Since starting Southern Maryland Food & Drink, we continued to grow our Food & Drink Business Directory. We’ve added new categories, and many more listings. When we “opened our doors” on January 15th of this year, there were 227 listings in the Directory in a dozen categories. We now have 291 businesses listed in 16 categories, plus two new subcategories listed under “Restaurant/Bar” — Casual Dining (46 listings) and Fine Dining (14 listings).
We setup the new subcategories last weekend. When you first visit the Directory, you’ll see what you would have seen last Friday, which is a Restaurant/Bar category with 60 listings. What’s different now is that if you click on that category, you’re taken to a new page. That page has a map showing all the restaurants, along with links to the new subcategories. Click on one and you’ll see a new page with just the businesses that fall into the category of casual or fine dining.
Sometimes you want a casual dining experience, sometimes you want something a little nicer.
Note that we don’t list large national chains. We are trying to help people find places with local owners who feature the flavors of Southern Maryland. We don’t have any objections to national chains, and have certainly visited many of them over the years. That’s just not what Southern Maryland Food & Drink is about.
Of course there are some people who think Southern Maryland is just about crab shacks, barbecue joints, dock bars, and fast-food chains. Yes, all those types of places exist here. But we also have some less-casual spots. Here are some locales you may want to check-out:
- Annapolis, Anne Arundel County
- La Plata & White Plains, Charles County
- Leonardtown & Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County
- National Harbor, Prince George’s County
- Prince Frederick, Calvert County
Casual or Fine Dining
Why did we decided to make the distinction between casual and fine dining? To let you better know what kind of restaurants are available. Sometimes you want a casual dining experience, sometimes you want something a little nicer. Of course, in some cases, it’s a judgment call as to what is or is not a fine dining establishment.
A casual-dining experience is often considered to be something along the lines of Ruby Tuesday, Outback Steakhouse, or Chili’s. Here are what we consider to be common features of such eateries:
- Paper napkins and no table cloths
- No carpeting
- Moderate prices
- Limited wine and liquor list
- Makes only basic cocktails
- Modest tableware
- Simply prepared and presented dishes
- Family friendly with lots of kids around
- Customers may be boisterous
- A lot of sandwiches and fried foods on the menu
- Breads tend to be simple and basic
- Casual servers 
- Often part of a national chain of restaurants
- Modest, but perhaps cluttered decor 
- You can dress very casual 
- Little or no soundproofing
- Doesn’t take reservations
- Outdoor dining area features casual wood furniture  and umbrellas with beer logos
- Indoor lighting may be simple, stark or harsh
- Tends not to have private dining rooms or spaces
- Live music is inclined toward loud, lively, and often uses electrified instruments
- May offer buffet service and family-style seating
- Parking is up to you
Not every place will have all of those characteristics. But, the more you can check-off on that list, then the more casual the place is likely to be.
A fine-dining establishment may often be considered for a significant event, such as a birthday, anniversary, or special date. Such restaurants may be known for their Chef and cuisine, as well as great views and architecture. Here are some characteristics of what we consider features of those types of restaurants:
- Moderately loud to quiet sound level
- Cloth napkins  and table-cloths
- Higher prices
- Extensive wine and liquor lists
- Lengthy cocktail list, and may feature craft cocktails
- Upscale tableware
- Professional, well-trained servers
- Customer behavior is expected to be quiet and restrained 
- High-end ingredients
- Features artisanal bread
- Artfully prepared and presented dishes
- Artsy or high-end decor 
- You may want to dress-up a bit, and some places will have a dress code
- Well soundproofed
- Often takes reservations
- Outdoor dining area features metal furniture and umbrellas with no logos, or those of high-end liquors
- Indoor lighting tends to be subtle and intimate 
- May have private dining rooms or spaces
- Live music is inclined to be moderately loud and often uses acoustical instruments
- Offers wait-staff service and individual tables and/or booths
- May offer valet parking, a private lot, or validation for parking at a nearby garage
There you have it: our take on casual and fine dining. We hope you find this new feature in our directory interesting and useful. If you disagree with how we classified any of the restaurants, please let us know. Just use our Contact Us page. ♦
1. Yes, the dreaded “Hi, I’m Bob, and I’ll be your server.” Or those places that made their staff wear all sorts of buttons and “cute” things — “flair” I think they called it.
2. Remember a few years back when the walls and ceilings of a lot of places looked like they were decorated with a bunch of stuff from someone’s attic?
3. Swimsuits, though, should be reserved for pool- or water-side places.
4. There’s nothing wrong with a picnic table, so long as it doesn’t give you splinters.
5. Beware the dreaded lint from white cloth napkins that will cover your dark clothes. In very high-end places, they’ll offer black napkins to patrons wearing dark clothes.
6. Not that customers don’t get out of control once in awhile. Back in the ‘80s, I once saw a bunch of folks standing on their chairs to take photos at a birthday party in Le Lion D’Or, one of the fanciest French restaurants in Washington, DC. The staff were horrified and begging them to get down. Some of us were surprised and amused.
7. Which, unfortunately may run to the bizarre or kitschy.
8. Occasionally, they get carried away and the room is so dark that you can’t read your menu. Fortunately these days, your smart phone’s camera flash will also work as a flashlight.