Your Weekend: Planned!
By Susan Able, photography by Jennifer Chase, Edible DC
The fun fact about Annapolis that most people don’t know? It was the United States capital in 1783–84. When George Washington came to the new statehouse, it’s a safe bet that he had a hearty meal of seafood. Oysters, crabs, scallops and all types of fresh fish were a big part of the coastal Colonial diet and a thriving industry in Annapolis.
Over 200 years later, the Bay’s oysters and blue crab still rank high on the list of favorite Annapolitan foods. But if you haven’t visited this historic town in the past few years, you may be surprised to learn another fun fact: Annapolis has developed a notable food scene far beyond the classics of crab cakes and Orange Crushes. New restaurants with flair and quality have created new iconic “must-have” dishes, meaning that food lovers have new reasons to plan a visit.
Start with “Eastport-style” pizza. VIN 909 opened in 2012 and quickly caught positive notice with food critics from DC and Baltimore. The wood-fired pizza, created by Chef Justin Moore, is famed for its thin crust and exceptional toppings. The rest of the menu is no afterthought; the small plates and salads are exceptional. Co-owner and wine director Alex Manfredonia met Chef Moore when they were both working at high-end restaurants in San Francisco, and decided to throw their hats in together—with the idea of bringing California flavors and Mediterranean style back to Alex’s hometown of Annapolis.
The VIN 909 pizza is considered to be tops in the region, as is their outstanding list of wines by the glass. Personal favorites are The Spotted Pig, with spicy soppressata and wild boar meatballs, and The Popeye, with—you guessed it—spinach, ricotta, mozz and orange blossom olive oil. Located in a restored bungalow in the Eastport neighborhood, lines form quickly for dinner service, but carryout options are available and lunch is served Wednesday through Sunday.
Also in the Eastport are other great options. Bakers & Co., open at 7am (W–Su), has a full coffee bar and a lineup of freshly baked breads, scones, croissants, pound cakes, muffins and their famous market buns, a buttery dough kissed with cinnamon and orange zest. Lucy and Chris Simmons, the owners and bakers, also serve lunch. An example of “farm market to bricks and mortar,” Bakers & Co. developed a loyal following and long lines at the weekly Anne Arundel County Farmers Market, giving them the confidence they needed to start their bakery. Mentioned in Food & Wine as a top breakfast spot in Maryland, Bakers & Co. is a popular gathering spot, with outdoor seating. Also a great grab-and-go option for boaters, picnickers and those who want breakfast at home.
Want to soak in Annapolis’s nautical side with breakfast? Grab a seat at the counter at Eastport’s Bread and Butter Kitchen. The passion project of Monica Alvarado—a former career consultant who started food blogging and developing recipes, then took the leap to take over a lease and launch her own concept. She believes in supporting “local” and uses many ingredients from her farmer and food maker friends (think jam, kraut, pickles) and local dairy products. Her breakfast includes breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches and Salsa con Huevos. In the mood for something sweet? Order open-face banana and Nutella toast or a seasonal scone. Iced coffee aficionados: The ice cubes here are made of coffee (who wants a watery iced coffee?) and the straws are pieces of tubular pasta—no plastic! My favorite sandwich is the fried chicken breast with honey sriracha sauce on a homemade biscuit—and homemade chips. Monica, we’re very glad you made a career change.
Wander up Main Street from the Annapolis Town Dock and you’ll find Preserve. Husband and wife Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman, graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, developed at some of the country’s top restaurants (think Tribeca Grill, Per Se, Union Square Café and Nobu). When they decided to strike out on their own, they chose Annapolis with a very different concept than standard tourist fare. With the idea of tapping into Jeremy’s Pennsylvania Dutch roots, Preserve serves up unique twists on home food using local and seasonal ingredients, many that Michelle pickles and preserves. Their expertise shines through in execution and service; both are on point always. Michelle is the mixologist, and her cocktail menu is one of the best in town. She weaves local spirits into concoctions that often feature her own shrubs, infused syrups and dried fruits and hot peppers.
This year marks their fourth anniversary, and Preserve has created one of Annapolis’s “must-have” dishes: their fried crispy kale, an homage to Rasika’s fried spinach. You’ll always find pickles on the menu and for spring, the salmon toast is a new must-have. My soft spot is for the slow-cooked pork and homemade sauerkraut with mashed potatoes, but it is just as easy to make a meal of shared small plates. The front windows are garage style, so in temperate weather they go up, all the better to watch the passersby and the Navy cadets in their summer whites.
