- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 18, 2005

The old saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The same concept can be applied to restaurants.

The newly revamped Solomons Pier restaurant-bar in Solomons, Md., definitely has chosen its target audience, at least at dinnertime — the over-21 crowd. After 4 p.m., just four tables are available for families, and dill chicken bites and a half-pound burger with cheddar cheese and applewood-smoked bacon are the closest to child-friendly food to be found on the menu. But if you don’t have children in tow or are blessed with offspring with sophisticated palates, chef Shana Murphy has some very interesting sandwich and salad offerings to try.

Solomons Pier is in Southern Maryland’s Calvert County, where the Calvert Marine Museum and the Tiki Bar, a touch of Margaritaville that attracts thousands to its annual opening each April, are the biggest draws in town, but the made-over pier probably is not far behind.

Open year-round, Solomons Pier is built directly over the Patuxent River. It offers views of the mouth of the river as it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. At night, watch the sun set as it dips beneath the illuminated Thomas Johnson Bridge.

It was about 10 years ago that I last stopped in Solomons Pier. It used to be a dark and dank place (always had the views though), but it has been transformed into an open (walls are windows), brightly colored nautical treasure. Every seat in the restaurant has a waterside view, even at the bar. The outside deck has a full bar and lots of tables.

During the peak summer months, live music is performed on the deck every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The restaurant is a casual place, so don’t expect white linens and crystal goblets.

For starters, a crab pretzel is a warm soft pretzel topped with assorted cheeses and crabmeat, served with a mustard dipping sauce.

From the raw bar, steamed shrimp, clams and crab-leg clusters are available. An order of clams ($12) arrived steaming hot with drawn butter on the side. The clams were tasty, but the plate contained just 10.

A tip of the hat to the chef’s sandwich creations. She has taken ordinary offerings and added a gourmet twist.

The filet sandwich ($17) is seared beef tenderloin with melted brie cheese, a sweet horseradish sauce and red onions, served on rosemary focaccia bread. It’s one of the best steak sandwiches you will ever eat. The meat was cooked to order (medium) and served piping hot with the melted brie and horseradish sauce oozing out. The red onions added the perfect bite to the otherwise mild sandwich. All sandwiches come with french fries on the side.

A baked chicken breast is topped with roasted red peppers and provolone cheese and served on grilled ciabatta bread with Dijon-dill mustard and mixed baby greens.

The cheese- and bacon- topped hamburger is served on a corn-dusted kaiser roll.

You should expect good crab options from a restaurant on Solomons Island, and the traditional crab cake sandwich ($15) lived up to expectations. The large cake was filled with sweet jumbo lump crabmeat and deliciously lacking in fillers. Light seasoning let the crabmeat really shine.

The fried lobster-tail sandwich ($19), however, was a disappointment. The corn-dusted kaiser roll was about double the size of the lobster tail, so you had a lot of bread without any bite of lobster. When you did get to the lobster meat, it was a bit dry. The white sauce drizzled on top of the lobster was lemon herb aioli, but if there was any flavor to it, it was lost in the dry bread and seafood.

For vegetarians, there is a sandwich of sliced tomatoes, provolone and pesto, served open-faced on asiago ciabatta bread.

You can turn your sandwich into a salad, too. All are offered served over mixed greens with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and Vidalia onions.

Apparently, bar-goers aren’t big consumers of dessert, because no mention of dessert was ever made. If have a sweet tooth, you’ll have to satisfy it with a cocktail, which is not necessarily a bad thing because general manager John Hammond mixes a mean drink.

RESTAURANT: Solomons Pier, 14575 Solomons Island Road, Solomons, Md.; 410/326-2424

HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

PRICES: Appetizers $10 to $15; sandwiches $10 to $19; entrees $19 to $24.95

RESERVATIONS: First come, first served

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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