Charlestown, Md’s The Wellwood: beach party and genteel club atmospheres {Classic Article }

Tamar Alexia Fleishman, Esq.

The Wellwood in Charlestown, Maryland has a grand history as being a gentlemen’s sporting club, The Wellwood Club. Five US Presidents, a slew of Maryland governors and all manners of sporty high society from D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia enjoyed its hospitality . . . and now, you can too. I’m sure glad I had the opportunity to experience it!

The Wellwood is now a complex of several dining destinations, a 51- slot marina and a live music venue. There’s a group of the original club dining rooms, with their historic fireplace mantle and etchings of visitors like Teddy Roosevelt and JFK. The Rivershack is a separate dining area that’s totally casual and has the set up for banging out steamed crabs. There’s yet another area that is outdoors — one of a couple of outdoors spots — that’s filled with sand and a beach party atmosphere. Because it’s outdoors, it gets around the Maryland smoking laws. Here’s the genius part of it all: except for the steamed crabs, you can order any part of the menu in any section of the complex. You can have succulent stuffed lobster at the beach section. You can do a burger in the traditional club section. It’s all good.

I chose to sit in the section that was the club back in the day. That’s my style! I started out with the recommended fresh peach dacquiri: very smooth and delectable.

For a starter, I went with their special oysters Rockefeller: oysters in the shell topped with Ceil Metz’s secret blend of spinach, bacon, spices and cheese, then broiled. It’s got a little kick of heat from the spices and is super cheesy, like a great mac and cheese. They’re broiled lightly, so that all of the oyster liquor still remains in the shell.

I definitely thought of the grand days of old when digging into the Charlestown Combination with Dungeness crab legs, Snow crab legs, shrimp, clams and mussels. The portions are very generous and all the seafood is sweet and tender. The shrimp is steamed classic Maryland style, with a touch of Old Bay and onions. Sometimes, mussels and clams can be rubbery, but these were awesome and meaty.

At many places, have you ever noticed that the side dishes seem like they were afterthoughts, microwaved from a bag? Sometimes, I’m even tempted to tell servers to just keep the sides. I appreciate when more love is poured into them. Wellwood makes what I call “real” baked potatoes: rubbed with oil and salt, baked — not nuked — until properly done. It takes time, seems so simple, but it’s getting harder and harder to find. The Creole squash was an old school side that’s fun to bring back: squash, green peppers and sweet stewed tomatoes are invigorating to the palate.

Another fine entree is their — what they call “legendary” — fried chicken. Well, with a declaration like that, I had to take them up on their challenge. Even the breast was extremely juicy. Maryland fried chicken has a simple, crunchy coating, seasoned with salt and pepper.

The evening’s elegance was continued with a finger bowl of warm water and lemon slices.

A perfect summer dessert is their ice cream bombe, crafted of passionfruit, mango and raspberry sorbets, covered in white chocolate. It has a lovely texture.

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