Statistics show that most restaurants in the United States have a pitifully short lifespan. Ninety percent close their doors just a year after they opened, and the life expectancy for most of the survivors averages five years.
A famous exception to this rule is the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, open since 1673 and still thriving. The restaurant’s sign is the same today and so is its signature cocktail “Dark and Stormy,” made with Gosling rum, ginger beer and a lime wedge. There a many copycats out there, notably a same-name tavern in Greenwich Village where it is said Dylan Thomas drank himself into oblivion. But none are as old as the original.
Annapolis belies the restaurant statistics story, with seven of its restaurants celebrating decades of success. Reasons for their longevity are basic: They consistently serve dishes made from high quality ingredients; they regularly refresh their premises; they cater to their customers; each is individually or family-owned and operated.
This month, we celebrate our town’s “survivors,” distinguished because of their longevity, their consistent quality and the popularity they enjoy in a town honeycombed with multiple options for fine and casual dining.
Chef-owner Jean-Louis Evennou opened this little gem more than 30 years ago with a crepe-centered menu that has expanded over the years to include many French favorites as well as local seafood dishes. Evennou, voted among the Best Chefs in America, may be observed most days working in his open kitchen where an ever-changing list of specials are prepared for the enjoyment of a fan base who appreciate dining a la Francaise.
185 Main St. (410-263-3382)
Housed in an historic building dating back to 1750, this downtown establishment was last bought in 1968 by local resident Jerry Hardesty and has been going strong ever since. Casual comfort, fireplaces, a busy bar featuring oyster shooters, live music and a covered patio perfect for people watching are among the reasons for its unflagging popularity – although the main attraction is the quality of the fare. Black bean soup, chateaubriand for two, nightly seafood specials and our town’s very first weekend brunch deserve notice.
2 Market Space (410-263-6288)
Owner Rusty Romo opened this landmark on State Circle 35 years ago, naming it after a favorite uncle who coached lacrosse at the United States Naval Academy. Romo, now a husband and father, is still “married” to his restaurant, keeping an eye on the elegant ground floor dining rooms as well as a casual upstairs bar, where you will find one of our town’s best burgers and live music most weekends. Worthy of note: a super wine list, award-winning cream of crab soup, outdoor seating across from State House.
66 State Circle (410-263-4332)
McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar
Hometown hero Captain Mike McGreevy bought a downtown Annapolis drinkery called Uptown Bar in 1970, changing its name in 1975 to McGarvey’s Saloon and Oyster Bar. To call it an Annapolis Institution is no hyperbolic rave, and when McGreevy retired last year and sold it to a pair of Naval Academy grads, there was a collective sigh of relief that it was “staying in the family.” This is a no-frills classic with friendly staff, a well-stocked oyster bar and a local clientele that come for the company as well as the burgers and eggs Benedict. PS, If Maryland crab is unavailable on the market, same goes for McGarvey’s.
8 Market Space (410-263-5700)
Chick & Ruth’s Delly
For the past 52 years, this Main Street landmark has been the Annapolis answer to the classic New York deli, right down to the pickles. Every morning, Ted Levitt (current owner and son of the late Chick and Ruth) leads patriotic patrons in the Pledge of Allegiance before they settle in with the restaurant’s legendary breakfasts. Sandwiches are named after past and present politicians, servers seem to know most customers by name and the vibes are very neighborly.
165 Main St. (410-269-6737)
The Canton Restaurant
Serving authentic Chinese cooking at its West Annapolis location for 55 years, this family-owned restaurant was opened by Charles Wong and is currently owned by his son Ben and his wife Lisa, a University of Maryland accounting major who oversees the operation. A relatively new chef with extensive kitchen experience in several NYC restaurants has given this local favorite a new lease on life, while the homey premises remain much the same. A $6.50 luncheon buffet is one of the best bargains in town.
11 Ridgely Ave., West Annapolis, MD (410-280-8658)
Photos courtesy of VisitAnnapolis.org