First There's Danicng,
And Then Dancing Shoes
You know how sometimes
a good thing is right under your nose and you simply aren't seeing
it? O'Brien's Oyster Bar and Grill, at the foot of Main Street,
is a restaurant I had been walking past for over a decade. Sure,
I've had a bloody Mary at the bar and watched part of a football
game. Someone drags me in there to listen to a band or dance once
a year. I think I went to a birthday party of a friend's dad there
once in 1989. But dinner? At O'Brien's? Isn't that a club?
Yes, O'Brien's does become a club at night, but earlier in the
day and until they stop serving food at midnight, it's a very
good restaurant for both entrées and pub fare. My fellow critic
and I went in on a quiet evening, guessing that the rain kept
the Monday night football fans on their couches. Our waiter was
well-spoken and funny and won us over right away. When my friend
said she couldn't eat something called "crab balls," he asked
if she would eat "crab spheres."
We chose the oysters Rockefeller, a wonderful appetizer. We did
have some trouble deciding, though. As well as regular raw bar
items such as mussels, oysters on the half shell and littleneck
clams, O'Brien's has a great selection of apps such as Annapolis
bruscetta, garlic toast topped with crab meat, artichoke hearts
and imperial sauce. Nachos, potato skins, clam strips, chicken
tenders, wings, and, of course, crab spheres.
I chose the herb-encrusted grouper as my entrée. It's a regular
menu item, although kinds of fish may vary depending on season
and availability. It's more fish than one adult should safely
eat at one sitting, but it was superb---marinated in sake and
coated with Japanese breadcrumbs, oriental spices and black sesame
seeds. I highly recommend it. My date had a popular entrée, chicken
O'Brien's, a chicken breast sautéed and topped with lump crabmeat,
ham and scallions and served on a bed of penné pasta with an Alfredo
sauce. We could see why it was popular---it was terrific.
The entrée selections can basically be divided into surf, turf,
or a combination of both platter types. I have heard that the
steaks, filets, New York strip, and even the ribs are very good.
The surf and turf itself includes a crab cake which, according
to our waiter, is a consistently tasty item. The seafood platters
all look tempting: glazed salmon, stuffed shrimp, Chesapeake oysters
and coconut fried shrimp. There are a few pasta specials: blackened
shrimp and scallops over linguine, shrimp Provencal over linguine
and, for the vegetarian, penné primavera.
As well as a variety of fresh salads with or without meat, soups
and chili, O'Brien's has a complete selection of burgers and sandwiches.
The Chesapeake oyster boat, fried oysters served po' boy style
on a sub roll, and the lobster roll stand out as something special
to try, especially for those craving sailor pub fare.
O'Brien's does indeed become a club after dinnertime featuring
live music every night of the week. On Fridays and Saturdays it
has a full band and acoustic music Mondays through Wednesdays.
According to general manager Richard Whelan, O'Brien's is the
only place in town where there's a hopping dance floor every night.
Thursday night is ladies night, featuring a DJ, drink specials
and "free ladies-type appetizers," like chicken Caesar wraps.
They serve brunch on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a special
menu, but you may also eat regular menu items at that time. If
you are looking for a place to throw a private party, O'Brien's
upstairs is a good place for that as well. Better call ahead.
It's a busy place!
Next time you find yourself walking past O'Brien's like I did,
give it a try. Walk in the front door. The menu, the service and
all that entertainment won't be a disappointment. Put on your
dancing shoes and bon appetit!