Issue: March 2005
And Gossip on the Side

The Dockside Restaurant in Crisfield, Md., serves up hearty helpings of local news as well as wholesome down-home cooking.

 

     Sit real quiet, and just blend into the wallpaper if you can. Then listen. After a while the folks in the booths and lounging at the tables around you will forget that you’re there and you’ll hear the local news: who’s dead, who’s born, why someone’s getting a divorce and when. . . . The Dockside Restaurant on Main Street in Crisfield, just a few steps up from the ferry dock, is a locals’ kind of place. Here diners greet one another by name as they walk through the door, and cry out the latest bit of community gossip as they sit down to hearty home-style meals prepared behind a half-wall partition, where the cook is as apt to be part of the conversations as not.

     I had just ridden the 8 a.m. ferry from Tangier Island and had decided to stoke my belly for the long drive home. A fellow ferry passenger had pointed out the Dockside sign to me with the promise that here I’d get the best breakfast in town-best being a relative term. You’re not going to find eggs Benedict in a place like this, but you will find a plate of eggs sunny-side up, crowded with home fries and sausage, served with juice and a hot cup of coffee. Or French toast. Or creamed chipped beef. Or an omelet. Or, if you come on a Tuesday, blueberry pancakes. The most expensive breakfast on the menu is the waterman’s breakfast at $6. It comes with two pancakes, two eggs and two pieces of sausage, bacon or scrapple.

     Lunch is just as conventional: clubs, subs, salads and burgers. A review of the dinner menu, on the other hand, reminded me that this, after all, is Crisfield, and if I’m dining out in Crisfield, I may just as well be eating seafood. Soft crabs, fried oysters, clam strips, crabcakes, shrimp and fish top the menu (in season). Then there’s chicken-fried steak or a hefty T-bone for those who want something to gnaw on. New on the menu were baked lasagna, Cajun catfish and a plate of six-cheese pasta dumplings.

     At a place like this, I always look for spectacular desserts, and I wasn’t disappointed. I watched them pull a steaming pan of bread pudding out of the oven and was half tempted to ask for a piece, but I couldn’t imagine where I would put it. (I’d already polished off a plate of eggs and sausage). The menu also listed “pie du jour” and Smith Island cake-the latter a local concoction consisting of a goodly stack of wafer-thin cake layers slathered with icing, which comes in a variety of flavors. I would have bought a piece to take home, but they weren’t getting one in that day. “Mostly we just have that on weekends,” a cheery waitress told me.

     I hit the road nonetheless satisfied, my belly burbling happily and the last bit of coffee still warming my tongue. Crisfield is a great place to visit, quiet most of the time with the occasional festival to attract a crowd. People here are unpretentious and friendly. And so’s the food.

     The Dockside Restaurant is located at 1003 West Main Street in downtown Crisfield, Md. Boats can lay off the Crisfield wharf for a short time, so long as they don’t interfere with the island ferries. During the winter the restaurant is open Monday–Thursday 6 a.m.– 2 p.m.; Friday 6 a.m.–8 p.m.; Saturday 6 a.m.–2 p.m.; closed Sunday. (Spring and summer hours are 6 a.m.–8 p.m. daily except Sunday.) Breakfast $1.50–$6; lunch $1.50–$8; dinner $2.50–$15 (market price for crab and fresh fish); kids menu $3 ($2 on Mondays). Cash only. 410-968-2800.