When a spring day is just perfect--a warm and cozy 75 degrees, clean, crisp air and a Caribbean blue sky--I find it nearly impossible, and terribly depressing, as I’m sure we all do, to stay indoors. And it was on just such a day this June when the call of the perfect day was too hard to resist. We were on a tight deadline here at the office, and there wasn’t time for a boat ride, so instead I rallied some of my co-workers into joining me for a little al fresco seafood lunch. We hopped in the car and made a quick stop at my house to pick up my daughter as well as my mother-in-law, who was visiting from out of town, and who always wants a good crabcake when she comes to visit. Then we headed into Eastport to Wild Country Seafood.
Wild Country opened four years ago when watermen Pat Mahoney and his son Pat Jr., decided to open up a seafood market where they could sell their own catch of crabs and fish, announcing themselves as the “last watermen in Eastport.” The Mahoneys took up residence in the bottom half of a house on Bay Shore Avenue in what used to be Bay Shore Marine (which moved across Back Creek some time ago), just off Second Street, and a few steps behind the Annapolis Maritime Museum. And though Wild Country itself may be a whole half-block from the water, you can be sure that its food is as fresh as it comes. The Mahoney duo is out daily catching what’s in season and then heading back to their kitchen and walk-in counter area, where they (mostly) fry up yummy sandwiches, platters and crabcakes. They also serve steamed crabs and some not-local-but-still-fresh goodies like Gulf shrimp, cod and clams (from the James River).
Last year, when my daughter was brand new and my husband John and I were too tired to cook, we were introduced to Wild Country with some take-out crabcakes--which were excellent, moist and flavorful. Every time I’ve had them since, they’ve been just about perfect every time. This office outing, however, was my first time eating on the premises. We placed our orders at the seafood counter--filled with soft shell crabs, crab meat, rockfish and shrimp. (Wild Country also acts as a seafood market, so you can get your fresh fish here and cook it to your heart’s desire.) Then we grabbed some drinks from the cooler and headed outside to one of the picnic tables. The tables are set up along a fence that has been decorated with a mural of palm trees and sand, and each table is shaded by its own tropical-thatch umbrella. Considering that the tables--which are decorated with little workboats that hold the condiments and a wooden-crab topped roll of paper towels--are pretty much in a parking lot, it’s a surprisingly welcoming atmosphere. We watched my daughter play in the oyster shells next to our table while we waited for our lunches. Soon enough, the younger Mahoney was delivering our food to us. Beth had a basket of crab balls, which were quite tasty. Melanie had a basket of clam strips that were absolutely the best I’ve eaten. The fried bits were crunchy, but the actual clams still had flavor and moisture. In short, they weren’t the deep-fried rubber bands I’ve come to expect.
My combo seafood platter came with a fried fish filet, crabcake, shrimp, clam strips and fries. I couldn’t come anywhere close to finishing it, but I did eat all of the shrimp, clam strips and crabcake. I wasn’t about to leave any bits of those behind, as they were all delicious. I had also ordered a white perch sandwich for the kiddo, but the perch were already sold out for the day, so she had some of grandma’s cod filet instead. She didn’t tell me if it was good or not, since her vocabulary at the time was limited to “Mommy,” “Daddy” and “no.” But she did actually eat a bit of it, and, well, a lot of the fries.
I wished we had had the time to sit and pick steamed crabs, but alas, the deadline loomed and we had to go back to the office. However, our new friend from the table next door, who works at the Eastport Yachting Center across the street, ensured us that they were the best in town. He said he often comes over and orders just a few for lunch when the weather really puts him in the mood. . . .
Guess I’m not the only one with that problem.
Wild Country Seafood is located at 124 Bay Shore Ave., in Eastport, just behind the Annapolis Maritime Museum. They’re open in season Tues.–Thurs. 3–7 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; call for winter hours. Baskets and sandwiches $5–$11; platters $11–$18; steamed crabs and fresh oysters; market price. 410-267-6711; www.wildcountryseafood.com.