- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2002

Getting there is the tricky part. But if you're up for a little driving adventure, Rock Hall, Md., will yield beautiful water views and friendly shopping and Waterman's Crab House Restaurant and Dock Bar.
Crabs, other seafood delicacies and views of beautiful Rock Hall Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay await. Waterman's 40-foot dock bar is the place to be now (the sunsets are delectable). There's live entertainment Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons.
If you have a boat, the trip is easy. From Annapolis, it's just north of the Bay Bridge on the other side of the Chester River. Twenty-five slips accommodate boaters who arrive for deck dining.
By land, it's not as easy. There's no bridge that crosses the Chester River until you get to Chestertown. During the trek, though, you'll see some of the prettiest farmland the Eastern Shore has to offer.
Finally, you'll cross the Chester River into Chestertown, where historic homes line the riverbank, welcoming bridge-crossers into Kent County.
Keep driving west along a finger of land that reaches back to touch the Chesapeake. At its tip, where the river meets the bay, is the small town of Rock Hall.
The village is a seasonal haven for boaters sailors, power boaters, sport fishermen and, in dwindling numbers, local watermen.
The annual Rock Hall Rockfish Tournament was under way the Saturday we were in town, and we arrived at the bulkhead just in time to see sun-scorched anglers bringing in their day's catch. A 23.6-pound rockfish was the leader this day.
Quite a nice fish.
The fresh fish coming in at the bulkhead really whetted our appetite, so we quickly decided to settle in at Waterman's just a short walk away. On this sunny Saturday afternoon, we opted for outdoor seating.
The Dock Bar has just about any drink you're looking for. You can cool off with frozen drinks, outstanding margaritas, wines, beer (also available by the pitcher), sodas, ice cream drinks and more. But this place isn't pretentious beverages are served in plastic cups.
We spent some time looking over the extensive menu, but somehow we could not get crabs off our mind. It didn't help that just about every wooden table around us was filled with people young and old hammering away at spicy steamed crustaceans.
For starters, we ordered the blue-tip mussels in a garlic butter and wine sauce ($6.99). The presentation was nice, but the superior quality of these mussels is what really set this dish above standard appetizer fare.
A cup of the cream of crab soup ($3.75) was certainly the smallest portion of this favorite we've ever seen, and its great flavor left us wanting more. The soup really could have used a little more lump crabmeat to round out its creamy, well-seasoned broth.
Order the steamed blue crabs and you will get a table-load of treats. We hoped for large but had to settle for a dozen medium crabs ($32). Sweet and heavy, the level of seasoning was just right.
For the serious all-you-can-eat crowd, owner Bill Weldon confirmed that Waterman's throws a feast every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 8:30 p.m. All-you-can-eat local crabs are served with a half-pound of steamed shrimp, corn on the cob and cole slaw ($25.95).
Since we had just come from the tourney, we had to try the broiled rockfish ($18.99). The light, flaky fish melted in our mouths, but the fillet was a bit lean for the price. The fries arrived piping hot and were sprinkled with just the right amount of Old Bay seasoning.
Other seafood offerings included crab cakes, stuffed flounder, fried oysters, soft-shell crabs and jumbo stuffed shrimp.
For land lovers, there's highly-touted baby back ribs, Maryland fried chicken and several varieties of beef.
Nothing seems to be better on a hot day than ice cream, so Waterman's menu features Hershey's ice cream sundaes and cones. Flavor choices are limited to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, but if that doesn't please you, nothing will. There's even a kiddie sundae for any young ones in your party.
Other dessert offerings include a hot apple dumpling, cheesecake, Reese's peanut butter pie, key lime pie and lemon blueberry tarte. We tried the tarte ($3.99), and boy, were we pleased. The lemon was refreshingly tart, and the blueberry topping had the perfect level of sweetness to tame the pucker. A perfect finish.
Waterman's recently was named "one of the best seafood dives" by Coastal Living magazine.
I wouldn't necessarily consider it a "dive," but I would consider it one of the best crab houses on the Eastern Shore.
Take a date or take the family. It's worth the drive.

RESTAURANT: Waterman's Crab House Restaurant and Dock Bar, Sharp Street Wharf, Rock Hall, Md.; 410/639-2261
DIRECTIONS: From the Capital Beltway, take Route 50 East across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore. Continue to Route 301. At the split, take 301 to Route 213 (Centreville exit). Take 213 North to Chestertown. Continue on 213 through Chestertown. Turn left on Morgnec Road (sign for Rock Hall). Take Route 20 West to Rock Hall.
PRICES: Appetizers and raw bar $4.99 to $22.50; soups $2.89 to $5.25; salads $2.79 to $16.99; sandwiches $2.49 to $11.99; entrees $10.99 to $23.99; desserts $1.25 to $4.95
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
PARKING: On site
ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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