Issue: August 2002
Hauled Out and Hungry

Snappers Waterfront Cafe serves hearty fare to all comers on the banks of Cambridge Creek.

 

     A person can work up a pretty good appetite prepping a boat for relaunch. And that’s what we’d been doing all morning at Generation III in Cambridge, Md., so when lunchtime rolled around, we were more than ready for a trip across the harbor to Snappers. But were we presentable? I was reasonably clean, because all I’d had to do was stand in the main saloon and push buttons and turn switches whenever Captain Clint, down in the engine room, bellowed at me. Clint was downright grimy.

     I dunno, I said. Snappers is a pretty nice place, by all accounts; they may not like it if you drip oil on their carpet. But we gave it a try, and the good folks at Snappers didn’t even blink. After all, they have workboats tied up out front in season and hot and cold running watermen, all with appetites like Clint’s and their share of excess oil. The hostess ushered us to a table planted between two groups of well dressed Sunday diners, who didn’t seem to give a fig about what we looked like either. They smiled and nodded pleasantly; we fit in just fine, and I didn’t have to pretend I was someone else.

     Snappers is a pleasant, open room with a bar lining one wall, separated from the diners by an open partition. Large windows look out beyond an ample deck to Cambridge Creek and a view of the busy drawbridge. A shelf over the windows holds a collection of decoys, old oyster cans, tools, what have you. The only thing that seemed oddly out of place was a wood-slatted lobster pot-an antique, at any rate.

     The menu took forever to read. First came the page listing all the frozen drinks, with intriguing names like Caribbean Daze, Frozen Snapper and Raspberry Mudslide. We passed on those, but I wondered if they came with little umbrellas; I didn’t ask. Then came the appetizers-crab and chicken delicacies mostly, with potato skins and stuffed jalapenos for variety. We asked for the crab dip, which came served in a crusty bread bowl and was enough to satisfy a table of six. It was creamy, cheesy and peppery and probably didn’t need to have a morsel of crab in it to be tasty. As it was, I thought the crab was somewhat overwhelmed by the other flavors. But Clint wolfed it down (so much for the table-of-six theory). It was food, and that’s why we’d come.

     Settling on a lunch entree took time. We pored over pages of Mexicana: burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, fajitas. There were also burgers to pick from (including a build-your-own), as well as soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes and seafood. I finally ordered the broiled crabcake sandwich; Clint ordered an enchilada sampler: the Tres Hombres Enchilada Combo Plate. We were both very happy. My crabcake was made with big chunks of fresh, sweet crabmeat held together with the barest of bindings. I got a full burst of crab flavor-unmistakable, unvarnished crab-with every bite, all the more reason to set aside the bland hamburger bun it was served on. Clint’s plate was still sizzling when it reached the table. His three burritos (one bean, one chicken, one beef) were smothered in a zesty cheese sauce, and he had a side of beans and rice-the disappearing kind. (Did I mention he was hungry?) For dessert we tried the peanut butter pie (okay, we were feeling venturesome). It was . . . well, you gotta like peanut butter. We’ll leave it at that.

     All in all, this was a fine place to eat, with plenty of hearty, filling dishes to tempt a range of palates. Clint guesstimated that a couple could get out of here, full, for as little as 15 bucks. A high roller could spend plenty more-my broiled crabcake, for example, was “market priced daily” and we all know what that can mean. The bar offers an array of local brews on tap, from Fordhams to Snappers Pale Ale. And the service was cheerful and friendly-even though Clint looked like something a muskrat had chewed on. Probably one of the best things about the place though, is its location next door to J. M. Clayton’s crab-packing house. The crabcakes might be priced daily, but by golly they’re fresh.

 

     Snappers Waterfront Cafe is located on Commerce Street (off High Street), right on Cambridge Creek in Cambridge, Md. There is free first-come-first-served dockage for diners in front; the town also offers free dockage along the seawall in front of the courthouse building, an easy stroll away. Restaurant hours are Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The bar generally remains open till midnight. Appetizers run $5 to $10; light fare $5 to $15; dinner entrees $10 to $25. Credit cards accepted. Reservations recommended for parties of five or more. 410-228-0112.