- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

When you visit Steamboat Landing Crab and Fish House, be prepared for a spectacular view of the West River as well as a relaxing dining experience.

Located in Galesville, Md., south of Annapolis, the restaurant sits on a pier where the old Emma Giles Steamboat used to dock. The boat carried pleasure travelers between Annapolis and Baltimore from 1887 until 1932. The new owners, who took over in May, want to end the irregular operating schedule of the previous owners.

"We want to become established and relied upon in the community," says manager Tom Peterson. "We have high hopes of offering lunch and dinner seven days a week year-round."

On a recent lunch visit, it was so hot and humid that we opted for indoor seating. That was no loss, though, as almost every seat in the house offers an optimum view of boating activity. A table for five in the open dining room was comfortable and surprisingly intimate. The high ceilings and dark, polished wood paneling add to the drama.

We were greeted by Nathan, our waiter, and were handed the one-sheet "all-day" menu to pore over. My in-laws were visiting, so we were looking for anything seafood, and it had to be fresh something they would have difficulty finding in South Dakota.

The words "Crab and Fish" now in the restaurant's name say it all that's just about all you're going to find on the menu.

The new management group, which also oversees the successful Annapolis Seafood Market, has added steamed crabs, served outdoors only. They are available individually or by the half-dozen, dozen or bushel. Mr. Peterson says the restaurant is garnering "a reputation for big, top-dollar crabs."

When the local crab season is over, Mr. Peterson says, the establishment "will continue to serve the biggest crabs they can get their hands on from either Texas or Louisiana waters."

Clams, soft-shell clams, shrimp and lobster also are available from the steamer.

For starters, we tried Steamboat Landing's version of Maryland cream of crab soup ($6.55). The silky-smooth soup was spicier than most traditional versions, but the spice was well-controlled and offered flavor and pizazz without overshadowing the generous portion of succulent crabmeat. This certainly was one of the best cream of crab we have had all summer.

Another choice was steamed mussels ($7.95), which were served in an herb-butter sauce and piled around a baguette tower. The mussels were fresh and steamed to perfection. We soaked up the excess herb-butter sauce with pieces of the warm, crusty baguette.

Other appetizers included seared scallops with tomatoes, basil and olive oil; lightly battered and fried calamari; and cornmeal-battered oysters with pepper-Jack grits.

We tried five sandwich offerings, all from the sea: the jumbo lump crab cake ($12.95); the fried rockfish; the soft-shell crab; the grilled ahi tuna; and the fried oyster sandwich (all $9.95). They were served with french fries and coleslaw.

The crab cake was indeed jumbo, and the lump meat was held together with very little binding.

The soft-shell crab was large and heavy and perfectly crispy on the outside. It was a perfect reminder of why so many crabs are taken from the Chesapeake Bay each year. The only thing that kept the sandwich from perfection was the roll while the kaiser was fresh and soft, there was just too much bread, masking the perfection of the crab.

The rockfish was fried in a lightly seasoned batter and served on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and tarter sauce on the side. This fine portion of fish had the fresh taste of having just been pulled from the Bay.

The grilled tuna sandwich also was expertly prepared. Though it's usually served rare, the chef cooked ours to order for a younger palate, and it was still flavorful and moist.

The fried oyster sandwich was overflowing with plump, good-size oysters. They were dipped in a cornmeal batter, which gives a light, crispy coating with more flavor than most batter mixes.

The fries were cut thin and served hot and crispy. The coleslaw was tasty, without celery seed in the Steamboat Landing version.

Next time, we're planning to go for dinner to try the highly touted entree of soft-shell crabs. Or maybe the crab-cake plate, which contains two broiled 4-ounce cakes; the pan-seared salmon fillet; or the jumbo shrimp.

There are two dishes for meat lovers: a grilled filet mignon or a boneless teriyaki chicken breast.

All entrees are served with a choice of two side dishes: baked potato, garlic mashed potatoes, french fries, coleslaw, hop'n John or the vegetable of the day.

Steamboat Landing's children's menu includes chicken tenders, hamburger, hot dog or grilled cheese.

A reasonably priced wine list offers 17 whites and 10 reds from $12 to $28 a bottle. There are nine beers on draft, including Annapolis' own microbrews, Fordham Helles Lager and Fordham Copperhead Ale.

The restaurant seats 60 indoors and 175 outside. Banquet parties also can be arranged.

Before landing in Galesville, executive chef Larry Wills was the culinary guru for the National Football League's Baltimore Ravens.

Note: The village of Galesville is celebrating its 350th anniversary in the fall, with festivities scheduled for Oct. 4 through 6. For information, go to the Web site www.galesville.net/GHS/ 350th.htm.

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