It is Annapolis old and new. Watermen and Washingtonians. Crab cakes and blackened catfish. Several beers -- but more wines by the glass.
So what if Annapolis is several miles away? So what if this ambience may not even exist within the capital city? This is the way it ought to be. The old and the new side by side. A working man's bar replaced by one with fine wood paneled walls, ceiling fans, big windows for "waterfront dining." But a bar where the old customers still come.
This is Deep Creek, a restaurant on the Magothy River in Arnold, one of those bedroom communities off Governor Ritchie Highway whose residents each morning relocate to Baltimore, Annapolis or Washington.
On first impression, Deep Creek seems nothing so much as new. Built on the water's edge, it has soothingly unobtrusive walls, two of which are mostly windows to bring the water table-side.
Out these windows, however, several skipjacks are tied up alongside the sleek pleasure boats and a seafood truck sits idle, awaiting the next morning's catch. People work the water here, not just play on it.
In Deep Creek's bar, tucked behind the dining room, old-timers keep company with newer arrivals to the local scene. It is a blend that seems to give the restaurant its character.
The menu, too, is a mix of old favorites and more trendy food -- as in Beer Batter Shrimp vs. Seafood Alfredo, a dish that fully half of America's restaurants feel competent to produce.
We began with Mushroom Caps Stuffed With Crab Imperial ($6.50) and Hungarian Mushroom Soup, a nightly special at $2.50 a cup. The crab had surprisingly little taste while the presentation, with dollops of imperial sauce coagulated around the mushroom caps, was even more of a detriment. On the other hand, my husband thought his soup one of the best he has ever had. And that's not an exaggeration.
For entrees, I had the Bouillabaisse, another special at $9.95. My husband had the Broiled Seafood Platter at $17.95.
I've seldom had Bouillabaisse and I'm not sure what the perfect one tastes like. Though good, I sense the broth in Deep Creek's was too thin to put this Bouillabaisse in contention for the best. The soup was good -- with lots of scallops and mussels and a few shrimp -- but the broth tasted and, worse, looked weak.
The Seafood Platter was, as these combinations usually are, a mixed bag. The swordfish filet, a treat on such a platter, was superb, a work of art. The miniature lobster was down a notch from that level. The crab cake (too much filler) and the stuffed shrimp imperial (too little flavor) were down another notch.
Both entrees came with crisp, colorful, well dressed salads.
Desserts are not made on the premises. Some come, our waitress said, from a local baker who works in her home, others from a nearby wholesale bakery.
I had a slice of Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake ($3.75), my husband had a piece of Mud Pie ($3.50). Both were rich, flavorful and succeeded more than is usually the case with desserts made outside a restaurant's kitchen.
The service was very good, on the Annapolis-area level of informal. Yet entirely appropriate to the place. Our waitress was attentive and relaxed.
With two coffees, two drinks and two glasses of a house wine, the bill came to $56.85. In all, a fair price for a good meal in pleasant surroundings -- and you get to walk along the dock and see the skipjacks close up afterward.
*** Deep Creek
1050 Deep Creek Ave.
974-1408 (Baltimore area)
Hours: lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner served 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday; Sunday brunch and lunch 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends.
Credit cards: Major credit cards accepted.
Handicapped access: Limited.
Smoking area: No designated area.