I am totally addicted to deck bars and crab houses. The better the view, the more intense the addiction. From the Caribbean to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it’s been an adventure, seeking them out and then sipping and supping. Yes. it may always be 5 o’clock, somewhere, but the British don’t necessarily wait till then. The first draft on a deck can be quaffed at the moment the sun comes over the yardarm. In other words, at high noon. But let’s just consider some favorite deck bars at home and at our summer haunts. Here’s where. — Jay Lloyd
The beach and palm trees in central Montgomery County tell you that someone with a sense of humor and a spirit of adventure put this together. The lifeguard perch, carted up from the Jersey shore is a cool touch. The white sand was trucked in. You sit at the bar or high top tables lining the rail and peer down at the beach chairs and bean bag platforms on the sand. Happy hour buzz is brisk and the Trappe Tavern food is always a unique twist on classic pub grub but with high tone touches of modern Latin and Italian flavors. The whole vibe is definitely Carib and shore in the heart of Suburbia.
TWO-MILE CRAB HOUSE
Wildwood Crest, NJ
A broad deck overlooks a marina just off Ocean Drive between Cape May and Wildwood. This Jersey shore setting invites a craving for the bounty of the sea. It’s so plentiful that the clam and tuna giants, Snow’s and Bumble Bee have set up shop just down the road. The Two-Mile Crab House offerings are a virtual smorgasbord of raw and hot bar classics including those fabled blue-claw crabs. The trick here is to sample as much as possible without gorging. It’s a spot for a table full of friends to order raw clams and oysters, steamed shrimp, crabs and lobster, fried crab balls and calamari. Add a few pitchers of a favorite brew and share it around. Fingers are the utensils. You can come by car or boat. Transient dock space is limited but free while dining. They monitor VHF channel 16.
Cape May, NJ
The iconic Lobster House has been beaten and battered by storm and sea for decades, but always bounces back. On weekends the outdoor deck is bustling. During the week, there’s room to move between raw bar and tables looking out on a cove right off Cape May Harbor. If you should wonder how fresh those clams, oysters and scallops are, look over your shoulder at the fishing fleet that just brought them in and is about to point seaward to harvest more. The Lobster House and the fishing fleet are linked. A horseshoe bar here wraps around the quarterdeck of a classic old fishing schooner, the American, permanently tied to the dock. If you want local chatter and a waterside view, this is the spot for happy hour. There is room for small boat and dinghy docking alongside, and docking while dining is free.
WATERMAN’S CRAB HOUSE
Rock Hall, MD
A parade of boats – power, sail, crabbing and oystermen fills the eye at the classic Chesapeake Bay crab deck and bar. The Waterman’s has plenty of free docking for boaters who come off the bay and through the jetty into Rock Hall Harbor for the crabs and the view. I’ve been crackin’ crabs here since it was no more than a shack. But it grew to an expansive deck, a frequently packed deck bar and one of the top weekend music venues on the Maryland Eastern Shore. The crowd is a dynamic mix of boaters, watermen, locals and visitors who fill the nearby inns and B & B’s. The conversation always revolves around the bay.
Pusser’s deck bar and eatery is the envy of the bay, having a location tucked just inside “Ego Alley”, the narrow waterway that provides access to the Annapolis City Dock, the center of evening activity in this truly nautical town. A nightly parade of boats, large and small, cruise the cut to show off their lines and crews to strollers who promenade along the quay or enjoy impromptu music alongside the statue of Roots author, Alex Haley. Pusser’s lays claim to a Caribbean aura through its link to the famed British Naval Rum that is still distilled and bottled on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The Annapolis cousin serves up a commendable version of the Caribbean “Painkiller”, with varying quantities of Pusser’s rum. The buzz inducing concoction is smoothed out with pineapple and orange juice, a bit of cream of coconut and a few other touches. Be careful my friend and have a designated boater on hand.