Picnic on crabs along the Magothy

August 20, 1998|By Rosemary Armao | Rosemary Armao,SUN STAFF

You aren't likely to just stumble on the Magothy Seafood and Tiki Bar; you really have to want to find it. And even when you arrive, you might not recognize that you have because the place looks more like a picnic in progress than a restaurant.

Management passes out fliers with maps and directions and, like Hansel with bread crumbs, has strewn roadways leading to it with little blue-and-white signs. That's how I and my out-of-town guests came recently to the blue-and-white-striped canopy over a gala collection of picnic tables on the banks of the Magothy River at Ferry Point Marina.

Tables are set with plastic utensils and a roll of paper towels, and each is decorated with an umbrella and a giant blow-up crab emblazoned with a beer logo. We realized right away we'd overdressed for this dinner out.

A waitress having a smoke with some regulars let us know we could sit wherever we wanted, and as we did we noticed the people next to us digging into a tray of luscious red steamers. "What's that?" I asked, pointing and knowing immediately what my order would be.

"Those are crabs," replied the nice waitress, who was obviously used to waiting on tourists.

Embarrassed by this dig to my tour guide status in front of my guests, I stammered, "No, I meant, is that your special?"

It was: all-you-can-eat steamed and spicy crabs with corn on the cob for $22, the best value on the menu Monday through Thursday, and delicious. In no time, I had my friends swinging mallets and dunking sweet, plump meat into puddles of vinegar like natives.

I was totally pleased with this choice, though one of my friends dabbed at chapped lips and suggested there was "a little too much Old Spice."

"Old Bay," I corrected in the patient tone the waitress had used on me. "These are crabs, and in Maryland we don't put after-shave on them."

We found other menu gems: The crab balls were tasty and flavorful and came with a tangy sauce. The onion rings were crisp and not too greasy. Most important, when you bit into them, the whole onion didn't come out in a strip.

The steamed shrimp were hotly spiced, which I liked but my guests didn't. The coleslaw was minced and vinegary, again the way I like but not to everyone's taste. Sure, there were some weaknesses: The rockfish was ordinary. The seven vegetables on the menu really are two vegetables and a bunch of starches. (Hush puppies and spicy fries as healthy fare?) The appetizers and entrees arrived at the same time.

But we forgave all that when our desserts arrived. Key lime pie, a whipped concoction of tart fruit and cream, for $2.50. Monica Smith, an 18-year-old waitress, comes in early a couple days a week to whip up these delicacies from a recipe of her mother's.

Owner Don Broglie started building his restaurant business six years ago but is no novice. Magothy Seafood has been doing catering and carryout in the county for 32 years. No wonder that with no advertising and a hard-to-find locale, the deck is filled most nights with waiting lines.

Last year, Broglie said, he operated through Christmas. He can lower panels and turn his canopy into a tent that he heats, using steam from the kitchen broiler. Now there's energy efficiency.

Sometime before Christmas, I'll be back. I can find it now: Take Jones Station Road across from Anne Arundel Community College. Turn left on Mago Vista Road and continue to the end. Continue straight to the waterfront Ferry Landing Yacht Basin.

Magothy Seafood and Tiki Bar

Where: Mill Creek and River Road at the Ferry Point Marina, Arnold; 410-647-5793

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Prices: appetizers and soups, $3.75-$7.50; sandwiches and entrees, $6.95-$14.95; steamed seafood and oyster specialties, market price in season

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa

Rating: ***

Ratings: * culinary wasteland; **** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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