Happy hour? You’ll want to stay long after it ends at Sailor Oyster Bar. No more genial hosts exist in Annapolis than Scott and Gabrielle Herbst, whose bar and restaurant quickly won the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Decorated with brilliant whimsy, Sailor stays on theme with nautical gear everywhere and servers outfitted in French-sailor-style striped T-shirts. What’s fascinating about Sailor’s packed house is that they serve a dinner menu in a restaurant that does not have kitchen. When the Herbsts planned to open their new place in a centuries-old Annapolis rowhouse, the fact that there was no commercial kitchen did not hold them back. With confidence gained by owning Tsunami, another successful restaurant a few blocks away, they decided that great drinks, a solid raw bar and a top-quality tinned seafood program could satisfy guests, all they needed was a toaster and a blow torch. Throw in other menu items like cheese and a poke bowl and you’ve got dinner the way many of us prefer: minimal but delicious, accompanied by a great cocktail. The drinks menu comes sorted by three levels of strength and the octopus comes torched. Be forewarned: Happy hour starts promptly at 4pm, Tuesday through Friday, and even midweek it is the most popular place in town.
Many DC eaters will know Chef Frederik de Pue, formerly of DC’s Table and Menu FBK. In 2017, de Pue came to Annapolis and purchased a bungalow in West Annapolis to launch Flamant. This Flemish chef designed the restaurant, and the transformation is stunning. In addition to dinner service, de Pue is also runs a catering business and hosts small events in his restaurant. The menu at Flamant changes often, but de Pue has kept on the dishes that fans can’t quit—his Maryland blue crab rolls are crispy, Old Bay–kissed and addictive; other favorites are de Pue’s duck confit dome wrapped in savoy cabbage and his roast veal shank for two. My favorite dessert of last year was Flamant’s sour cherry clafoutis. A simple dessert, but in de Pue’s hands it was a beautiful thing—served in a tiny cast-iron pot with ice cream. Flamant was nominated this spring for Favorite New Restaurant by the Maryland Restaurant Association.
A seasonal food recommendation would include the soft shell crab basket at Wild Country Seafood, next to the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Eat “caught that day seafood” under a tiki umbrella in a parking lot and know what the good life is. The Mahoney family, MD watermen for generations, knows how to run a fry-o-lator for their soft shells, rockfish bites and large fried oysters, called Patty’s Fattys. Some of the best fried seafood around and its BYOB. Crabs by the bushel are available for order.
Now that you have eaten your way through Annapolis, what about walking around town for exercise? The U.S. Naval Academy welcomes visitors on foot, and traipsing from Eastport up Main Street to West Street and back will burn off three miles’ worth of food.
For shoppers, stroll down Main Street, but do a lap on Maryland Avenue off of the State House Circle, where you will find small shops run by locals. One favorite is Natalie Silitich Folk Art, for antiques. You’ll also find home décor, clothing, Annebeth’s gourmet store with lots of local items, a bookstore, coffee shop and an Irish pub. On your way, don’t miss the Annapolis Pottery and the Maryland Federation of Art, both devoted showing the work of local artists.
Nightlife, well, yes, there is. In addition to a hopping bar scene, Rams Head Tavern is famous in the area as an important music venue; 49 West Coffeeshop & Jazz Bar has interesting lineups of local musicians.
Saturday mornings should dictate a stop at the Anne Arundel County Farm Market on Riva Road; on your way into town swing by and pick up award-winning cheese, fresh eggs, organic and grass-fed meats, breads and baked goods.
More exercise? Bring your bike and do the B&O trail, which starts in Annapolis and goes all the way to BWI airport. Quiet Waters Park has 340 acres that abut the South River, and miles of trails and paths as well as enclosed dog parks and a dog beach. In the summer months, try your hand at paddleboarding at Capital SUP, opening for the 2019 season in the Ellen O. Moyer Nature Park in Eastport, or kayaking at Kayak Annapolis. Check out the Annapolis Sailing School, or go full throttle at JWorld. Really need to destress? Annapolis even has its own float spa offering relaxation and sensory deprivation at Paradise Spa.
So much to do. Spend the weekend? Multiple stay options exist at larger well-known hotels, such as The Westin, the Annapolis Hotel or Annapolis Waterfront Hotel. A new Hilton Garden Inn also opened on West Street. Multiple bed & breakfasts operate downtown and in Eastport. Know that the town books up quickly in the summer, for fall Navy football games, Naval Academy commencement and ever-popular Annapolis events like the spring and summer boat shows, the annual Tug o’ War, Eastport a Rockin’ and the yearly .5 K run over the Annapolis Bridge (no, that is not a typo). Most things downtown and in Eastport are walkable, but should you find yourself outside of downtown or Eastport, plenty of cabs, Uber and Lyft and, in the summer, pedicabs and water taxis service the town.
Website resources for tourist information