OKAY, so we still don't have a great seafood restaurant. But we keep trying. In fact, with the introduction of some tables and waiters in the right place, we could possibly claim one by now. Just add them to the new Bethesda Seafood market at 4902 Fairmont Ave. in Bethesda. It's run by O. Williams, originally of Cannon's and later proprietor of his own fine but short-lived fish market in Prince George's County, followed by stints at The Fishery and Tony & Joe's in their early days.
This new seafood market is more than its name suggests. It is also a carryout, and will cook any fish to order on the grill. The market serves the grilled fish with corn on the cob, coleslaw (it's revising its experimental yogurt-pineapple slaw after an unfavorable reception), house-made horseradish sauce and a roll, garnishing the plate with lettuce, tomato wedges, pepper rings and olives. All that adds only $1.50 to the cost of the fish itself, and daily lunchtime specials are often offered for as low as $4.95 a platter.
The grilled swordfish I tried from Bethesda Seafood was the most flavorful swordfish I've tasted in years, and it was perfectly grilled. The tuna, too, was flawless, and neither platter cost more than $7. Bethesda Seafood also makes some of this city's best crab cakes -- all backfin crab and little binder, with a lightly crusted surface. Soft-shell crabs are also grilled simply -- which is generally the best way. A seafood-packed spicy tomato-based fisherman's stew is $1.50 for a half-pint serving. In addition, there is impeccable lobster salad ($8.75 a half pint), as well as salads of shrimp, mussels, squid or fresh tuna. Bethesda Seafood will poach your salmon and steam your lobster or clams (at no extra charge); it also stocks some produce and bread to fill out your shopping. It delivers nearby for orders of $15 or more and is open daily from 10 to 8. Call 656-7771.
NOW THAT summer is here and all the rib shacks in Southern Maryland are open, Route 301 smells of smoke from the time you cross into Charles County. And after spending the winter surveying the city's barbecues, I've been glad to get to the country ones again. So glad, in fact, that I stopped at Johnny Boy's, south of La Plata, twice in one weekend.
On Friday the rib sandwich -- $4.75 -- was piled high with ribs so browned and crisp that they tasted like a cross between pork jerky and Peking duck. They were very chewy but irresistible. On Sunday the ribs were barely cooked -- the thicker ones still pink at the bone -- and while less chewy, were also less flavorful. It was the barbecued chicken that was overcooked this time. But these inconsistencies don't count for much at Johnny Boy's, in light of its authentic wood-smoke cooking and its knockout of a hot sauce -- molasses based but not too sweet, only slightly tomatoey and hot enough to matter but not so hot that you can't taste anything else. Johnny Boy's also serves Silver Queen corn and french fries that are definitely worth the guilt. But unless you like your chopped barbecue wet and soft, stick to the ribs.
IT'S BEEN hard to keep up with the backing-and-forthing of Adams-Morgan's New Orleans Cafe in recent years, but this week's news is good. Peter Finkhauser, the originator of New Orleans Cafe and Emporium, later the proprietor of Louisiana Express in Bethesda, has opened a branch of Louisiana Express on the old New Orleans Cafe site, 1790 Columbia Rd. It's open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and promises to bring back the good old days.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.