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Sunday, January 18, 2009

WOODY'S - SINCE I KEEP COMPARING CRAB CAKES

This review of Woody's in North East, Maryland originally appeared in Third Age Traveler in October, 2005. Rob and I have returned several times since then, and the legend continues! So if you're driving I-95 in Maryland, Woody's is a great place to stop.

Native Marylanders will be the first to tell you that the only place to get the best crab cake is in their state. So if the thought of crab cakes makes you salivate, then you’ve got to hop off Route 95 at exit 100 and drive to a tiny town along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland named North East. Find your way to Woody’s right there on the main street, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed. A year ago we stumbled upon Woody’s during a foray to Patriotic Fireworks, a factory way way back in the woods and reached by traveling over a dirt rood where the signs nailed to the trees announce “Fireworks. NO SMOKING.” But we’ll leave that story for another time. Woody’s is enough reason to go to North East.

Woody’s is a grand place. Enter and to the right is a capacious bar. There is also a bar in the dining room where tables are covered with brown wrapping paper. Woody’s is a fun place. You can purchase souvenir mugs and T-shirts or gaze at the stuffed lobster on the wall. Visit the website, and you will have a good chuckle! The windows are draped with fish netting, and there’s a great, down-home atmosphere. Soft country music plays in the background, and we hear a happy buzz from the other customers. You’ve got to appreciate plastic at Woody’s, and the advantage is that you don’t have to be afraid of making a mess! If you need more napkins, there’s a convenient roll of beige paper towels right at your table.

Our very friendly waitress immediately brings a basket of warm bread and plenty of homemade cocktail and tartar sauce. We both wish we can overlook the crab cakes to try something new like the Eastern Shore Clambake consisting of fresh chicken, shrimp, clams, king crab, carrots, spinach, new potatoes, all steamed in Woody’s special seasonings. It is served with fresh steamed corn on the cob. But we gravitate back to the crab cakes which are made fresh everyday. We’re not disappointed.

Rob points out as we begin to eat that these are crab cakes, not crab croquettes, and we are eating meat, not mush. The cakes are big and hearty fare. We choose the dinner with one cake, and that is really sufficient. We are not eating filler, but lumps of crab meat, delicately but perfectly seasoned. Our dinner comes with a ramekin of creamed spinach seasoned with garlic and broiled just enough to give it a crusty top. Delicious! We are served twice-baked potatoes. These potatoes are not mashed up but remain chunky with a delicious crisp skin. It’s a scrumptious meal in a laid back atmosphere. Everything is excellent and without pretense. It’s wonderful.

Woody’s is a family-owned business begun by her father and now run by Rachel Wood. In 2001, Woody’s was voted one of the top 10 seafood restaurants on the East Coast by American Express’ magazine, Travel and Leisure, and I’m not surprised. It was the winner of “Best in the Bay” by Chesapeake Bay Magazine from 1996 until 2003. Since the family bought the restaurant, they’ve added the garden room and expanded in other ways. The new addition is Ice Cream Alley, and you can’t miss it. Outside the entrance is a great big cow! She’s terrific, and she certainly catches the eye. No room for ice cream, however, after that great meal. On a side note, North East is worth some additional time. There are cute shops and a charming small town quality that ought not to be overlooked.


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