Good Food, Good Service and Generous Portions
Make Chestertown's Fish Whistle a Fine Place
for an Evening of Waterfront Dining.
By Nancy Taylor Robson, August 2010
It's a good thing the Fish Whistle restaurant in Chestertown, Md., is right on the wharf. We couldn't have walked much farther in the steamy heat. But with its great location, its breezy riverside deck and its casual, friendly atmosphere, it's a great place to spend a leisurely evening.
Even though it was the tail end of a mid-June weekend, boaters weren't yet out in full force. Instead the place was buzzing inside and out with locals. (You can always tell they're locals when it takes them about ten minutes to cross the room; they stop to visit at virtually every table along the way.) The dining room, which is banked with big windows to take advantage of the Chester River view, is all wood and brightwork--floor, tables, commodious chairs. But despite what appears to be an acoustically challenged room, it is possible to have conversation without competition from other tables.
It was just us girls that Sunday evening--my grown daughter Abby, friend Theresa, and me--so we could laugh and be as silly as we wanted, encouraged by Fish Whistle's refreshing Tanqueray gin and tonics and bargain priced menu. They stint on nothing here--not the gin, not the service and certainly not the food. We knew going in that the portions would be substantial, so we ordered one starter--crab dip spread on pretzel bread--then went on to share two meals amongst the three of us.
The regular menu is full of really good choices for either the carnivore or the piscivore and includes lots of specials: fried catfish with spicy remoulade, hickory-smoked beef brisket, grilled salmon, cioppino and plenty more. Last time I ate here I'd gotten a perfectly broiled rockfish with a lightly seasoned dressing of crab that complemented the delicate fish nicely. A friend with me at the time had the all-you-can-eat oysters, a regular Thursday night special in season, done several different ways, a bargain at $25. Vegetarians have a harder time here, but there are a few good options, including hummus with fresh vegetables, a selection of large salads and Spanish fries (with jalapenos, fried onions and jack cheese).
I debated between a crabcake sandwich with a side salad or the crabcake platter, which has two good-size specimens. Since we were eating off each other's plates, I opted for the platter, which included three sides: sweet-and-sour sautéed red cabbage (which I love), rice with sautéed julienned carrots, and diced summer squash seasoned with a dash of fresh sage. While the nice and thick crabcakes were slightly over-browned, inside they were moist, with plenty of lump meat and no filler. Yum. We also had the fish taco: big chunks of beautifully cooked mahimahi wrapped in a large soft tortilla, with mounds of guacamole and salsa to accompany it. We shared dessert as well: a rich creme brulee and a huge, dense, fudgey brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and fudge sauce. It was vast and delicious.
Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive without hovering. The separate sports bar offers a bar menu until midnight every night. Fish Whistle's on-the-waterfront location also makes it the spot for drinks or dining during Chestertown's signature fall festival, Downrigging Days. You get to look out on all the light-spangled tall ships that are docked outside, sip your favorite grog and be thankful you've made such a fortuitous landfall.
The Fish Whistle is located at 98 Cannon Street in Chestertown, Md., at the Chestertown Marina (410-778-3616). It is open for lunch and dinner daily.Lunch $7-$13; dinner $10-$28. Carry out items are available. 410-778-3566; www.fishandwhistle.com