- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2001

Summer would not be complete without piling into the car and setting out to a waterfront restaurant to enjoy one of Maryland's most savory traditions the simple, tasteful and uncomplicated crab cake sandwich.
When you've got that hankering, distance doesn't matter. You want a crab cake moment, one that combines taste, scenery and a memorable experience that finds you muttering on the drive home, "That was well worth the trip."
Deep in Calvert County, one of three counties in Southern Maryland that has held on to its rural roots, is a restaurant on Broomes Island called Stoney's, which has for years enjoyed a reputation of serving the best crab cake around.
This is no small feat in Calvert, known as the "Charm of the Chesapeake." A good number of eating places in this peninsula county, bound by the Patuxent River on the west and the Chesapeake Bay on the east, offer dining with a water view and specialize in crab cake recipes that date back generations.
But it's those walloping crab cakes at Stoney's that cause all the hoopla, turning Broomes Island into a weekend getaway during the summer months. Just count the Washington, Virginia and out-of-state license plates in the parking lot.
Getting to Stoney's is half the fun: past fields of towering corn, lush green tobacco, mom-and-pop produce stands and patches of black-eyed Susans, the state flower, bending in the breeze.
You might encounter a line everyone wants to eat outside, and there is plenty of outdoor seating. If you're lucky, you may be escorted to a table on the floating wooden deck. Wherever you end up, be guaranteed a view of Island Creek, a pristine ribbon of water that sparkles and reflects the summer sun.
The search for the great crab cake has brought many a diner to Stoney's. You cannot miss the cakes they're shaped like a baseball and about the same size. They sit up on the bun like a ball caught in a mitt.
Stoney's menu is uncomplicated and showcases the fruits of the sea in soups, appetizers, salads, baskets, sandwiches, specialties (there are only two snow crab legs at market price and a meal of two crab balls, four fried shrimp, fries and coleslaw called the "Albert Special" for $15.95). There is also the Stoney's Steamer, a combination of steamed seafood at market price.
Meat lovers need not fret. You can get a half-pound chargrilled burger with mushrooms, onions and cheese; a six-ounce filet mignon sandwich grilled or sauted with garlic; or a grilled or barbecued chicken breast sandwich. Stoney's has a children's menu for $3.95.
Stoney's (bloody) Mary, the house recipe topped with a crab claw, is $7. A traditional bloody Mary costs a dollar less. There are scores of frozen options whirled into a frothy concoction at the outdoor Tiki bar.
What a relaxing place on a warm Sunday afternoon, and what better place for a family of swans that gracefully swim past the Warren Denton Seafood oyster processing plant, to the edge of the outdoor dining area looking for a handout, a gentle breeze lifting their white feathers ever so slightly.
As the day lumbered into late noon, sea gulls perched high on pilings watched sun-drenched boaters tie up their vessels at the docks fronting Stoney's, while teen-agers on Jet Skis raced along the creek.
My friend ordered Stoney's show-stopping crab cake advertised on the menu as "a half pound of pure crabmeat served with coleslaw" and market priced. It arrived a crispy golden brown; the presentation lived up to its reputation.
But on this day, it fell short of the Stoney's crab cake I remember. Gone were the lumps of sweet meat. There was shell in the crab cake, and I could detect filler, something these crab cakes are not known for. A slice of tasteless, out-of-season tomato worsened the disappointment come on folks, roadside produce stands brimming with vine-ripened tomatoes are plentiful in your neck of the woods.
Don't get me wrong. This is one fine crab cake. You cannot expect perfection every time. My friend relished each bite and lingered over the last crispy flake of meat.
I ordered the $8.95 soft-shell crab sandwich, "Stoney raised" and "seasonal." The two crabs were plenty tasty, but way too puny. Two teeny soft-shell crabs between a doughy roll does not make a meal. Had the crabs been larger and meatier this would have been a respectable entree.
The $2.50 french fries at Stoney's always have been exceptional, the kind of fries you ask the waitress to keep on the table while the other dishes are being cleared away.
As a side for my soft shells, I ordered the $1.75 homemade potato salad ("Just like Mom's" on the menu). This potato salad was made with sliced redskin potatoes (skins on) and tossed with a light dressing, much like a vinaigrette. I don't know anyone's mother who makes potato salad this way unless she's French.
Stoney's onion rings big, circular crunchy meals unto themselves are another reason people keep coming back to this waterfront diner. A $3.95 plateful is a study on how to prepare onion rings.
Who could miss the towering strawberry shortcakes whizzing by every few minutes? Stoney's menu boasts of its "Prize Winning Homemade Desserts," which this afternoon included key lime pie, fruit pies, cheesecakes, Nutty Buddy ice cream cones (the children love these) and chocolate cake.
The $3.95 shortcake sounded perfect. There was enough moist yellow cake not the traditional biscuit dough drenched in strawberries and syrup and blanketed with whipped topping to serve two. This seasonal favorite would have been luscious had the whipped topping tasted more like cream.
Stoney's is worth the trip. It has earned a place on many a diner's summer list. It's the kind of place you'll tell friends about and show out-of-town guests. Quite the jewel. But to keep that jewel shining, Stoney's has to resist short cuts when it comes to quality.

RESTAURANT: Stoney's, Broomes Island, Md., 410/586-1888; Stoney's restaurant in Prince Frederick, the county seat, 410/535-1888
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday from April to Nov. 1
PRICES: Appetizers, soups and salads $3 to $9.95; baskets and sandwiches $7.95 to market price; seafood specialties $15.95 to market price; and steamed crabs at market price
PARKING: On site
DIRECTIONS: From Washington and the Capital Beltway, take Route 4 South, through Prince Frederick. Take a right onto Route 264 (Broomes Island Road). Turn left onto Oyster House Road, across from the Sunoco sign on the right.

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