There are a few reasons to love McGarvey's: the turn-of-the-century decor, the raw oyster bar, the huge 75-year-old ficus growing through the floor -- and Aviator Lager, the house beer. Brewed by the Old Dominion Brewing Company, its smooth-but-light body is preferable to the Budweiser that McGarvey's also offers. If you're looking for something different, it's easily one of the best beers in Annapolis.
McGarvey's main room, built in 1871, is long, narrow, crowded and darkly lit. It looks like the movie version of an early-20th-century saloon: dark wood, brick walls, a patterned tile floor and high ceilings. Booths line the length of the room on the left; the bar takes up the right. There's a bar with more seating in the back room, where the atmosphere is calmer and tables are set up for dining. If you want to have a conversation or see the famous ficus tree -- the high-ceilinged room is open to two levels to make room for its branches -- then that's where to go.
Specials change daily, but Thursday night ("Local's Night") is a great deal: $4 for a plate of mussels on the half-shell and $2 Aviators from 6 to 1. There are special theme parties -- some Tuesdays are "Tiki Tour" days -- and food is served until 1 a.m. nightly.
-- Fritz Hahn