Even if you don’t have plans to get out on the water, summer is the best season to visit Annapolis. That’s because the seaside town’s restaurant scene is booming, making it a worthy destination for D.C. food fiends looking for a change of pace and some truly exceptional meals.
This winsomely creative farm-to-table venture is hands down one of the best restaurants in Maryland. Perched on a busy thoroughfare in the downtown area, it’s run by husband and wife powerhouse Jeremy and Michelle Hoffman. She handles the front of the house, he handles the kitchen. There is real intention to detail. No, that’s not a spelling error. Every component of every dish is thoughtfully sourced and artfully prepared. Shareable starters include a best-ever liverwurst made in house and served on white bread with the crusts cut off, a blockbuster crispy kale salad that evokes Rasika’s palak chaat, and a rainbow of pickles. Mains are creative and comforting, like a chicken sausage dressed up like a Caesar salad and coffee glazed, slow braised local beef. Save room for the play on Pennsylvania Dutch shoofly pie, which is lighter, but just as rewarding, as the original.
164 Main St.
The appetite-stimulating aroma of wood smoke and the cheery crackle of flames welcomes you to this picture perfect redoubt in West Annapolis. The fire pit out front is ringed with Adirondack chairs, inviting you to sit down and enjoy a pre-dinner drink, or s’mores as a finishing treat. Chef-owner Frederik de Pue – who earned accolades and followers for the now-shuttered Table in Shaw – puts out classic Euro-minded cuisine with creative twists. Think grilled oysters in the style of escargot with plenty of garlic butter and parsley, cucumber gazpacho hiding delicate coconut jellies and compressed watermelon, and miniature deep fried apricot-almond empanadas complemented by fromage blanc ice cream. If you’ve got the time on date night, it’s worth driving out just for the evening.
17 Annapolis St.
This is the bakery you dream of discovering on a road trip. Set in a tan brick building with nautical blue trim on a residential stretch of the Eastport neighborhood, it offers up rave-worthy pastries, beautiful baked goods, and strong coffee. If they still have morning buns when you arrive – they go quickly – make sure to snap one of the flaky, buttery, sugar-coated breakfast treats hiding hints of cinnamon and orange zest. Petite galettes showcasing the season’s produce, thick wedges of quiche and crackle crusted baguettes are all equally worthy of your attention. Savor your purchases at a sidewalk seat or at one of the closely set tables inside.
618 Chesapeake Ave.
Overlooking Spa Creek and Annapolis Harbor, this corner café is the perfect place to have breakfast or pick up lunch before heading out on the water. If you’re there for an a.m. fix, try a scone, which are surprisingly soft and inspired by whatever strikes the baker’s fancy that morning. Eye opening coffee comes from nearby Open Seas in Stevensville, Maryland. Substantial sandwiches are good for a midday meal. One of the best features fried chicken shoehorned into a warm biscuit and drizzled with sriracha honey. Make sure to get it with a side of the crackly, housemade potato chips, which are dusted with Old Bay, of course.
303 Second St., Suite A
Ahoy there, matey. If you’re in need of a cocktail (or seven), you’ve navigated your ship to the right slip. The colorful haunt for sea dogs and landlubbers alike offers an armada of well-made tiki drinks. No Substitutions pairs smoky mezcal with the sweet-tart two-punch of passion fruit; Tiki AF evens out its rich rummy vibes with watermelon puree and plenty of lime; and the Sunken Aviation has hints of violet and maraschino in its ginny depths. If you’re looking to get three sheets to the wind, order up the appropriately named Skull Puncher boasting a trio of rums. While you sip and swap tall tales, there is a bounty of bites to choose from – freshly shucked oysters, lovely tinned fish, toasts, crudos and sandwiches.
196 West St.
Tucked away in Eastport, this modest eatery and seafood shop is an all thrills, no frills operation. Head inside to order at the counter and then sit outside at one of the picnic tables shaded by straw-fringed umbrellas. Go for a basket of steamed crabs if you’re with a group. If you’re a solo act, you can’t go wrong with the fried soft-shell crab sandwich, fried locally farmed oyster slider (otherwise known as a Patty’s Fatty’s on a bun) and rockfish nuggets.
124 Bay Shore Ave.
Dubbed “Eastport style,” the pizzas here are relatively thin crusted and rectangular with rounded corners. Think of them as a cross between Neapolitan and New Haven traditions. Executive Chef Justin Moore’s creations range from the classic to the wildly creative, such as one topped with foie gras, black truffles, strawberries and black garlic, and another that mimics a baked potato. Small plates are not to be missed, such as just-pulled warm mozzarella with seasonal toppings, wild boar meatballs and a tuna tartare amped up with sriracha aioli and blood orange. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, so it can be a long wait. If you don’t want to sit around, you can always order a few pies to go.
909 Bay Ridge Ave.