and the cafe has evolved, the outdoor deck space comes at a premium and only diners are served there now. Reservations are not accepted for the deck, and with the policy of first come, first served, a line often forms awaiting a deck opening.
Ten years ago, the interior bar was moved away from waterside viewing in the center of the dining room to a room further in the back. This enabled more diners to get a view of Spa Creek. The large dining room now is open, even though a large glass-encased room is within which acts as a dining area for special groups.
The Café has a minimalist interior in neutral tones, so as not to compete with the view outside. The linens add elegance as does the vibrant blue vase with fresh flowers. Big pops of color perk up the walls from the works of local artist, Nancy Hammond. Dress code, you ask? Although the menu may seem to lean to chic, the only wardrobe advisory is business casual, which alerts transient boaters to wear more than a bathing suit cover-up. I was delighted for the excuse to indulge in more upscale dressing for a change, but without pressure to go all out.
Considered a top shelf place you would patronize for a special celebration, the excellent menu has evolved to offer something for all. Cleverly, Carrol’s Creek now names their 20 different appetizers “Small Plates.” This serves the cafe well, because many of these same dishes are offered at half price for happy hour in the bar. That can be a nice 4–7 value which I have experienced, although the crowd was overflowing out the door. While perusing the menu, my friend and I considered the Chef’s Dinner offering: the addition of cream of crab soup, salad, and a dessert to any entree for an additional $18. Right on top of the food pulse, gluten-free items had their own insignia on the menu.
This modern American café runs like a “well-oiled machine” from back-of-the-house to the front. Catalina, our server, gave outstanding, responsive service with a “can do” approach when we asked many questions such as: “Where did the rockfish come from since it’s not in season in the Chesapeake Bay?” (North Carolina) or “Could we taste a smidgeon of the unusual lobster mashed potato side dish?” or “What size portions are the small plates?” It turns out many folks are thinking just as we were that night…that it would be fun to taste more by ordering two small plates and then share a single entrée.
For the substantial libations menu, you will find cocktails, craft beers, and a large offering of wine, by the bottle and 20 different wines by the glass. The bottles of wine are of favored varietals from France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United States. Special dessert drinks are featured on the separate dessert menu.
A visually eye-catching and most popular dish of Sea Scallops ($19) was our first course, ordered for two to share; perfect as two large scallops gave a nice portion to each person. Each scallop is rolled in shredded phyllo, fried crisp, and served on a bed of wilted mixed spinach with lump crab and prosciutto ham, all dressed in a shrimp cream sauce. The showy phyllo threads are dramatic, however, the mound underneath is equally inviting. As a food stylist, I would suggest showing the treasure of crab, prosciutto, and spinach napped with the velvet sauce and place the enrobed scallops to the side. Then one can see the complexity of the dish as it sails by.
Our next small plate of Lobster and Black Truffle Pot Pie ($18) was delivered with a fluffy dome of puff pastry which just begged to be lifted to give a puff of steam and show the rich creamy filling. Made with New England lobster tail and claw pieces with a touch of fennel and carrots in a truffle and brandy cream, my friend had the dish completely polished off by sopping up the last bit of sauce with a warm multi-grained roll. By the way, “truffle this” and “truffle that” is hugely trendy these days, since salt can now have the addition of minute shavings of truffles or olive oil infused with the precious mushroom.
Our one entree, Herb Encrusted Rockfish Fillet ($34), arrived with an oven-roasted golden crust balancing atop a mound of sun-dried tomato pesto risotto. Sautéed baby spinach and a few pieces of lump crab crowned the filet. A divine beurre blanc sauce pooled around the perimeter of the entree.
Get the workouts in before ordering dessert! The Flourless Chocolate Cake we chose is quite a complex dish. Dense fudge cake holds a center of white chocolate ganache, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with a raspberry puree, combined with two fresh raspberries. Isn’t that what dining out and workouts are all about anyway?
And what’s up with Carrol’s Creek Café’s Sunday Brunch these days? They long ago converted to a la carte rather than the higher-priced champagne buffet. The menu is comprised of some starters (again the favored Sea Scallops are offered), entrees featuring eggs in many preparations, soups, salads, and more lunch-style dishes. The brunch kids’ menu is very popular with breakfast to burgers for the little folk.
As a food writer, blogger, food stylist, photographer, Rita Calvert has partnered in writing cookbooks and developed product lines to showcase the inspiration, art, and nourishment of food. She is Homestead Gardens’ Culinary and Design blogger, photographer, and advisor. The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up! is her most recent book with co-author and farmer, Michael Heller. After owning a successful restaurant in California, she has now been an Annapolis resident for 25 years.