THE Little Campus may not rank as an historic site in the state capital where Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army, but it has been a fixture on Maryland Avenue as long as most Annapolitans can remember.
Annapolis saw dramatic changes in the 74 years that the Nichols family ran the restaurant, changing from a sleepy port into a tourist mecca. But residents, legislators and visitors could always depend on a home-cooked meal there at a reasonable price. Come tomorrow, though, owner Evangelos T. Nichols closes the doors. An Irish pub will take its place.
Every city has its own version of the Little Campus -- unassuming establishments with timeless menus that ignore the latest food fad. The china is usually durable, the coffee fresh, the beer
served in long-neck bottles. Customers never anticipate, nor receive, papaya and corn salsa as a condiment with their grilled chicken.
Perhaps it is the predictability and homeyness of these establishments that make them so attractive. Perhaps that's what led President Clinton's hosts to recommend that he drop by for a bowl of seafood chowder after he delivered an address to the Maryland General Assembly in the winter of 1997.
It's also why some legislators and lobbyists -- when not on the expense account -- frequent the joint. All who enter the Little Campus' dimly lighted confines feel welcomed. Everyone receives the same friendly service. The ambience brings together retirees, St. John's College students, midshipmen and politicians.
In fact, the annual croquet match between St. John's and the U.S. Naval Academy was born at the Little Campus in 1983. A group of midshipmen, probably emboldened by a few beers, issued a challenge. "We can beat you in any sport," the mids supposedly bragged. Responded a wag from St. John's: "How about croquet?" The contest was on.
Croquet championships are, indeed, rare, but places in Annapolis to get a good, inexpensive meal served with a smile just got rarer.
Pub Date: 7/02/98