Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Third Edition — book review
By Susan Elnicki Wade and Bill Wade; 480 pages; book published May 8, 2015, using the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Paperback, $25.
This is a doorstop of a book, by which I mean it is quite hefty, and obviously a lot of work went into it. As it happens, I’m reviewing the Maryland Third Edition. The book has a couple of sister publications: Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Second Edition (with a third version of the Virginia edition due soon), and Chesapeake Oyster Lovers’ Handbook (we hope to publish a review of that book in the near future). All of these titles are by the husband and wife team of Susan Elnicki Wade and Bill Wade, who live in Washington, DC. They are also at work on another book with the working title of Booze on the Bay, to cover breweries, wineries and distilleries in the Bay region.
The Index lists over 200 restaurants by name. At first, though, it appears there are a lot more than that. But if you look carefully, only the bold-faced entries are currently operating restaurants. The many other entries are either for restaurants that have changed names, with a cross-reference to the new name, or restaurants that have gone out of business (indicated by a skull and crossbones rather than a page number). This feature will be useful for those looking for a favorite spot that’s status has changed.
The book is organized by geography, starting its listings of restaurants and bars at Washington, D.C. and then working its way down the Maryland shore of the Potomac (including the mouth of the Wicomico River) to where it empties into the Chesapeake. Then it includes spots along the Patuxent River, followed by the western shore of the Chesapeake from the mouth of the Potomac up to the Susquehanna River, then back down the eastern shore of the Maryland part of The Bay. The authors specified two criteria for inclusion in the book: 1. The restaurant/bar must be near the water (either The Bay or one of its tributaries); and 2. It must serve local crabs — seems reasonable to me. There is one additional constraint: each listing is limited to just two pages.
The book offers several interesting features:
- Driving distances from Baltimore, MD, Washington, DC, and Easton, MD.
- Latitude and longitude of the location, the closest body of water, and whether or not they offer dockage.
- A map of the location, showing a pin at the exact location on a large-scale map, with an inset small-scale map to give you a big-picture view of the location.
- A 1 – 10 scale “atmosphere meter,” with the casual end being a 1 on the scale (beers) and the formal end is a 10 on the scale (martinis). Thumbing through the book, it appears most places are rated at around 3, and I only spotted one place rated a 10, or very formal.
If you’re looking for restaurants and bars in Southern Maryland, then pages 18 – 165 are the ones for you (also, page 2 is a map that shows places in D.C., plus the upper Potomac). The listings of Southern Maryland spots encompass 70 restaurants, or close to a third of the listings in the book.
If you’ve spent much time in Southern Maryland, then you’ve probably seen most of the listed places, and probably visited more than a few of them. I know we have. The descriptions provide an idea as to what the place is like, what its food is like, and perhaps a bit of history as well.
Given the number of places they’re tracking, and how relatively slow the book production process can be, they offer updates to the listings on their website, which can be found by clicking here.
The location and dockage information makes this a very useful book for boaters. The Index by Bodies of Water is another feature that many boaters will appreciate, as they can then quickly find places near where they happen to be afloat at the moment.
The sheer comprehensiveness of the volume is a major plus.
Unfortunately, they don’t offer an e-book edition. My Kindle longs for it.
If you’ve read some of my other reviews, you’ll know I’ve complained about there being too much emphasis on high-quality paper and the reproduction of images, resulting in unnecessary higher costs for both shipping and the book itself. In this case, the paper used is fine, and many of the photographs look pretty good, but some of them look to have been scanned at a fairly low resolution, or poor contrast, and there’s evidence of some streaking (perhaps that’s an artifact of the printing process used). It may be that lower quality photos were all they had for some of the places, and they set themselves a goal of at least one photo per business, so they had to use what was available. There’s evidence of streaking in many of the maps, too.
Despite its three indexes, I think the book could use a more general index, with listings along the lines of types of cuisine (Greek, Italian, and Irish [it’s always nice to know where the nearest Guinness may be found] being possibilities), and certain dishes, such as pizza, burgers, hot dogs, oysters, clams, BBQ, etc.
My gripes are of the minimal sort, and none of the things I pointed out significantly detract from the value of the book. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone planning to spend time searching out food and drink in Southern Maryland, or other parts of The Bay for that matter. And, it especially deserves a place aboard your sailboat, trawler or cabin cruiser. ♦