No reservations. No credit cards or personal checks. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily; buffet luncheon 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for $2.50. Persons in wheelchairs easily accommodated. Banquet facilities.
In summer, Mike's Crab House on the South River near Annapolis is filled with tanned and windblown weekend sailors - those who find mellow pleasure in cruising the backwaters of the Chesapeake and those who swap the pressures of city life for the pressures of beating across the bay in a racing sloop.
For them, Mike's is a come-as-you-are place to regain their land legs and overindulge in seafood. It is also a year-round haunt for local residents who go there to work over a pile of steamed crabs, drink beer, listen to live music and shoot the breeze with their buddies.
To get to Mike's from Washington, you take the first Annapolis exit off Route 50 East, turn right at the traffic light and continue along Riva Road for about four miles. As you cross the South River bridge, look for Mike's down on your left on the riverbank.
This would take about an hour or less for those with even a fractional sense of direction. Not so blessed, it took our family and some friends two hours to find Mike's on a recent Sunday afternoon, but every misguided shortcut was worth it.
We entered the place through the bar where patrons watched a Bullets game on TV, and settled ourselves in the big dining room overlooking the river. A man was playing "Harbor Lights" on an electric organ that had "A Touch of Texas" emblazoned across the front of it.
Our waitress spread brown paper over our table, plunked down a bunch of mallets and knives, brought a pitcher of beer and a round of soft drinks.
We pushed up our sleeves and were ready. First came an order of steamed shrimp, for $5.75 a pound, and a bucket of steamed cherrystones, $2.95. With seven of us, they disappeared instantly. My husband got a lot of help with his $1 bowl of crab soup, homemade and delicious.
We took a break before the crabs came, and the four kids went out to look at the boats and to inspect the country store behind the restaurant where the pool tables used to be.
We also occupied ourselves at the do-it-yourself salad bar set up near the organist who was now playing "Tiny Bubbles."
The crabs, right out of the steamer and covered with the traditional Bav spices, were delivered to our table. Unless you're a third generation Marylander or a flame swallower, you might find the seasonings very hot but they can be wiped off with the paper; towels supplied to all crab pickers.
Since it was early in the season the crabs were still small but sweet and cooked properly.
An hour later, the kids had given up and the two youngest girls drifted off to talk with the organist as he played "My Adobe Hacienda."
The rest of us were just groaning over the last of the crabs when a woman in a big apron came to say that she was sorry some of our crabs had been missing their large front claws.
She then upturned a tray of two dozen claws over the middle of our debris-strewn table. We smiled weakly at this fine gesture and had no choice but to eat them.
Our table at last was cleared and the adults drank hot coffee while dolefully watching two of the kids eat cheesecake.
The service was first-rate. Our waitress, whom we learned was an ex-June Taylor dancer on the Jackie Gleason Show, made dozens of trips to the kitchen on our behalf, all with unflagging good humor.
We were told that during the summer Mike's has an all-you-can-eat crab feast several times a week. It includes corn on the cob, watermelon and salad and costs about $6. Call ahead to get the exact times for this event. We were also advised that Fridays and Saturdays, when Mike's features a band, are busy and customers should come early to get a table.
Non-seafood eaters can choose from selections including fried chicken for $3.95, pizza at $3.45 for a large size, sandwiches, ranging from $1 to $3.95, or strip steak at $8.45.
Lobster is available for $6.95, crab imperial for $6.25 and fried shrimp for $4.75. These include salad and potatoes. Children's platters are offered.
The bill for our family of four totaled $34.50.