January 18, 2010

Traveling Foodie, Mid-Atlantic Edition: Where to Eat in Annapolis

The Naval Academy Campus, located in the center of Annapolis. Definitely a spot for an afternoon walk.

So, I've been visiting Annapolis, Maryland, for about six years now, and I thought it was high time I shared with you my favorite spots to eat. Be advised: this list is long. But it's also pretty thorough, so if you're visiting Annapolis for the first time, you'll know where to go.

In order to give you a sense of the relative cost of each establishment, I've devised a very complicated rating system. $ = Cheap, $$ = Not Cheap, $$$ = Expensive. Most places in Annapolis range from $$-$$$, unfortunately.

The Big Cheese & Sammy's Deli: This gourmet sandwich shop offers no seating, but makes some of the best sandwiches I've ever had. While they're famous for their Annapolitan, I usually order the H4: dill havarti melted over black forest ham with a Dijon mustard kick on multi-grain bread. Grab sandwiches for lunch and then head over to the benches by the City Dock to eat and check out the boats in Ego Alley at the same time.
Price: $$

Mangia Italian Grill: For Italian food in downtown Annapolis, there aren't a ton of inexpensive choices. Mangia's benefit is that, while the food isn't exactly innovative, you can count on it to be tasty and filling. I always order the Linguine alla Critzos (a linguine dish with a white wine, tomato, and mozzarella sauce), and I've never been disappointed. Mangia also serves the drunk late night crowd in Annapolis with pizza slices available after the bars close (cash only!). Full disclosure: I have seen a woman of questionable sobriety flash the cashier for free pizza when she realized it was cash only and didn't have any cash. And she got the pizza.
Price: $-$$

Nano Asian Dining: As a sushi fiend, I can tell you that the sushi at Nano's is the best in Annapolis. Joss Cafe & Sushi Bar is a close second, but you can't beat Nano's for price, quantity, and freshness. They don't skimp on the fish in their sushi, and their menu is friendly to both sushi lovers and sushiphobes. Go there. Trust me.
Price: $$

Maria's Sicilian Ristorante & Cafe: Remember how I said you can't find cheap Italian food in Annapolis? If you don't mind the price tag, Maria's is fantastic. The polite and friendly service complement the delicious food, and the low lighting make Maria's a great date spot.
Price: $$$

El Toro Bravo: The food at El Toro Bravo is fine (other than the abominable Chile Rellenos I once at there), but it's the margaritas that keep most patrons coming back weekend after weekend. They're the size of your head, and they make any food seem delicious.
Price: $-$$

Chart-House Restaurant: If you're looking for good seafood and a beautiful view in the Annapolis area, Eastport's Chart-House Restaurant is the place to go. I've never had a bad meal there, but I've also never looked at the menu without having a small heart attack. Definitely a place to go for a celebration.
Price: $$$

Cantler's: You can't visit the Mid-Atlantic without going for crab. And you can't go for crab without hitting Cantler's, a crab shack with brown paper tablecloths, mallets, and bibs. By the end of your meal, your lips will be burning with the Old Bay that comes caked on each crab, but your stomach will be so happy that it won't matter.
Price: $$

Harry Browne's: Of my two favorite breakfast/brunch places in Annapolis, this is the fancier. Harry Browne's offers a Champagne Brunch and a Bloody Mary bar on Sunday mornings, but their best feature is the Annapolis Eggs Benedict: a typical Eggs Benedict served with two generous crab cakes to satisfy the seafood craving you'll inevitably develop the longer you stay in Annapolis.
Price: $$$

Double T Diner: Double T is the place to go for cheap, delicious breakfasts. They serve grilled muffins, huge omelets, and fabulous diner coffee.
Price: $

There's bound to be a restaurant or two that I've overlooked in creating this list, but what you see above pretty much sums up my college weekends, many of which were spent visiting T at the Naval Academy.

Of course, in a tourist location like Annapolis, you'll also find places you wouldn't like to revisit. While I've discovered my fair share of these, I think it's better to let you find your own favorites with a little positive guidance instead of talking smack about restaurants that very well could have gotten their act together since I last visited.

The bottom line: go to Annapolis, and eat the food, especially the seafood. Even in the middle of winter, the views of the Chesapeake are bound to lift your spirits, and the food on Main Street and in the surrounding area is bound to please your palate.

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