A century ago, the most elegant places to vacation in the U.S. and Europe were at quaint seaside resorts. On-site entertainment, boating, a little gaming, and the freshest local seafood were all part of the romance of travel. You can go back to that gentle time in Calvert County, Maryland. With several beaches, live music and restaurants to suit all tastes, Calvert County is a great place to get away from it all. You can get to Maryland’s famed “Western Shore” from Huntington in about a day’s drive.
Where to stay
Whether you need to work or play, you can get a lot accomplished at the Holiday Inn Solomons. Located on Back Creek, the hotel has a marina. Enjoyment of the outdoors is enhanced with al fresco cocktails, dining, and an outdoor pool. Business types will love the huge conference rooms and high-speed internet. There’s a golf cart service that works as a taxi-cab to get you to local attractions, nightlife.
Return to the graciousness of another era at the Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa.This family-owned resort has many built-in amenities, including a serene spa/salon, indoor pool, several restaurants, charter fishing, museum and a newly-rebuilt bandshell from 1911 hosting all kinds of musical entertainment on the water. You can watch the shows from their restaurants or the balcony of your room.
What to do
The Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons is located at the mouth of the Patuxent River. The museum offers exhibits on maritime history, woodworking, oyster packing, and sailing. They have two lighthouses, river cruises, as well as concerts and special events.
The Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum is housed in a former train station, chock full of interesting exhibits from the days when trains brought leisure passengers to Calvert County.
Thanks to a 50-year-old quirk in the law, Chesapeake Beach is the only city in Maryland that has legalized video gaming. Several restaurants and bars have gaming rooms; some are open until the middle of the night.
The Rod ‘n’ Reel, part of the resort, is known for many things, including having some of the best charter fishing boats in Maryland. Locals know that these fishermen know where the fish are! There are many charter boats available; the Mary Lou Too is especially great for fishing at whatever level you are.
What to eat
Just walk outside Chesapeake Beach’s Rod’N’Reel and you can see where the freshest fish and crabs are coming from. Dress is casual, but you will feel the elegance of the huge picture windows with amazing waterfront views. I was glad to be able to sample some of their specialties.
When it comes to seafood, of course it’s about fresh, fresh, fresh for the science of it. But for the flavor and recipes, it’s an art. An absolute work of art is their Fresh Local Stuffed Rockfish with fresh Maryland Crab Imperial. The thickest, sweetest, meatiest rockfish unites with the other pride of Maryland, sweet crab meat. Some other places, I kinda avoid Crab Imperial, because they are often goopy or heavy or oily. At Rod’N’Reel, the Crab Imperial is rich yet light. Imagine an exquisitely rich mousse. The seasoning is just enough to enhance the seafood: neither too salty nor peppery nor Old Bay-y.
Rod’N’Reel proudly serves several wines from Calvert County, Maryland.
The restaurant has several daily specials, as well as “lunch-as-dinner” specials. I’d say that the only thing that denotes the lunch is the name. Portions are very generous, so don’t be thinking, “Oh, a little tiny snack for dinner.”
By the way, if you go on one of their charter fishing trips — even if you’re not staying there — they will clean your fish and prepare it any way you like!
There’s a brand-spanking new restaurant in Calvert County, Maryland’s North Beach: Olde Bay Tavern. It’s so new, as a matter of fact, that their liquor license is still pending. Everything’s made from scratch — even the pickles that go into the homemade dressing. They do home cooking, but in a modern way. Think the way a modern mom is making dinner, not some great- grandma from long ago. I’m glad I got to try it!
The restaurant is on a residential street in what was clearly a house. The atmosphere has been kept homey, whether you eat in what would be a casual dining room or on the porch.
Menu items include Maryland favorites like crab cakes and things that the owners make for their own dinners, such as a very tasty side of roasted squash, zucchini, onions, and Asiago cheese, steaks grilled just like a dad would, or a ‘50’s style icebox key lime frozen pie.
Presentation is like how you’d do it for a casual dinner party at home, not how a mom might do it on a busy night.
Many of the items have a Southern flare, like their pineapple salsa with cilantro, jalapeno, and onions. The main server is Southern, but that’s just a serendipitous coincidence! Olde Bay Tavern gets their fruits and veggies from a local farmer’s market; when certain items aren’t available, they “86” the creation from that night’s recommendations.
Chesapeake Beach, Maryland is a little under the radar for most tourists, but it’s worth venturing to Calvert County to enjoy the freshest Maryland seafood and other delicacies. Chesapeake Beach is laid-back and friendly. Plus, their restaurants know how to ramp up the fun! The town has grandfathered into their charter the right to have video gaming.
Traders Seafood Steak Ale is a popular local hangout. People love watching the game on their outdoor deck, but this is Redskins territory, for sure! Traders has gaming inside.They also have comedy nights as well as live bands. Every once in a while, they sneak in a celeb such as a former member of Waylon Jennings’ band, according to the owner. Checking out the gorgeous Indians in the parking lot, you can tell the place is biker friendly. I’m glad I got to try it out!
Traders has a special, fun drink they call the Traders Twister: it involves pineapple vodka, key lime rum, coconut rum, a splash of cherry and orange.
The crab dip — and you know that’s a badge of honor in Maryland — is very rich and creamy. The broiled cheese on top adds to the tastiness.
I hear lots of locals like many of the non-seafood items such as Reubens and hot turkey sandwiches. What? Are they bored with delicious seafood? I suppose it happened to the first settlers, too, eventually. I went six of one, half-dozen of the other with the Traders Steak Chesapeake: 8-oz filet of sirloin topped with lump crab meat and their own Bearnaise sauce. The steak was beautifully cooked, well-marbled and juicy. The crab meat was perfectly fresh, sweet and tender. Is the luxurious Bearnaise sauce with fresh tarragon over the top? Nope! It’s decadently just right!