Annapolis, Maryland

In my own backyard
       We often travel far to see places, ignoring those just next door. Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, is just ten miles from my doorstep.
It is a charming small town, dating back to the 17th century; after a period of neglect it regained popularity in the last twenty years. This has much to do with the Chesapeake Bay, a sailor's Mecca, or with the famous Maryland seafood, but the town is also worth a visit by itself - if not a special trip from overseas, then at least a day trip when visiting Washington, DC.
Most importantly, the place is easygoing and relaxed; spending a day here doing nothing is a nice break, and a small trip back in time (warning: parking space is at premium!).
Take a stroll
Here are some pictures taken one May day in 1998. The photographs may give you some idea what Annapolis is like.
West Street, the main street of Annapolis, just 500 or so meters long, with all the shops, boutiques and eateries, and almost always crowded. A small harbor is located smack in the center of the town, at the end of the main street. You can meet everybody and his mother there.
The side streets of downtown Annapolis are quite pretty. Once neglected, the downtown went through quite a gentrification; these tiny neat houses became fashionable and expensive to buy (even more expensive to restore). The oldest building in town dates back to 1715.
The state capitol is located downtown at the State Circle, surrounded with greenery; it is open for sightseeing. For almost a year, in 1784, it played the role of the U.S. Capitol. It is worth a short visit.
Take a bite
       You will not be hungry in Annapolis; restaurants, cafes and eateries are scattered all over the place. On one end of West Street (and of the price scale) you will find the Treaty of Paris restaurant with a very nice jazz cellar; on the other - Buddy's Crabs and Ribs, with quite an enthusiastic following (although I've never tried them).
My favorite in downtown Annapolis is, however, the Middleton Tavern, dating back to 18th century, with a good selection of seafood, steaks and more, and with porch tables overlooking the city dock square. They are serious about their food: it is definitely not cheap, but anything I have tried (and I tried a lot!) ranged from good to excellent, no exceptions.
Take a drive (and a dinner)
For a romantic dinner, take Rte. 50 east from Annapolis and cross the Bay Bridge to Kent Island (the site of the first English settlement in Maryland back in 1631). Take the first turn right after the bridge (Rte. 8 South), then an immediate first right again, then straight all the way until you reach the waterfront. (The whole drive from Annapolis takes 15 minutes; from Washington, one hour.)
You will find yourself at Hemingway's, one of my favorite restaurants in the Washington and Annapolis area. It offers good atmosphere, gourmet food, and a great view of the Bay Bridge (sunsets are spectacular!).

There is a marina next to it, and a small airport; you can sail or fly in for a dinner, if you insist on it.

The strength of this place are the appetizers; it may even make sense to compose a whole dinner of them. Among the highlights: crab dip in a hollowed loaf of bread (a full meal by itself), sesame-breaded shrimp with raspberry sauce (although this one varies with the day), very good crab cakes, outstanding oysters Hemingway in horseradish sauce. Just don't order a vodka Martini - this is one thing they do wrong (and no chance of getting coffee beans in your Sambuca, either). Oh, well...
Update: Back in '98 Hemingway's food suffered a visible quality deterioration: I was considering dropping the place from my list. This was, however, temporary, and the old chef is back, riding high. The food again deserves high recommendation, and their sesame shrimp in raspberry sauce are perhaps the best I ever tried. What a relief! The outside deck also got a facelift in '99: a canopy roof, to protect those dining outdoors (recommended!) from elements.
Even if you are not visiting Annapolis (which you should!), Hemingway's is worth a special trip from Washington, DC; one of the best-kept secrets in the area.

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Posted 1998/05; last updated 2002/06/15 Copyright © 1998-2002 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak.