Many Choices In an Easy Setting

The Annapolis Chart House promises waterfront dining, but what it delivers is much, much more. With unobstructed views of the harbor, the State House dome, the Naval Academy and almost any nautical event in Annapolis that comes to mind, this restaurant practically floats on the water. "Environmentally challenged," says the manager, as he describes the unique building and the task of maintaining the comfort for his diners who are literally sitting above the waters of Spa Creek. Housed in a thoughtfully restored historic boathouse, the Chart House is surrounded by water on three sides and has played an important role in the maritime history of the Eastport neighborhood where it is located. During World War I, wooden sub chasers were fitted out in this very building and again during World War II when Vosper PT boats were built for combat. It was here that naval architect John Trumpy constructed "the Rolls Royce of American motor yachts" and later mine sweepers and swift patrol boats for the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Guests enter the restaurant after a stroll down the dock, not far from where water taxis deliver passengers for dinner during the warmer months. Diners will have a difficult time choosing between the inviting lounge, where light fare is served in a variety of comfortable seating arrangements around a huge freestanding fireplace, and the main dining room. On one particular evening, the fog was rolling in and, in the absence of my own fireplace, there was no place I'd rather be than around the warmth of that fire. For a light meal, the lounge serves delicious soups and appetizers, sandwiches, salads and side dishes, with a tendency toward seafood. It's also a perfect setting for enjoying after-dinner coffee and desserts. Perhaps the most well-loved confection (which requires a 30-minute preparation) is the hot chocolate lava cake: molten chocolate cake with Godiva chocolate liqueur topped with Edy's vanilla ice cream, bittersweet chocolate sauce and Heath Bar Crunch! Oh, and although the locals know that any night of the week is a good one in the Chart House lounge, "Friday night," according to the manager, "it is the place to be."

The dining room has its own appeal because the space is so vast and tastefully appointed, and the curious diner will want to take time to view all the wonderful and informative photographs throughout the room.

The Chart House lives up to its reputation for superior beef and an award-winning seafood menu. Prime rib rubbed with aromatic herbs and spices, slow roasted, au jus, is offered in two different cuts as well as tenderloin medallions, filet mignon and New York strip. There are nine species of fresh fish available every day of the week and any of these can be prepared to your liking: grilled, baked or blackened. Anxious to take the edge off our appetites, my friend and I shared an appetizer of lobster spring rolls, prepared with a delicate crispy wrapping in place of the more usual soft and steamed-all of the appetizers that evening were seafood. The extensive wine list also offers "wine flights," two-ounce samplings of Chart House's distinctive wines for the diner to experience different tastes and styles.

Although we anquished over all the main dish selections, we each chose a seafood dish, hers a sweet and savory macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi served with a warm (and light) peanut sauce, mango puree and ginger rice, and mine the pan-seared sea scallops in a tangy soy-ginger broth with spinach, bok choy and jasmine rice-both beautifully presented on large plates. All of the side dishes were inviting, especially the steamed fresh asparagus with mustard sauce which serves two, as do the creamed spinach, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sizzling mushrooms. The Chart House offers a complete salad bar with enough choices to please even the fussiest diner. The same special hot chocolate lava cake dessert is offered in the dining room, along with other delicious selections including key lime pie, raspberry creme brulee, "original" mud pie: a mountain of coffee ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream on a chocolate wafer crust, topped with toasted almonds, and its little sister, "world's smallest" mud pie. But when the evening's special was described---a fresh warm apple tart with raspberry sauce---we both fell for it.

During 2002---every day, seven days a week---Chart House is offering a three-course dinner for $20.02, which includes a selection of one fresh fish entree, salad bar or New England clam chowder and New York-style cheesecake. Our dinner for two with a bottle of wine was $100. The Chart House Restaurant is a beautiful walk across the Spa Creek drawbridge or, if you live on the Eastport side, you're already there! Be sure to make this special place one of your regular dining spots.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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