Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Price Range: Appetizers: $1.25 (cup of soup) to $4.50. Entrees: $4.95 to $15.95.
Atmosphere: Genial, pleasant, warm.
Special facilities: Highchairs and booster seats: plenty of parking; management will be helpful to handicapped.
Reservations: Necessary only on Saturday evening.
It's a genial kind of place, the Bay 'n' Surf is. Unpretentious, gracious, attentive. You feel that management so wants you to have a good time.
If you pick your dishes very, very carefully, you might. Unfortunately, that means ignoring a large part of the mostly seafood menu that promises far more than the restaurant can deliver.
You wouldn't guess this when you enter, though. The place is convincingly gotten up to look like a dockside restaurant amidst the sea of commercial warehouses that make up much of Baltimore Avenue in Laurel.
You pass through an entrance that looks like a wharf, with cleverly arranged weatherbeaten poles holding it up. Inside, the nautical theme continues in "the main deck" and "whaler's lounge" dining rooms.
Actually, Bay 'n' Surf is the sea changed worked on a former family style restaurant that had been on the site for many years. If you look carefully, you can see the old stone fireplace and what's left of the brick walls that once framed an old farmhouse expanded through the years with motley additions to become the present large facility.
The menu sounds terrific, mostly a combination of Eastern Shore, and New England specialties. Oddly, no where does it state whether fish and seafood are fresh. It was a question we came to ask ourselves by meal's end.
We were surprised to note the high prices. Bay 'n' Surf is one of the few full service restaurants in the Laurel area and thus almost without competitors. But comparing quality of food and size of portions with other seafood restaurants in the larger Washington area, Bay 'n' Surf is among the highest in price.
The price of entree does not include appetizer, dessert or coffee. If you are tempted to order a first course, the best is the New England clam chowder, $1.25 a cup. It was pleasing, though not special.
The Bay country crab soup had nary a morsel of crab within. As a country style vegetable soup it was fine, mainly a broth of potatoes, corn, beans and tomatoes.
The clams casino were tough, tasteless and seemed to be the frozen premade variety rapidly heated for the occasion. Good clams casino should be steaming hot shells of juicy clams under a sizzling cover of a spicy bacon-celery-pepper-bread crumb topping.
The hot antipasto disappointed entirely. For the high price of $4.95, we were given three tired clams and room temperature shrimp. We also had an introduction to a persistent theme in the meal: tired, tasteless, watery iceberg lettuce that made its unpleasant way into every garnish and salad we saw. Worse, it was topped with shrivelled red radishes carved into wilting roses.
As for entrees, they include standard lobster, fish and shrimp dishes: baked, stuffed, fried, broiled, imperial, deviled. Of them all, the combination seafood platter, broiled, stood out as a pleasant dish, though high at $11.95. That price brings a fish filet, a small but good quality crab cake, scallops shrimp and clams.
Unfortunately, the french fries that accompany this and other entrees were consistently tired, hard, old and tasteless. So were the iceberg lettuce salads.
The stuffed fish dishes and seafood casseroles were simply not as fresh, nor as generous, as they should have been for prices ranging from $9.95 upward.
The most reliable seafood dish is the baked, stuffed lobster tail, a plump, steaming and succulent dish with a crabmeat stuffing that is very popular. But the price is high: $15.95.
Surprisingly, the best buys at the Bay 'n' Surf are the beef dishes, particularly the outstanding prime rib. The price is right: $8.95 for a "queen" cut and $12.95 for a "king." Both sizes are too large to eat at one sitting, thus lending themselves to a doggy bag lunch the next day. The quality of the beef it excellent, the cooking is as desired and the price is comparable to any quality beef house in the Washington area.
Desserts are extra and undistinquished: several cakes that were not particularly fresh and ice cream.
Bay 'n' Surf has a charming special menu for children: Each child is handed a little story book, with the menu written inside the cover. The book can them be read for diversion while waiting for dinner. Children's meals, though, are high in price in relation to quantify. For $4.50, there is a choice of one crab cake or beef or three fried shrimp plus the tired french fries, but no salad or dessert.
We found the service to be warm and striving to please. And the good quality of the beef and of some of the seafood dishes and the pretty way in which handsome pewter platters and good linen enhance the setting suggest that someone cares about quality dining at Bay 'n' Surf. Similar attention to the overall quality of ingredients could anchor a restaurant that otherwise is adrift in a sea of unfulfilled promise.