Carrol's Creek Cafe serves what most have come to expect in Annapolis dining: artistically decorated seafood dishes in a marinalike atmosphere.
The good thing about Carrol's Creek, which overlooks Annapolis Harbor from the Eastport side, is that the food tastes as good as it looks. The bad thing is that the dishes are somewhat pricey for the portions -- most cost from just under to just over $20 -- and dining experiences can vary.
On a recent Saturday night, I arrived with two companions for 9 p.m. reservations, and we were seated about 15 minutes later. We didn't mind too much because the wooden bar, lined with casually dressed sailors, beckoned. We ordered decent margaritas.
When we were seated, we were disappointed to find that our table was in the distance near the door, easily forgotten by our server and under the air conditioner.
We started with two orders, each with a half-dozen blue point oysters ($8.95 per order), that were well chilled and fresh, and came with a great cocktail sauce.
One companion ordered the Carrol's Creek Bay Dinner for $24.95, a rockfish dish that came with the restaurant's specialty cream of crab soup, salad and a dessert.
The rich soup, hailed on the menu as having been judged Maryland's best, was flavorful. But only six pieces of crab meat were in the bowl.
The soup disappointed, but the salad with dried cranberries, blue cheese, walnuts and an outstanding house dressing, more than made up for it.
I ordered the grilled shrimp and sea scallops for $18.95. They were served in a light sauce that didn't overwhelm the taste of the shellfish. The plate held four or five shrimp and four or five scallops, but I could have done without what the menu described as "Oriental slaw" heaped over the dish. The lime ginger vinaigrette was a nice touch, but the basmati rice was tasteless.
The rockfish, nicely cooked and flavorful, got a solid reception.
My other companion ordered the pan-seared black Angus tenderloin ($19.95), served over roasted garlic potatoes with spinach, tomatoes and wild mushrooms. The vegetables were marinated and delicious, the meat tender and juicy. "The true test of a seafood restaurant is if they can cook a steak," my companion said. Carrol's Creek apparently passed.
Our dinner, which came to $94.71 without drinks and tip, was nicely topped off with desserts accompanied perfectly by raspberry, strawberry and lemon sauces.
Carrol's Creek Cafe
Where: 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis, 410-263-8102
Hours: 11: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and Sundays
Prices: Appetizers, $3.95-$11.95; entrees, $13.95-$24.95
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express
Ratings: * culinary wasteland
**** culinary heaven
Pub Date: 5/14/98