Restaurant Review: Boatyard Bar & Grill
May 02, 2017 10:48AM ● Published by Arden Haley
All Killer, No FillerBoatyard Bar & Grill
400 Fourth St. | Annapolis | 410-216-6206 | boatyardbarandgrill.com
By Rita Calvert Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
Early evening on a cold Sunday, we encountered a lively scene at The Boatyard Bar & Grill along restaurant row in Eastport. The hosts were very accommodating when we asked if there might be a quiet table away from the bustling main dining room. We were led to the back room and settled into our corner table by a window with lush healthy green herbs in the exterior window boxes...a good sign of Boatyard’s legendary attention to detail. (Note to those who prefer later dining—the dining rush crowd was gone by 7:30 p.m.)
Every restaurant has a target audience and owner Dick Franyo has made Boatyard into the spot for sailors and lovers of the Chesapeake Bay. There’s something for every palate with a vast selection of appetizers and starters. Casual or more traditional dishes are offered, as well as, a full-page of daily specials—pizza, sandwiches, smaller plates, and full entrees—all under the guidance of Executive Chef George Betz. The menu was actually fun to read with humorous smatterings: Two broiled Maryland jumbo lump crab cakes, “All Killer, No Filler!” Served with in-house made tartar sauce, fresh vegetables, and smashed red skin potatoes. (Note to self: “All Killer, No Filler” T-shirts available in the retail store.)
Kelly, our most helpful server, had a quick response to our many questions, one of which was: “Are the coconut shrimp battered in house?” “Absolutely” was her answer, “along with all of the battered items.” She also told us that the menu is flexible—meaning the kitchen does not mind requests for substitutions.
My friend sipped a non-oaky glass of Folie a Deux (Russian River) Chardonnay while looking at the many menu options. She prefers an oakier finish, but found this one a nice accompaniment for the anticipated seafood—neither too sweet nor too thin.
As a big fan of Oyster Shooters, I was very amused by the menu’s quip: “Oyster Shooters, Oh Shell Yea!” There were four different versions to pick from—each version features an oyster cleverly combined with a libation of one kind or another and a sauce. The “Coocoocumber” was the most unique with a raw oyster, cucumber mignonette, and cucumber vodka.
Sunday seemed to be a lucky day for oyster lovers at Boatyard as they offer “Patty’s Fattys,” raw oysters on the half shell, for just a buck each. I ordered two just to experience the favorites. They were very plump, mild, and delicious on a bed of ice, hailing from an oyster farm just over the Bay Bridge in Grasonville. Each one was quite a mouthful.
The Yin and Yang, a half-portion of their Cream-of-Crab and Maryland Crab Soups in the same bowl, was clever and we debated ordering it, but for me, Antoine’s Stuffed Oysters won. This Boatyard creation is based on “Antoine’s of New Orleans” original/classic recipe. Five prime Chesapeake Bay oysters fitted with a Florentine Pernod stuffing and gratinéed with Parmesan, cheddar, and provolone. A heavy hand with the Pernod made the stuffing quite sweet, but the golden cheese crust balanced it nicely along with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
The menu was chock full of “expected” seafood dishes—but with a most unexpected and welcome feature for our winter visit: all-local crab and oysters, with a few exceptions of oysters from further north. Even diehard local fans are prepared for less-local fare in the winter months, whether from another state’s waters, or even (gasp) another country. Not here.
Decisions were difficult, but decide we did. My dining companion chose the house-smoked fish and and proclaimed it excellent: five stars out of five. Perfectly balanced, the freshly-smoked Ocean City-caught white fish had been whipped with horseradish, sour cream, and lemon and was nicely presented in a ceramic cup. The generous portion was robed in greenery with a just-right-sized drizzle of spicy Sriracha sauce, accompanied by plenty of crispy multi-seed flatbread crackers—certainly enough for sharing. She declared it so delicious, she was glad she’d ordered “just” salad and soup for dinner.
Now about that Titanic Salad and Cream-of-Crab soup my friend chose for dinner after devouring the smoked fish. The salad was a gigantic wedge of fresh iceberg on a full-size dinner plate, dressed with delicious chunky blue cheese dressing, a generous sprinkle of both bacon (real bacon, not the pretend “bits”) and scallion slices. Around the plate’s edge, a colorful “frame” of red and yellow halved cherry tomatoes and fresh avocado slices. Nice update on this classic revival.
My friend also was pleased with the crab soup. Appropriately—which is to say, not overly—thick, with nice chunks of lump crab. In a completely perfect world, the soup would have had a touch of sherry, perhaps served on the side. But it was a hit even without it so we did not think to ask Kelly.
I couldn’t wait to taste the much publicized “All Killer, No Filler!” crab cakes. Former First Lady Michelle Obama came from the White House to enjoy these crab cakes (along with her full security entourage). Who knew the story behind Boatyard’s local crab meat in the winter? Kelly, admittedly full of knowledge, informed us that the crab meat is, in fact, from Maryland even in the winter. The watermen selling to Boatyard actually have to dredge beneath the local mud to find the crustaceans. Two broiled Maryland jumbo lump crab cakes, high and rounded, arrived with veggies and a potato. The house made tartar sauce was especially fitting, brightened with a highlight of fresh onion. Definitely award worthy.
We thought long and hard about skipping dessert altogether when we were so full. But after most everything had been done “just right,” we couldn’t resist ordering the bread pudding—this day served with apples and cranberries. Expecting the usual “chunky” version, it was more of a novelty to see it sliced—two thick slices, dressed with plenty of sauce. We enjoyed a few bites, longing for a bit more of a brandy note. We lingered in the now-quiet dining room over good coffee.