Story by Christine Fillat | Photography courtesy of Blackwall Hitch
There is a natural flow from the city dock in Annapolis across the bridge into Eastport and to the chrome-yellow doors of Blackwall Hitch, Annapolis’s newest restaurant. Its owners’ names are familiar to locals: Anne Arundel Councilman Derek Fink, restaurateur James King, Larry Ray of Big Vanilla Athletic Club, and State Delegate Steve Schuh (also contender for Anne Arundel County Executive). All are also partners in Greene Turtle restaurants. This is their foray into dining that is a bit more upscale. What they’ve created is a series of highly designed spaces: chic, yet comfortable, elegant, and homey.
There is stateliness to the exterior, with a broad expanse of windows, the better to let natural light in. “We used as many new windows with transoms as we could get in there to light the space,” states architect Leo Wilson of Hammond Wilson Architects. A double volume entry leads to the main dining room and pub. A substantial open-tread steel stairway pilots you to an intimate roof deck with views of Spa Creek, sailboats, and downtown Annapolis. Larry Ray’s building expertise extended to the fine details of the construction finishes such as the steel corners on the columns and the execution of shelving units.
The main dining room brings to mind a garden party, with lights strung from the ceiling, and an open floor plan, where there is a clear view across the room to all the tables. The original brick walls are painted a glossy white. “The walls are art in itself,”
states designer Bobbi Nock, “we love the clean line of the painted brick.”
The restaurant has an edgy nautical theme, “more urban chic with a historic twist,” as Tammy Ray, design partner, puts it. Together with Nock, the two spent a year gathering decorative artifacts and furnishings at barn sales and antique shops in Frederick, Baltimore, and locally in Annapolis. There are steamer trunks, heavy ropes, and blue sea glass stocked away in corners and on shelves. Portholes and paintings of sailing ships adorn the walls.
The other prevalent theme is England, as in Jolly Old, with vintage signage and leather pub seating. The front door is yellow, “the Queen’s preferred color,” says Nock. “There is a pop of yellow in each room.” A communal dining table, which they have coined the “King’s Table,” stands at bar-height in front of the raw bar.
The most remarkable aspect of Blackwall Hitch is the lighting. It seems to require a category all its own: glittery and feminine, and distinct in each separate room. It makes the restaurant celebratory.
While the restaurant itself is beautiful, the food needs tweaking to be superlative. At a recent meal, the dishes fell short of expectations. While a crab cocktail was crisp and tasty, the clams’ casino was rubbery and flavorless. The shrimp and grits, a chef’s specialty, were faultless. The crab cake lacked the lumps of crabmeat one expects. (I have found that for a crab cake to be truly delicious, it needs to be handled delicately. If it is stirred with a heavy hand, the lumps of crab break apart and create mush.) The rockfish, another chef’s selection, was salty and off-tasting. Desserts failed to please: the brownie seemed ordinary, the strawberry shortcake made with a pound cake that brought to mind a grocery store variety. As of this writing, however, a new chef, Gianni Leopardi, is at the helm, brought on to bring the expansive menu under control.
The best part of this new restaurant and bar is that it is a fabulous place to gather with friends, and it stays open later than other local bars and restaurants. One hopes, given the test of time, that the food rises to the high standards of the architecture and décor.
Blackwall Hitch is located at
400 Sixth Street, Annapolis MD
410.263.3454 | theblackwallhitch.com
Hours: 11am–2am, 7 days a week
Live music: Thursday–Saturday
Free parking available
Christine Fillat lives on the Magothy River and is an aficionado of Chesapeake Bay cooking and living.
From Vol. 5, No. 4 2014
Annapolis Home Magazine