Visitors and locals alike are discovering another dimension to the Annapolis experience – the flipside of our town’s reputation for architecture, culture and the preservation of historic traditions. Led by charismatic entrepreneur Gavin Buckley, an Australian import who has made Annapolis his home for nearly a decade, the change to an edgier profile is happening along lower West Street – beginning just beyond Church Circle (home since 1692 for St. Anne’s Episcopal Church).

Start your exploration of our town’s newly-minted neighborhood of art galleries, small shops and ethnic restaurants at the intersection of West St. and the Circle for a tour that includes 15 notable restaurants. Ethnic restaurants include the cuisines of Italy, Japan, Mexico, India, Ireland and Thailand. Our virtual tour takes us from Church Circle to Westgate Circle, with savory stops along the way. This month we feature the first block of West Street, to be continued in December with the “rest of the story.”

Luna Blu is a hidden gem, light-hearted in ambiance but serious about the Italian-accented fare it serves for lunch and dinner. One of the best perks in town happens Thursday nights when custom-created pizza pies are paired with complimentary wines –at half-price. Appetizers are half-price Wed through Sun 5-6 pm and Thurs 5-9:30 pm. 36 West St., 410-267-9950.

Rams Head Tavern enjoys a widespread reputation as a hot music venue with a 500-seat performance space that regularly sells out to patrons from the Baltimore-DC area. It is also known for its beautiful tree-shaded patio (heated seasonally); Sunday brunch-cum-live music; its own IPA beer (there was once an on-site brewery); and daily specials: Sunday $5 burgers-in-the bar 4-10 pm, Monday lobster feast, and Tuesday prime rib dinner ($19.95 each). 33 West St., 410-268-4545.

Stan and Joe’s Saloon, as its name suggests, is a “hail fellow, well-met” kind of place. You’ll find wings available in 10 different flavors, “stogies” (egg rolls stuffed with chicken or shredded steak), five variations on the 8-ounce Angus burger theme, a memorable roasted turkey Reuben and seared sea scallops in a barbecue sauce piled on a bed of flash-fried spinach. It’s game-on at this cheerful sports bar where the portions are hearty and comforting. 37 West St., 11 am- 1:30 am. 410-263-1993.

Tsunami, an authentic Japanese restaurant with high creds for its sushi, was a pioneer in the first block of West Street. Named after the seismic ocean phenomenon, the establishment made waves of its own when it opened in 1998 with its Asian ambiance and solicitous service. No longer open for lunch, its current menu features a wide range of sushi as well as the likes of miso-basted seafood, coconut curry soup, edamame and other exotic dishes (think ahi tuna lollipops and seaweed salad). 4:30 pm-1:30 am daily. 51 West St., 410-990-9868.

49 West Coffeehouse, a friendly establishment that bills itself as “a coffeehouse, wine bar and gallery,” has been a popular spot for casual breakfasts, lunches and dinners for nearly 20 years. Earnest young servers are a hallmark of this reliable destination for all ages, who come for the Belgian waffles in the morning, soups and salads for lunch, wine in the afternoon, simple suppers and live music in a super-relaxed atmosphere. Edgy art work lends another layer of interest to this popular spot, sometimes called “the Living Room of Annapolis.”  11 am-midnight Sun-Thurs, ‘till 2 am Fri-Sat. 49 West St., 410-626-9796.

El Toro Bravo caters to those seeking simple Mexican food for lunch or dinner in a casual setting. Best-known for its ginormous margaritas, both the menu and the atmosphere are bare bones. 50 West St., 4100-267-5949.


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