Top Boat-In Eateries
Summer boating under sail or power is a blast in itself. But the icing on that nautical cake is cruising up to a favorite salty restaurant, tying up to the dock and ambling to the deck for a cool beer and lunch with a view. Dockside eateries and bars can be found down-the-shore, on the Chesapeake Bay and even right here in Philadelphia. Some of our "boat-in" choices have been covered before, others are new to the list.– Jay Lloyd
The feel and flavor of the sea come together aboard the Moshulu, a four-masted barque, converted to a dockside restaurant, moored at Penn's Landing. The gangway takes you aboard an upscale eatery where below deck, tables provide porthole views of the Delaware River. The topside Bongo Bar opens an expanded vista on the Philadelphia and Camden waterfronts. And you can boat right up. Just steer a course for the Penn's Landing Marina. Dinner choices on the Moshulu range from whole lobster to perfectly done filets with poultry and fin food stops along the way. Entre prices meander from $30 to $50. But a couple or foursome might want to put together 3 or 4 appetizers to make up a raw bar and chilled lobster meal to temper the total bill.
The Chart House is right alongside Penn's Landing and just steps from the marina slips to a windowside table. The view is most dazzling as the sun is setting, throwing it's spotlight on the Battleship New Jersey, directly across the river. But the Chart House where I have enjoyed more post-sailing evenings, watching our boat, riding on its mooring and a parade of sailboats, kayaks, paddle boards and power yachts is in the historic port of Annapolis. Boaters can take an available mooring right off the Chart House Dock. A harbormaster boat will come alongside to collect a $35 overnight fee. Then simply dinghy to the waterfront end of any street near the restaurant. A simpler way is to hail a water taxi right to the door. The prize tables here are those in the lounge which cannot be reserved but offer the best nautical view in town. The kitchen specializes in seafood, but turns out a killer prime rib. And, the Manhattans are the "linger-awhile" variety.
I have a soft-spot for the Waterman's Crab House with its sprawling deck and bar, complete with a commanding view of Rock Hall Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. It's my home port and I remember when Waterman's was a shack, serving up crabs on tottery tables with mismatched chairs. Now solid, umbrella shaded outdoor tables are covered with brown paper to hold mounds of crab while convenient buckets wait to catch discarded, well-picked shells. You can steer your boat right up to the crab house docks, take a slip and enjoy a free tie-up while you crack crabs and sip a brew. For those who want their crab without the labor of cracking and picking, Waterman's has a well deserved reputation for its lump filled crab cakes and Maryland crab soup.
On a warm summer night some years ago, on a passage between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, our crew would spend the night at Schaefer's in the connecting canal. We navigated by sound and aroma, as grilling steak and the lilt of steel drums acted as a guiding beacon. Schaefer's, a waterfront eatery with a canal view outdoor deck and a full service marina had been missing from the boating scene for far too long. But it's back and thriving, serving up all the usual seafood and feather food suspects found in Maryland waters plus a few borrowed from Cajun country - steaks too. The marina monitors channel 16. It's best to call the dockmaster for slip availability. One note: Currents are strong in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Use caution on approach.
A favorite cruising destination for area boaters and their guests is Baltimore's popular Inner Harbor. My "tie-up" of choice has long been the Inner Harbor Marina and the Rusty Scupper restaurant. The multi-deck eatery offers an eye-filling view of a harbor crammed with attractions including a fleet of historic ships and a passing parade of visiting boats. It's practically around the corner from Fort McHenry, whose flag inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star Spangled Banner. On our last visit, after an early dinner of raw oysters and lightly browned crab cake, it was just a short walk to Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles for a night of baseball and fireworks before heading back to the Scupper for a nightcap and gazing at harbor lights.
Boaters heading down the Delaware Bay to Cape May will find a welcome, protected harbor and a convenient Coast Guard base. But the spot we steer to for lunch and dinner is the Lobster House, where sipping and supping options include a large outdoor deck alongside a significant commercial fishing fleet, a restored schooner complete with raw bar offerings and lively stern bar, plus nautically themed indoor dining rooms with waterside views. A couple of weeks ago, we dug into a clam filled New England chowder, a plate of chilled oysters, clams and shrimp washed down by a favorite beer. You can tie up skiff or dinghy sized boats alongside at no charge. Best bet here for larger boats is drop a hook at the nearby anchorage and dinghy to the dock.
Some tips: All of these eateries can be accessed by land. A boat is not necessary, but may be more fun. If you don't have your own, you might send a skipper friend a link to this list as a gentle hint.
For dock space, it's always best to call ahead. Annapolis moorings however are, first come - first served. The same at the Lobster House dock. The marinas can be contacted on VHF channel 16 or by cell phone.
Casual dress is the rule at dockside bars and restaurants, but some draw the line at bathing suits.
for more features.