Sittin’ on a dock by the bay
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, July 6, 2012
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the dock bar at Skipper’s Pier feels like a little slice of heaven. Try sitting on a small picnic table on a pier over Rockhold Creek, snacking on crispy crab balls and a platter of steamed clams, sipping cold longneck beers and frozen margaritas. (Don’t be surprised if you develop a severe case of yacht envy while watching high-masted sailboats and flashy powerboats cruise by on their way to the Chesapeake Bay -- and you can see the entrance to the bay, which is about a half-mile downstream.)
The breeze comes in, water laps against the side of the dock, boats in the neighboring marina bob gently. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, there’s music -- a mix of classic rock, oldies and Buffet-ized covers from solo acts and small bands -- that folks sing along to while dining and drinking. You won’t want to go home; you resent the people who can tie up their boat (minimum length: 28 feet) at the pier and grab a drink.
Skipper’s Pier has been around since the mid-’80s -- it was an oyster shack called the Oysterman’s Inn for decades before that -- and the Deale landmark is getting new life under David Rosage and Jessica LeCronier, who took over the business in May. They’ve spruced up the interior of the restaurant, a nice but plain building with large windows, and freshened up the menu with more salads and pasta dishes. But crabs and beer outside on the water are what keep me coming back.
Although the dock and the pier got fresh coats of paint and water sealant after Rosage and LeCronier took over, this isn’t a fancy place. The wood-slat floors are weathered. The seats are picnic tables, shaded by umbrellas with beer logos. Among the locals-only crowd, it can feel like the Harley T-shirts outnumber the boat shoes.
But there are trade-offs. While the large rooftop deck over the bar offers little protection from the sun, it boasts picture-perfect views of boats and bay. The beer is cheap -- domestic bottles are $3, or $2 during the weekday happy hour -- while the house cocktails, including spiked lemonade and the rum-heavy Hurricane Irene, are no more than $7. The kitchen -- helmed by James McCarthy, formerly of the Rockfish and the Chart House in Annapolis -- serves up delicious local crab cakes, fried clam rolls and fried green tomatoes topped with a shrimp salad.
As much as I love killing a Saturday afternoon soaking in the sun, I’m more tempted to head for Deale after work on Tuesdays. If you can get there early and brave the inevitable line, there are $2 Maryland blue crabs and $2 domestic beers until 9 p.m. A friend and I went one night and got a dozen good-quality, medium-to-large steamed crabs -- with the requisite little plastic cups of vinegar, butter and Old Bay -- and four bottles of Natty Boh for $32 before tax and tip. I’d say that’s worth the trip.