The Taste: The Boatyard Bar & Grill
The Boatyard Bar & Grill
Severn Avenue & Fourth Street Annapolis
By Rita Calvert // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.While strolling to my meeting with owner Dick Franyo at The Boatyard along Eastport’s Restaurant Row, a spritely house connected to the Boatyard parking lot caught my eye. Signs of the bar, café, and sailing events were posted on the side of the house, along with a crafty cobbled wooden sign touting, “Farm-to-Table.” Dangling over a stone wall were plump clumps of herbs: rosemary, oregano, parsley, and thyme. As I’m seated with Dick, Chef George Betz arrives and the two carry on a banter full of anecdotal stories to explain the related building. Dick laughs as he calls his B&B next door, “…the city farm for the café,” while Chef George says, “We believe in fork to mouth!” I get the idea where this conversation is going—actually it’s on to the good life and a wonderfully simple recipe from Chef George.
Dick, your first career was as an investment banker. Life must be a lot more fun for you now! You even seem to be enjoying all the social media chirpings and postings!Yes, for 30 years, I was head of investment banking with Alex. Brown & Sons, BT Alex Brown, and Deutsche Bank and handled the IPO’s for Microsoft, Starbucks, AOL, and Oracle, to name a few. It was an exciting time and my life was fun then, too! It’s certainly a different kind of fun now. The Boatyard Bar and Grill has been here 15 years and right out of the gate, we have given one percent of annual sales back to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other environmental causes as a business member of One Percent for The Planet. This club was started by Yvon Chouinard, owner of the Patagonia Corporation, and Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Fly Shop in West Yellowstone, Montana, and a friend of mine.
Chef George is having a good time writing the Facebook posts and I’ve started a monthly blog. My wife, Georgie, thinks each post should be the story of a place I’ve visited.
There are distinct Key West-inspired items on the menu, an appetizer of fried conch fritters with mango-chili dipping sauce and Cuban chicken. Why Key West? And how do you see The Boatyard?Our corporate name, Ninety Miles to Cuba, is about Key West, which lends much inspiration. We portray a lifestyle/entertainment/escapism venue from Hemingway artifacts to life-size catch and release fish relics. This complements our consistently great and casual food at affordable prices. We have a very large menu—necessary since folks return all the time. For example, we have a family of four who eat here five nights a week. Our drinks are served in pint-sized glasses...that’s pirate-size for a Mount Gay and tonic! We have a raw bar and sell twice as many oysters as any other business in the Annapolis City Dock area.
We have an amazing team here with lots of laughs everyday. We all ‘live and die’ with this place!
Every time I’m in The Boatyard, I just want to move right on in. I’ve even planned which rooms would be in each space as a home. Where did the design come from for such a comfortable captivating space? It’s like a sailing museum.First, I chose an excellent architect and woodworker, Don Reithlingshoefer. Since he grew up in Baltimore, he has had a life-long interest in the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore, and Annapolis communities, as well as an architectural interest in the urban, maritime, and historic character.
All of the artifacts here are pieces I was drawn to. The old wooden fishing skiff (hanging from the ceiling) was bought off a beach in St. Barts with a vision for The Boatyard when I was negotiating the purchase for the lot at the corner of Severn Avenue and Fourth Street. The original wooden sign from Hogs Breath Bar in Key West hangs in the main dining room and a surfboard autographed for The Boatyard by singer/songwriter Jack Johnson are just a few of my favorite artifacts. There are old black and white photographs from Cuba, a large black and white photo from Marion Warren, and many antique oyster cans.
The main restrooms each have their own style. The men’s room has a sense of a Montana ranch for the guys, while the ladies’ room is just more island fun!
In 2007, I bought the dry cleaners next door and expanded The Boatyard kitchen, added an additional dining room we call The Market with a more intimate bar, “The Pilar,” named after Hemingway’s fishing boat.
There are so many events you have founded, it makes the head spin! Tell us about them.We have founded four main events, which we continue to sponsor annually:
Annual Annapolis Maritime Museum Boatyard Beach Bash. I’m on the Board of the Annapolis Maritime Museum and had a vision for a fun fundraiser with a Jimmy Buffett/Parrot Head theme. This event raises over $50,000 net of expenses for the Annapolis Maritime Museum. The mission of the AMM is to educate children and adults on the area’s rich maritime heritage and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.
Annual Bands In The Sand. As a Trustee of CBF, I saw the opportunity for the best beach party in the area while out at another event up on the porch at CBF almost a decade ago. I said to myself, ‘this is nice, but CBF needs to have its largest fundraiser right on the beach by the Bay overlooking Thomas Point Lighthouse.’ The event has raised close to a million dollars for CBF.
The C.R.A.B. Regatta is an annual event for the non-profit C.R.A.B. Organization (Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating), dedicated to making sailing available for people with disabilities. [This year] will be our ninth annual.
The Boatyard Annual Opening Day Rockfish Catch-and-Release Fishing Tournament on [the] premises, has raised over $250,000 for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Coastal Conservation Association, Maryland. This was The Boatyard’s first ever lifestyle charity event. Anglers Sports Center continues to be the official presenting sponsor.
Do you still have this mission statement: ‘Pint Drinks * Fresh Food * A Healthier Bay * Sailing Fast * Fishing with Friends * Happy Kids?’I still live by these edicts, but I don’t call it a mission statement. It is based more on Chouinard’s book, Let My People Go Surfing, The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, and the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life. This is what I think of as my philosophy and our commitment here.
Rockfish Love Point
The following is Chef George’s original Boatyard recipe that is sometimes featured as a special or can be “prepared by special request.” There are three separate components: Rockfish filets, heirloom tomatoes, and citrus butter, which meld together beautifully.
- 2, 8-ounce Maryland Rockfish filets
- Olive oil to rub filets
- Couple pinches, sea salt and lemon pepper, to taste
Rub the fillets with oil and season with salt and pepper, refrigerate.
- 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, cleaned and halved (the color and flavor make this dish pop!)
- 6 ounces Maryland (the best) Jumbo Lump Crab
- 4 fresh scallions, chopped
- Pinch of finely chopped garlic
- Juice and zest from 1 lemon
- A few leaves each, fresh basil and mint, chopped
- Couple of pinches Chesapeake Bay seasoning
In a bowl, gently mix all above ingredients for Heirloom Tomatoes.
- 1 cup softened (not melted) unsalted butter
- (go for the good stuff)
- Zest and juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime, and 1 orange
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Little bit of chopped fresh basil, parsley, and tarragon
The Citrus Butter can be made a few days in advance. Mix all of above ingredients together. There are no rules here, you can always add more juices, herbs, or even sea salt depending on what you like. Whip ingredients in a mixer until fully incorporated and airy and you are able to make “peaks” with it. Roll/wrap butter in wax paper and freeze. You’ll have leftover citrus butter you can store “forever” in the freezer and use on chicken, steaks, fish, or veggies—whatever your heart desires.
To Make the DishHeat a sauté pan on a burner or grill and melt a tablespoon of the citrus butter. Add the tomato mixture, gently toss and slowly cook.
You’ll want to start grilling at same time, so place filets on medium hot grill, cook 3–4 minutes making sure you switch angles so you get those sexy professional looking grill marks! Turn fish and repeat, making sure you don’t overcook the fish. Remember, you can always cook it more but once it’s overcooked, there’s no going back, you’ll have a case of the dry fish!