Anne Arundel County – fortunately for those of us who live here – has no shortage of restaurants and bars along its many rivers, creeks, and The Bay itself. Carrol’s Creek Café (410 Severn Ave. in Eastport) provides one of the most expansive views of the water and landmarks of city of Annapolis. Directly beside the restaurant are beautiful sailboats at Annapolis City Marina. Across the river, the Naval Academy campus and its notorious dome are visible along Annapolis Harbor. To the left is the bridge over Spa Creek with the spire of St. Mary’s church in the background. And on Wednesday evenings during much of the year, guests have the greatest vantage point in town to see the sailboat races as a variety of fleets cross the finish mark directly in front of the restaurant.
To land a seat for this popular event, especially on the large deck during warm weather, reservations are required. A caveat up front is that Happy Hour pricing for half priced small plates and appetizers is available only in the inside bar. If someone in your Happy Hour group is organized, you can begin your evening in the lounge and then progress to the deck for your dining reservation at race time.
I am a big fan of the small plates concept where I am more likely to take a risk ordering something new which I might not take for an entire entrée. Generally, my companions and I get several plates/apps to share so even when someone may not favor a particular choice, inevitably someone else will think it is great.
I decided to take that risk into the drink realm as well, by choosing something completely out of my normal repertoire, when I ordered “The Machado” from the Specialty Drinks Menu. Described as “A smoky, complex margarita” with “intense smoke and roasted agave”, the final touch is a Mango-Habanera sugar rim. Who thinks these things up? Both “intense” and “complex” are spot on descriptors. The first extremely smoky sip was a shock. This was one of those drinks that grows on you once you figure it out.
The small plates menu offered a Seafood Charcuteri, which I had never heard of before, so we ordered this dish of seasoned ahi tuna, salmon, and bay scallop ceviche, each served with a variety of tasty condiments. I enjoyed the tuna and salmon, but the ceviche was a bit fishy for me. Plate sharing worked fine since my dining companion thought the ceviche just perfect. We also noticed baked brie en route to another table and that motivated us to try it. This is described as “mini”, but unless you are comparing it to a large round to serve to a houseful of dinner guests, it seemed more than large enough to share with several people and exceeded what the two of us needed. Soft and creamy inside with a golden crust, it was everything baked brie should be. It was served with toasted baguette slices, almonds and honey. Along with a basket of warm and scrumptious, homemade oregano rolls with butter, we decided to forego dinner. Our waitress was extremely friendly and helpful with a thorough knowledge of drink and menu components. We stretched the evening out into a lovely midweek rejuvenation.
If you have read my blog on this site before, you may have noticed that I think craft beer flights are genius. Carrol’s Creek offers 24 craft beers on tap. The beer flight is always a fun choice, stimulates discussion, and is a great way to try multiple beers without needing to drink a lot. I selected a flight of four completely different beers which arrived in an impressive wooden rack of 5 ounce glasses, instead of the more typical four ounce pours. Best of all, I was thrilled to see that each beer came with a pre-printed card. This contained its name, the name of the brewery, style of beer and a description of its hops and other ingredients. I find this makes the experience much more pleasant and helps further my beer education! It is frustrating to have to try to figure out which is which once they arrive based on the servers rattling off the names.
These were great! My first selection, “Summer Solstice Cream Ale” from Boonville, California was described, “It’s like cream soda for adults.” It sure was! As I remember from my childhood, it was creamy and delicious. Developed for a slightly more sophisticated palette than the soda, it was not sickeningly sweet.
Next, was “Diamonds Fur Coat Champagne” (still a beer, though). Totally different from any beer I have ever tasted, it's brewed locally by the Right Proper brewery in Washing, DC and listed as a Berliner Weiss bier. Containing citrus and elderflower, Brut Champagne is the ingredient which gives the beer its name. Who comes up with these creative monikers? Do the brew masters sit around and play, “Name That Beer?” Is there a “Beer Naming 101” offered at the local community college? It was quite good and the effervescence was pleasant.
Next was Bucktown Brown, brewed by RAR Brewing nearby in Cambridge, Maryland. The information card listed it as an American Brown Ale, which in my opinion, is always a good option. It was described as having “sweet toffee notes and hints of pipe tobacco.” The former played out well, the latter, I didn’t discern. Again, it just makes me wonder, “Who determines this?” Certainly, pipe tobacco was not an ingredient. Perhaps someone was smoking a pipe in the room when it was being made???
Rounding out the flight was Country Ride from RAR, an American Pale ale, which according to the RAR website has only been brewed once. I thought it was a solid, decent beer that would be a “go to” beer for me. I am usually happy when I would consider ordering 50% of the beers on a flight to drink stand alone at another time. I would order any of these and at $13.00 for the four pours, this flight was a treat.
My son, who claims he can never find a drink he likes, was intrigued by the specialty cocktail called Key Lime Pie. It absolutely tastes like the pie and is served in a glass complete with a graham cracker rim. He said he thought it was the first drink where he actually enjoyed the taste. (While not a fan of alcohol, he definitely has a sweet tooth) We decided it would make a perfect dessert.
We also ordered three small plates to share. First was a jumbo lump crab cake. At nineteen dollars, this would be typical pricing for a cake of this size in the area. At the inside happy hour price of $9.50, it was a steal and I will file that thought away for future reference. It was all sweet lump crab with no filler, moist and golden. Bacon wrapped shrimp and a Caesar salad completed our small plates order. Because we were so hungry when we arrived, we also ordered those scrumptious oregano rolls I had enjoyed the previous visit. (Five hefty rolls come with the order so three made their way home to jazz up the next morning’s scrambled eggs.) We were well satiated when we left and the price seemed too good to be true.
Happy Hour at Carrol’s Creek is Monday through Thursday from 4:00 until close and Friday from 4:00 until 7:00. Sundays, Happy Hour is held from 5:00 until 8:30. Once again, the happy hour special of half priced appetizers is available in the bar/lounge only.
Photos courtesy of Natalie Spong