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Dock at River Watch for food with a view


River Watch is as much about location as it is about food. Overlooking Hopkins Creek in Middle River, the restaurant is popular with boaters who tie up at its 110-slip marina to eat steamed crabs and hear live music on the outdoor deck during warm weather or by one of three fireplaces inside when the weather's chilly.

For a casual, come-as-you-dock kind of place, River Watch isn't cheap. An 8-ounce cheeseburger with chips and a pickle is $7.50, a cheese steak $8.95 and a crab cake $12.95. While the atmosphere does not exactly match the high prices, the solicitous service does. Our server, an older woman who knew the menu by heart, delivered each dish with a slight flourish and kept us well-watered.

On the bright side of the tab, they don't skimp at River Watch. There was plenty of crab meat swimming around in the extra-thick cream of crab soup. A crab cake - the size of a large adult's fist - mostly contained lump crab meat.

The steamed crabs were wonderful, fat, meaty ones from Louisiana that were cooked to perfection and rubbed with just enough spice. A good-sized appetizer of jumbo shrimp wrapped in good, crisp bacon fed three easily.

The only real disappointment: a house specialty that our server said was very popular, a pasta dish called seafood Decceco. In this case, a few small, sweet scallops and shrimp would have worked far better than the overload of large, rubbery ones mixed in an olive-oil-based sauce. And had the few artichokes not peeked through the noodles, we would have never known they existed; the flavor had been cooked right out of them.

Two out of three homemade desserts were excellent. Delicious bittersweet chocolate frosting coated three layers of moist chocolate cake. Pineapple upside-down cake (a special) was a yummy throwback to the '60s, right down to the maraschino cherry plopped in the middle of a broiled pineapple ring. Bringing up the rear was a tasteless wedge of carrot cake spread with too much overly sweet cream-cheese frosting.

Given the nautical feel that River Watch cultivates, ordering seafood here seems natural. Just keep the choices simple and you'll be fine.

River Watch

Where: 207 Nanticoke Road, Middle River

Open: For lunch and dinner daily

Prices: Appetizers $3.50 to $9.95; entrees $5.95 to $29.95

Credit cards: Major credit cards

Call: 410-687-1422

Food: * * 1/2

Service: * * 1/2

Atmosphere: * * 1/2

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