The Cheshire Crab Restaurant at Pleasure Cove Marina brings out a lasting smile.
Everyone remembers the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. That fat fellow could disappear till only his smile remained. At the Cheshire Crab, the little eatery tucked into the embankment above Pleasure Cove Marina off the Patapsco River, a diner will hardly disappear, but that smile may very well appear. Between good service, fun entertainment and hearty food, the Cheshire Crab provides anything a hungry cruiser could hope for-including fuel, protected dockage and boating supplies.
It was just a few weeks ago when my friend Cliff and I jumped in the land cruiser and dusted up the road from Annapolis to Pasadena, Md., and Pleasure Cove Marina. It was still and cold. Boats were tucked into their winter jammies and lined up on the boatel racks, waiting for warmer weather. The docks lay still and empty in the winter night. But we were on a quest. The Christmas holidays were nearly upon us, and Cliff wanted to pick up a Cheshire Crab T-shirt for his girlfriend. It hardly seemed right to buy a T-shirt and not stay for a beer at the friendly bar. And after a beer, well, it seemed like dinner was in order. And so it was that we found ourselves tucked into a booth near the blazing fireplace, perusing a pair of menus-well, I was perusing the menu, anyway. Cliff was reading the drink list, which had, he said, several exotic sounding concoctions that would be well worth trying some night when he only had to lumber down the pier to his boat.
We cut to the chase and ordered up a plate of oysters on the half shell and a saucy shrimp cocktail. The oysters were plenty juicy, but not from around here, the waitress confessed. (We knew that going in. You want local oysters? Go to Tilghman Island.)
Next came Cliff’s order of broiled crabcakes: two succulent beauties, chock full of crab lumps with the barest of bindings. They came with a side of crisp broccoli and corn-on-the-cob. Perfect, said Cliff. My own order of Chicken Chesapeake was tasty and filling. Lumps of chicken breast and country ham were sauteed together in a creamy, crabby sauce, laced with Indian spices (I’m guessing turmeric and a spot of curry) and bits of spinach. It was served over a bed of penne pasta. I ate about half, deciding that I really wanted to try a slab of lemon mousse pie and still be able to walk to the car. Cliff had his eye on the Dutch apple crumb pie, but that didn’t prevent him from snarfing down both crabcakes in their entirety. The desserts were a nice finish to a good meal.
The wait staff could not have been more helpful or pleasant. They bent over backwards to fetch Cliff his coveted T-shirt. And they went beyond the call of duty by spiriting a few samples of the fried oysters out of the kitchen for me. Good ones: not heavy, greasy or doughy. You could certainly taste the oyster, though there was a bit of breading.
This was not my first trip to the Cheshire Crab. Nor will it be my last. The place has good food, reasonable prices and great accommodations for a traveling boater. The bar is lively with locals-a good sign, always. Stop for a beer, you may just end up staying for dinner. Regardless, you’re bound to walk out with a smile.
The Cheshire Crab is open year round for lunch and dinner (closed Mondays through March). A large glassed-in deck overlooks Main Creek (off Bodkin Creek). Lunch $6–$12; appetizers $5–$10; entrees $14–$27. Thursday is prime rib night: $12.95. For slip reservations in season call 410-437-6600. Major credit cards accepted. 410-360-2220; www.pleasurecovemarine.com.