Dining Out: Menu at Sam's on the Waterfront is smooth sailing, but ...

If writing a restaurant column were solely about the food, reviewing Sam's on the Waterfront in Eastport's Chesapeake Harbour would be a snap.

Except for a listless salad, dinner under the direction of Chef Chris Cherry is pretty much smooth sailing at this picturesque marina-side eatery. It's getting to the meal that mangled the experience.


Getting a good table in an empty restaurant, convincing the hostess that we actually did have a reservation, and having our drinks and food arrive promptly and in the right sequence took the sheen off of what should have been a pleasant evening.

Using an assumed name, I phoned Sam's the day before to make an early evening reservation for three people. When we arrived only one table was occupied in the large dining room. But the hostess checked her list and said there was no record of my call. Had we reserved through the Open Table reservation service? No. She shook her head, disappeared for several minutes, and then led us to a corner table no more than two feet from the only other guests. Ten minutes later our server arrived to take our drink order.

So far, not so good, particularly when the table next to us soon grew to a party of eight. With so many other open tables, we asked to be moved, but were told a large party dining outside might need to come inside if it rained and they were holding space for them. Eventually we were shifted to a better location; and only a few more tables became occupied in the 90 minutes we were there.

After some fumbling with the drink orders, we were finally able to focus on Chef Cherry's summer menu. Summer's the time for lighter eating and Cherry's dishes include a lobster roll, seafood brochettes, fish, crab cakes and grilled pork and steak entrees.

Starters at Sam's can take you from the ordinary (fried calamari) to a seared scallop "martini," with the shellfish basking in a sweet pea and Parmesan risotto. Most of the list is devoted to lightly prepared seafood – mussels, oysters, and shrimp. We shared an order of the calamari and its jalepeno dipping sauce. It nearly was gone by the time our drinks arrived.

I ate my first lobster roll at a harbor-side café in Marblehead, Massachusetts years ago and it's not often I can ignore them on any menu, even in Maryland. Sam's version brings fine quality meat together with the perfect amount of a barely there dressing on the classic split top roll ($17). It came with a nest of very thin shoestring potatoes perfectly fried. Is that good summer eating or what?

Curiously, there were no vegetables available among the a la carte side. I settled for a small Caesar salad — which was delivered at the same time as the main course.

It was comprised of two huge, tired-looking Romaine leaves, two chewy slices of seasoned baguette posing as croutons and Parmesan tuilles — essentially a wafer-like a cheese cookie garnish. The tuille was rock hard. Neither knife nor tooth was useful, and no other tool for the tuille was provided. The Caesar dressing, though, was excellent. Obligingly, our server noticed the barely touched dish and did not include it on the bill.

My two companions chose the Shrimp and Scallop Brochette ($26) and were rewarded with big pieces of shellfish, red onion and sweet peppers, very nicely grilled, on a bed of tomato orzo, cooked to a creamy, risotto-like consistency. Again, spot-on dining for summer weather.

Desserts are prepared in-house at Sam's. We shared strawberry shortcake even though the local strawberry season had slipped away and a banana spring roll (both $8). The former's homemade biscuit was a winner though the few strawberries were not. I could have sworn they were frozen given the watery liquid on the plate. The spring roll was a clever and tasty riff on the Oriental model. The pastry, stuffed with a ripe banana and seasonings, is deep-fried and served in a puddle of flavorful chocolate sauce. Think of it as health food — a great way to get your potassium.

Sam's is a great setting for a meal any time of year, but summer brings its special pleasures. The kitchen is on track with seasonal menus that can add up to a good reason to drop by Sam's now and then. I just wish it hadn't been so frustrating to get from the front door to the dinner plate.

Sam's on the Waterfront

WHERE: 2020 Chesapeake Harbor Dr., Annapolis

PHONE: 410-263-3600


HOURS: Mon.— Thurs.: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Fri. — Sat.: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.;

Sun.: 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.


1st COURSES:$3 to $26

ENTREES: $15 to $32


CREDIT CARDS: All Major Credit Cards