Caribbean Grille On Annapolis Harbor
80 Compromise Street
Annapolis , MD 21401
Appetizers, soups and salads: $4.95 to $12.95
Entrees: $14.95 to $28.95
Hours: Breakfast: Mon. thru Fri. 6:30 - 11; Sat. and Sun. 7 - 11; Lunch: Mon. thru Sun. 11 - 5;
Dinner: Sat. thru Thurs. 5 - 11; Fri. thru Sun. 5 - 12
Extensive wine list; all major credit cards accepted; limited valet parking.
Four years ago we last visited Pusser's Caribbean Grille, nicely nestled on the street level of the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Three of us entered on a recent Thursday evening and found the expected and soothing photographs from the Marion Warren Collection, depicting the history of the waterfront area of the Historic District. However, something was amiss - the Pusser's Co. Store was soon on our left having drifted from its more dockside location. Some changes had been made.
Where the Pusser's Store formerly had been located was a private waterfront dining room, Harborview that can seat up to 75 guests for a cocktail event, reception or dinner. Part of the Pusser's facility, its tables were elegantly draped in white linen for an upcoming occasion. Exiting from this room brought one immediately onto the boardwalk of Ego Alley, where locals and visitors alike are intrigued by the "action" of mariners, strollers and events staged in the core of the City Dock.
On the dock space opposite, the US Naval Academy was pumping a pep rally for an upcoming football game. Racing sailboats were playfully executing informal maneuvers within the gaze of a sign that demanded, "You are responsible for your own wake." Was this an Irish guilt trip?
The hostess at the reception desk identified our reservation and her peppy assistant escorted us to a corner table in the room dubbed "cafŽ," just off the Dockside Dining tables, but ensconced inside large glass windows. This was an upgrade into a space now air conditioned, a boon to the visitor when temperatures are tropical.
Menu fronts carried this challenge, "Excess on occasion is exhilarating-it keeps moderation from being a habit."-H. Somerset Maugham. The signature cocktails enticed us with the infamous Pusser's Painkiller in multiple sizes (a concoction of Pusser's rum, cream of coconut, orange and pineapple juices), but we had sipped at that pleasant trough before and moved on to the specialty martinis where we were snared by the Mango Martini of vodka with mango, orange and cranberry juices resulting in a smooth and "island-like" experience. The Caribbean breeze of vanilla vodka, rum and mango juice with orange and cherry garnish brought a cheery smile to my ally in food. Nine varieties of martinis are joined by nine other Caribbean-named cocktails.
For an appetizer we sampled the Jerked Tuna Salad, a yellow fin tuna paired with a spicy jerk sauce (a sauce of approximately 10 blended ingredients including jalape–o peppers, Jamaican pimento, nutmeg and cinnamon) over greens and onions with a West Indian balsamic vinaigrette-an appropriate appetite waker-upper.
Our entrees were the following: first, the No. 1 seller, Maryland Crab Cakes-two pan seared jumbo lump crab cakes with a special blend of herbs and spices, based on a local 1890s recipe adapted by Executive Chef James Eriksen II. These succulent cakes contained no Bay seasonings and only those ingredients that would have been available at the turn of the century into the 1900s. This creation proved to be aromatic and fresh, complimenting the delicate crab.
Our next choice and the No. 2 seller was the Barbecued Salmon Tower-an Atlantic salmon fillet char-grilled and topped with a mango corn relish, served over whipped yams with a tower-shaped jerked rice cake and steamed al dente vegetables, including narrow green beans, mini carrots and cauliflowerettes. This dish, artfully presented, was a team play of tastes and consistencies. The exquisite salmon was the star-fresh, moist and tender and the harmonizing rice cake was full of zest and jerk. The yam mixture was a velvet note and the mango corn relish hit a high note. All the supporting players had a unique taste that synergized into a spectacular winning effort.
Always temped by specials of the day, our third choice was the local rockfish topped with sautŽed back fin crab and bŽarnaise sauce. My ally in food was delighted, also complimenting the accompanying rice and beans.
All of this was enjoyed with a Kim Crawford New Zealand chardonnay, one of an appropriate selection of local and international wines that paired well with the Caribbean-Chesapeake style and taste.
Pusser's continues to offer its famous breakfast in the hours listed above. Value for the money is found in the buffets, specialties and a la carte selections. My favorite is the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. Lunch is also a recommended occasion to visit, not only because the hours are so expanded, but also because many dinner items are offered in smaller portions.
Two years ago the former owner turned over the restaurant to the current owners, Clyde Culp and Gary Rogowski. With food and beverage manager Michael Schwartz, 12-year executive chef Jim Eriksen and general manager Dan Monk are making this Pusser's Grille a flagship restaurant: a model for Pusser locations planned for other East Coast cities.