A Restaurant For All Seasons

Bay boaters and lighthouse admirers are well aware of Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse on the Chesapeake's western shore, approximately two miles south of the Annapolis harbor. Perched on its multiple legs, this hexagonal one and one-half story cottage topped by a cupola first beamed its beacon for Bay sailors in 1875. Today, it is the last screwpile structure still in its original position in these waters. Locals are used to it, and it seems just right---just where it is.

Right around the corner, inside the entrance to the Bayside community of Chesapeake Harbour and exactly two nautical miles, turning navigation mark to mark, from Annapolis City Dock to inside the marina, appears another screwpile structure that mirrors the image of the historic lighthouse. You will spy Sam's Waterfront Café at the far end of the marina---and it is definitely in the water. You'll recognize the slender spider-like legs and hexagonal design topped by a cupola.

It, too, is a one and one-half story cottage but sheds all pretense of a house and takes on the look of a sophisticated restaurant on the interior and a striking Bayside eatery on the exterior. Inside seating can accommodate 75 diners in the restaurant and 10 diners in the adjoining bar area. Fair weather diners may sit outside for choices from the full menu.

Mary Randall, owner of this popular all-season landfall for the last nine years, often personally greets her guests at the door. She makes no bones about her mission: to be the best restaurant in the area. Her passion extends to all aspects of the business, including an impressive wine list featuring a primarily domestic, but also imported, wines. Sam's offers a wine selection that changes regularly and for some years has won the Wine Spectator Award for Excellence, testimony to Mary's good taste as the oenologist. One impressive point: you will find fair prices for bottles of wine, nowhere near the triple and quadruple markups found in some restaurants.

Chef Philip Sokolosky has been with Sam's since they took over the restaurant in July of 1993. His commitment is substantiated by the fact that he's been a partner in ownership for the past five years. Trained at the Culinary Institute in Baltimore, he brings his signature passion for fine preparation and creativity to the menu and presentations. He will accommodate patrons who order something other than menu offerings if time and ingredients are available.

An overview of the menu suggests modern American cuisine weighted with many seafood dishes and much-touted tastes of the Pacific Rim. Sam's features weekly specials as well as "chef's inspiration." An example from the appetizer selections was the crispy calamari with chili aioli and sweet soy beurre blanc. Succulent calamari is a treat, as this was with the clever sauce. We also sampled one of the specials that evening, the tender baked clams in shells almost white with a haunting broth of tomato, onion, basil and white wine.

But the highlight of the evening for me was from the entrée selections, the pair of lobster tails tempura with soy dipping sauce and stir-fry vegetables including mushrooms, snow peas, carrots, sesame seeds and red onions that seeped a beautiful pink tinge into the sauce enlivened with soy. The lobster meat was light and tender, the vegetables crisp and savory---altogether a memorable dish.

My ally in food (often a meat and potatoes man) selected the meat loaf of beef, veal and lamb with a tomato demi-glaze, creamy mashed Idaho potatoes and tiny green beans. This meat loaf was a cut above anything most of us remember from winter food-stretchers and ubiquitous diners. It was a mélange of refined flavors brought out with subtle herbs and moistened by the uptown tomato sauce.

Two diners who swear they "never eat dessert" shared a ginger crème brulee and "it was wonderful."

Our wine selection for the meal was the Noblet pouilly fuisse, a fresh, delicate, dry white wine with a distinctly pleasant bouquet, an excellent accompaniment to our food selections.

The proprietor recommends that boats over 30 feet call ahead for accommodations in the marina. Others can be routinely accommodated with docking. It is wise to call for restaurant reservations, especially in the warm seasons and always for weekends and holidays.

Sometimes an architect gets it just right if the structure is perfect for the setting. Sam's Waterfront Café is a natural. When you go there, cruising by water or by land, you'll find fine dining, service and ambiance that's more than "just right."


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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