Boatyard Bar & Grill
Jun 02, 2018 12:00AM
By Rita Calvert Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
If you sit down and have a friendly chat with Dick Franyo, owner of The Boatyard, you will learn a lot. If you sit down with executive chef, George Bentz, you will laugh a lot. Luckily, I got to experience learning and laughter during two different conversations with first, Dick and then, chef George.
Most of us know about the food, the fun, the bustling nautical vibe with Dick’s international art and photos packing the walls. However, it’s quite an experience to be exposed to Dick’s passion for the environment and especially the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a treat to sit down and have a conversation with him.
Dick, on the back of your business card (and on your website), you have, Committed to pint drinks, fresh food, a healthier bay, sailing fast, fishing with friends and happy kids. How did that come about?
One point I think about a lot— and our customers sense it and appreciate it—is that we always make sure we are authentic from the huge beams we trucked in from the northwest to build our ceiling or the “heart pine” from an old dock in Baltimore we found to create the columns, to the commitments we discussed to guide us, to the art and artifacts on the wall. When we say we have an environmental ethic is not a tip of the hat. It’s all the things I explained to you.
When we do our charity events we go all out and they are quality and the real deal and they raise real money. People can tell if you’re not real. And then we try to sell lifestyle. The Chesapeake Bay experience— sailing, fishing, happy kids, slurping oysters and saving the Bay. Then it’s about having a talented and dedicated management team to make it all work.
One last thought. I often talk about Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. A long time ago when he first started putting out his catalog he had amazing pictures of people doing cool things—not models—wearing well-worn Patagonia gear. Scaling El Capitan, a fishing guide making a stream-side lunch for clients. Surfers taking a rest in the North Shore in Hawaii where JJ (John “John”) lives. So you bought this gear because you wanted to identify with these people. It was a lifestyle thing. We built the Boatyard with the same thought in mind. Everyone can’t sail or fish on the bay, go to St Barts or Key West, but they like to think about that. Just like the early Patagonia catalog...the real thing. Authentic. Yvon Chouinard showed me the way. And also on the environment, he’s the dude.
I saw you and chef George receiving the Oyster Recovery Partnership award for top oyster restaurant in Annapolis. How did you get there?
That is an award we have received for a few years as we sell the most oysters of any restaurant in Annapolis. We even built an entire outside room to house the saved shells. Then CBF picks them up and they are used for spats in oyster bed restoration. Buck a Shuck on Sundays all day and happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday are just some of the promotions we have for oysters.
The Boatyard is huge on the environment and we are working towards a zero-waste program. We have our food scraps picked up by Veterans’ Compost although it was a challenge to tell my servers they had to scrape the plates after folks had eaten. We use compostable to-go boxes and even have compostable straws.
I’ve been a member of the top line of 1 percent for the Planet since 2001. My theory is that the Chesapeake Bay is in bad shape and restaurants, business and tourism are a huge economic engine to help its recovery.
Dick, now you are doing mail order. How long have you been doing it. How is it going?
We’ve been doing mail order for almost a year...mainly featuring our Crab Cakes (our bestselling item) and also Maryland Crab Soup and Crab Dip. We started the mail order ourselves and built the website to handle it. All was going very well until shipping reared its ugly head. A customer might order $100 of our product and then shipping costs would be $90. That just wasn’t sustainable.
Then while being on the board of St. Johns College, I ran into a former associate (and competitor) from the financial world. He told me about the business he created—Foodie Direct which enables him to get great New York bagels, or any iconic food, even if in California. We decided to give it a try for our mail order food and it works. Now sales are off the charts.
Chef George, how do you handle filling that kind of mail order volume when you also run a bustling restaurant?
The volume at Christmas was something. I get in to The Boatyard about 5 am every day. The bulk orders come in around 6 a.m. We had to really get cracking and make the Crab Cakes to order and they are shipped fresh and raw along with cooking instructions. It worked and all were happy, but next year we are thinking of taking over Dick’s house a few blocks over to set up a commissary kitchen there.
George, what ingredients are you excited to cook with this year?
Around the spring, I’m always excited to cook with the first softshell crabs. I just dust them lightly with flour, sauté in butter, of course, and serve with fresh lemon. They’re nice and sweet and you never know when Mother Nature is going to make them happen.
I’m also excited about our newly tweaked meatloaf recipe. We have always had a knock down the doors item but we added a bit of chorizo to the mix to give a little subtle kick. Now it’s extra popular for our Monday Blue Plate special. By the way, we do a Blue Plate special every week night featuring a homey comforting well priced item.
George, give us a few words that come to mind when someone says Annapolis.
I just have to say Dick Franyo and The Boatyard. Dick is the most caring person I have ever worked with. It is very important to him to give back. He focuses mostly on the Chesapeake Bay. We all love him here and most of the crew I work with has been together here for 13 years.
Dick, what are you most looking forward to in the future of our area?
I’m excited to see the continued improvement for the Bay. I’m on the board of The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, involved in efforts which keep rolling along. The Flush Tax, the 2004 Maryland law, has raised money to improve sewage treatment plants. With continued improvement of 66 treatment plants, water clarity is improving, we have larger and larger grass coverage, and in 2017, a no oxygen area didn’t exist for the first time in a decade.
A storm management fee, passed by the state legislature in 2012 was enforced for Maryland’s largest jurisdictions to meet requirements under state law to develop financing plans to reduce polluted storm water. In 2015, Governor Larry Hogan repealed the mandate of this “Rain Tax” and gave jurisdictions the flexibility to enact a plan that suited them best. These areas deserve credit for stepping forward to pay for clean water projects—for the good of our environment and Maryland’s economy.
Now it’s very exciting to see that Maryland and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation have moved agriculture to the top of the list for continued Bay improvement. Conservation efforts support healthier farms and cleaner water. Programs of farms addressing pollution is the most cost-effective to improve the health of local streams and rivers, as well as downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. This is under a federal-state partnership called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Antoine’s Stuffed Oysters Rockefeller
(Makes 2-3 dozen oysters)
All ingredients can be quickly rough chopped as we will puree mixture when cooking is complete. I recommend a buttery rich Kendall Jackson Chardonnay as a paired wine.
1 stick butter
3/4 cup peeled shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
2 whole carrots, shredded
2 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1/2 cup Pernod (more or less to taste…
I like more (Substitute Anisette or other anise flavored liquor)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan-Reggiano cheese & mozzarella mix
In a large heavy sauté pan add butter and heat until bubbly; add shallot, celery, carrots and sauté until soft. Add spinach, basil, parsley and garlic and sauté till spinach is wilted. Carefully, as it is flammable, add liquor and reduce till almost dry.
Pour all ingredients into a mixing bowl and add bread crumbs to absorb excess moisture. Stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
When cool, add small batches to food processor and pulse till until ingredients are a rough/smooth consistency. Not too smooth. Let cool. Add cheese.
Shuck desired number of oysters and stuff each oyster with cooled spinach stuffing enough to almost cover oyster, don’t pack down. Place your oysters on a sheet pan, top with shredded mozzarella. You can also forgo the cheese and use a hollandaise or béarnaise sauce.
Place in 400-degree oven or under broiler until oysters are cooked and cheese and spinach mix are just brown.
Serve oyster over rock/Kosher salt with fresh lemon wedges and your desired wine or Champagne.