The main street of St. Michaels is about a four-minute meander from St. Michaels Marina. The pretty side streets are marked with some historical homes, beautiful shade trees and many well-kept lawns. It’s not a long main street but it’s a charming stroll with inviting restaurants and shops. People are friendly and say hello and dogs are everywhere. A few folks we stopped to chat with — actually they just wanted to say hi to Jasper and ask what kind of dog he was — offered recommendations for places to eat, but we had spotted what looked like a casual place where we could hang our caps for an easy dinner.
Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company
Just about in the middle of the walk is Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company, set in an old, tin-roofed white home with a center courtyard dotted with red umbrellas. We noticed they had an oyster bar called Ole Pap’s Oyster Bar and decided to pop back in the evening and see what the rest of the menu offered. We also thought the name was funny and something so uninviting had to be worth a try. Who was Arthur and was he awful?
The evening was crisp and felt much like late autumn up north and the firepits blazing were a warm greeting. As we stepped onto the porch to read a menu a friendly, slightly inebriated couple came out and insisted we would not be disappointed, particularly if we loved seafood. Well, that wasn’t an awful review at all. The place was crowded and the hostess was away from her station but an eager server, Amanda, grabbed us and led us to a hightop table right across from the little kitchen area where all the action was. Nothing awful about that either. Amanda had a great sense of humor and a playful personality. When a small puppy showed up in the arms of her co-worker (it happened to be Arthur’s puppy and it was really not awful), she told us about her rescue dog, Jasper. a pit/lab mix. We immediately connected — our first rescue, Seven, was a pit/lab and the rescue dog we have now is named Jasper. Sidebar for a moment— I will say this often because it bears repeating — it’s amazing what a little kindness and genuine interest can do. The folks taking your orders aren’t there to serve you, they are there to assist you. As a person who worked as a waiter, a cater-waiter, and a bartender among other things to pay my college bills I know that it can be a tough and grueling gig. And, it feels good to be nice.
Our plan was to start with some oysters from Ole Pap’s Oyster Bar. Arthur comes from three generations of watermen and Ole Pap was Arthur’s great grandpa who started an oyster company in 1901 selling oysters to people up north by horse and buggy and train. On the enthusiastic advice from Amanda, we started with the local, in-season oysters called Deal Island and Wild Divers. We were also advised that some of them would be large. If you are not a fan of oysters because of their texture one thing to note is that we’ve never had a fresh oyster that was slimy. These were briny, soft and tender. The best way to eat them is to suck the meat out of the shell with the brine.
We both had a local amber brew, which went perfectly with the oysters which were wonderfully fresh. The Deal Islands were a bit plumper and you could almost taste the sea. The Wild Divers were a bit more mild, less briny and creamy. Nothing, absolutely nothing awful about them either. I think Ole Pap would be proud. Up next we decided to try a decadent Lobster Mac-n-Cheese. It’s listed as an app but it’s really an entree portion unless you’re a linebacker or are going way off the no-carb wagon. Lobster mac-n-cheese has been around for awhile and it’s one of my absolute favorites so I’ve tried many. This dish hit every high note. The lobster was sweet and tender and tasted just-shelled. The cheese was local, from Chapel’s Country Creamery — they produce small batch, award-winning farmstead cheeses made from the rich cream of Holstein and Jersey cows. I know that cream well because I used to have a Jersey milk cow and my brother had a Holstein milk cow. The cheesy goodness, a touch sweet and a touch sharp, smothered al dente, large ribbed elbow macaroni. The only awful thing about it was nothing! I will admit that once again I had the “should I” conversation in my head and A.J., who of course was perusing lighter fare, let me off the hook by saying he’d split the dish with me if I would share the tuna taco. Amanda concurred that it would be a pretty good deal for both of us.
The Blackened Ahi Tuna Taco — there were two of them — were served with a crispy cabbage, grilled pineapple salsa, a wasabi cream sauce and a side of fries. When they arrived they were bigger than we expected with two beautifully seared slices of fresh tuna. Yes, it was as good as it looks — every single bite. We’re trying really hard to find something awful about this place but it was not looking good!
The only thing left for us to imagine was that maybe the only thing awful about the joint was Arthur…but then you look at his puppy and just know he can’t be that awful, we’d guess not awful at all. The food, our amazing server Amanda (a 5 Anchor server for sure), and the great atmosphere made Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company our very favorite stop in St. Michaels. We look forward to going back again and maybe even meeting this guy, Arthur!
Our last meal was a place we stumbled upon because we had gone to Eastern Shore Brewery hoping to grab lunch and try some beers but when we got there we were told they didn’t serve food.
That’s when we found Gina’s Cafe, serving Mexican/Southwestern fare. It sits just past the main part of town and looked like a cool place to check out. It was terrifically cozy, with plenty of tchotchkes (pronounced “cha-ch-keys” = knickknacks) to look at. We want to give them a brief shoutout because we really enjoyed the atmosphere and good energy of the place. We had a good, red sangria and a white, pumpkin sangria with hints of nutmeg and clove. We had the Lighthouse Crab Taco with guacamole, ginger and chipotle aioli and the Miami Tango Blackened Shrimp taco with guacamole, sprouts, mango salsa and chipotle aioli. They were delicious. Our compliments to Chef J.P. Walls.
If you are traveling through St. Michaels, we are sure you’ll love the charming town with plenty of options to dine and sights to see. Even with a brief two-day visit, it’s already one of our favorite stops on our journey south and we are sure to return again. I’ll leave with this parting shot and you are welcome to caption it if you’d like…one thing you can’t say about me is that I’m not a good sport! Until we eat again, slainté — your seefaring Admiral