The Nauti-Goose Saloon in North East, Md., isn't just at 
the top of the Bay, it's at the top of the heap!

by Ann Levelle, September 2010

Summer haze notwithstanding, my friend Cat and I had a fabulous view from our table in the blessedly air-conditioned Nauti-Goose Saloon. And, knowing where we were, at the navigable limit of the Northeast River at the very tippity top of the Bay, it was fun to imagine what lay beyond the view--the whole Chesapeake, nearly 200 miles of it, flowing south, widening and widening, all the way to the Atlantic. For our lunching purposes, though, this was not the top of anything; it was the midpoint. Cat lives in South Jersey and I'm in Annapolis, so North East, Md., was the ideal rendezvous point--and the Nauti-Goose Saloon, a favorite among northern Bay boaters, was the obvious choice.

Since it was a weekday afternoon, the cool dining room was nice and quiet, perfect for what we knew would be an hours-long catch-up chat. We sat overlooking the huge outdoor patio, long piers and the river, the north shore of which is lined here by North East's community park. The view really is breathtaking from here; it's no wonder so many boaters flock to the Goose on evenings and weekends. Well, that and the restaurant offers really good food, excellent drinks (so I've heard . . . I didn't partake that day) live entertainment every weekend night, and all-you-can-eat buffets on weekends. The restaurant's four long docks have room for about 50 boats, too, which brings boating clubs, poker runs and cruisers up the river in droves.  

After a quick glance at the varied menu, we decided to order an appetizer to hold us over, as there were so many enticing options to choose from that we knew a decision was going to take a while. After thoroughly considering crab dip, fried oysters and steamed mussels, we decided to order the Shrimp Jammers. Our very pleasant server Dan soon arrived with a small plate of crispy fried shrimp that had been stuffed with cheese and a jalapeno--a wonderful twist on the jalapeno popper that was perfectly gooey with cheese, yet had great flavor (thanks to the shrimp and chili) and wasn't remotely greasy. The portion was just right, too, since we were now hungrier. So we decided on a three course lunch. What the heck, we were having fun catching up and the food was good. . . . On to soup and salad! 

Yes, I said soup. In the summer. That's because Cat is a self-proclaimed bisque connoisseur, and nothing would do but to try the seafood bisque with shrimp, scallops and crab. A good choice, she concluded after a few spoonfuls--though another dash or two of salt would have made it even better, she said. I chose the more weather-appropriate Portofino salad--mixed greens with straw-berries, almonds, feta, raspberry vinaigrette and a port wine poached pear. It was an enormous salad (enough left over for a full lunch the next day), and fresh and delicious to boot.

But we weren't finished yet. We still had a lot of gabbing to do and there were third course sandwiches in our future. Despite some temptations such as a fried oyster sandwich, barbecue Po' Boy and the "Pretzel Mountain" (raspberry glazed ham piled on a fresh baked soft pretzel and topped with tomato, melted cheese and balsamic honey mustard), I ordered a jumbo lump crabcake sandwich and was shocked with the sheer amount of jumbo lumps. I'm not actually sure what held that cake together, but it sure wasn't filler. Wow. Cat's Cajun mahimahi sandwich was no slouch either, a very large piece of moist and tender fish that was seasoned just right.

Now approaching the three-hour mark, we were tempted to stay put and let the dinner hour overtake us. We certainly had plenty of conversation left to bridge the gap, but alas the three-course lunch had done us in, gustatorily speaking. It's a shame too, as we were both salivating even on our way out the door over the seafood mac and cheese on the dinner menu. But we'll just have to save that for our next get-together at the halfway mark.

The Nauti-Goose Saloon is at 200 W. Cherry Street, in North East, Md., or, via its nautical address at the northeast tip of the Northeast River. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, and has plenty of slips for diners. Lunch $8-$12; dinner $14-$34. 410-287-7880; www.nautigoosesaloon.com.