Evans Restaurant returns to St. George Island

Friday, July 11, 2008

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Staff photo by DICKSON MERCER
Neil Reilly, left, holds a basket of fried shrimp, while the owner, Chuck Kimball, holds a crab leg dinner at Evans Restaurant. The St. George Island establishment reopened about a month ago.

Evans Restaurant

Hours: Kitchen 4-9 p.m. and bar 3-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, kitchen noon-10 p.m. and bar noon-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday noon-9 p.m. and Sunday noon-9 p.m. Entrée prices: $13-$37 Cards: V, MC, C Reservations, carryout 301-994-9944

The textured wood walls of Evans Restaurant in St. George Island are covered with a light coat of white paint. In the bar room, round, shiny wood tables are level with the window. Both sides — whether you are looking past the bar and out to the dock or across the parking lot — present a view of the Potomac River.

Late on a weekday afternoon, I sat at one of these tables and watched the last set of a quarterfinal match at Wimbledon. Then I walked into the dining room for dinner.

I’m told that Evans can get pretty crowded and lively at night. But I am glad I visited when I did, at the end of the day when the pace was slow and the light could fill the expansive, airy interior. Evans is designed perfectly for such an effect.

Tables are set with paper napkins and placemats; for now, the menu is paper too.

With a few alterations to the table settings, however, the dining room could easily convert to something like upscale (which, in a sense, would reflect the prices). Still, I prefer the way it is: The casual vibe it is known for exists inside a new and remarkable setting.

While I never went to the restaurant before it was intentionally burned down by the 2nd District Fire Department on June 3, 2007, based on what I’ve heard it would seem that the overall scheme has markedly improved.

Whether the cuisine has improved as well, that’s not for me to say. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my St. George Island soft shell crab sandwich ($18) — two lightly battered, fried soft shell crabs on a Kaiser roll — which came with French fries and coleslaw. While the sandwich was not quite as large as I expected, the meat was slightly crispy, flavorful and nicely spiced. Without even touching it, however, I ate the coleslaw in about half-a-second. The recipe belongs to the original owner, Robert ‘‘Bugs” Evans, and I can see why it still exists.

Evans started selling soft shell crab sandwiches out of a shed in 1963. Evans Restaurant, which would become synonymous with St. George Island, went into business two years later. Evans, his wife Agnes and their 10 children all worked hard to make the restaurant successful. Members of the family continue to work there today.

Meanwhile, Chuck Kimball bought the spot five years ago during a time when Evans was starting to slip. He intended to continue the restaurant as it was, but after a short period of time he came to believe that it would take major changes to reclaim Evans’ popularity. (He was also tired of regular flooding during high tides.)

After three years of chasing down permits, the construction of Evans took less than six months.

Evans reopened a month ago, although construction continues in the neighboring lot, where Evans is building a hotel.

Evans is known for its seafood. Non-seafood options include a seven-ounce filet ($26) and a ribeye dinner ($21). All dinners come with a choice of two sides: fries, coleslaw, baked potato, applesauce, side salad or vegetable of the day. A hamburger is $10 and a grilled chicken sandwich is $9.

Evan’s appetizers include a half-pound ($9) or a pound ($13) of steamed shrimp, coconut shrimp with pineapple mango salsa ($9), crab dip ($12) and ‘‘Maryland style” cream of crab soup ($8).

Dinners range in price from $25 for the crab cake or snow crab dinner to $37 for the steamer platter, which comes with crab legs, shrimp, mussels, clams, oysters and a lobster tail. Captain Neil’s Fried Platter ($30) is a combination of fried shrimp, oysters, crab balls and fresh fish. The steak and cake dinner ($32) is one seven-ounce bacon-wrapped filet served with a crab cake, and the soft shell crab dinner is four local soft shell crabs, battered and fried.

If your budget is too tight for the dinner menu, baskets of oysters, rockfish, shrimp and fried scallops, which all come with French fries and coleslaw, go for $13 and $15. Evans also has a modestly priced children’s menu, which could reduce the final blow for a family outing. The children’s menu offers fried clam strips for $6 as well as chicken tenders ($6) and peanut butter and jelly ($4), all of which come with fries, applesauce and a drink.

After the meal, if you still have some room, you have a choice of strawberry shortcake or cheesecake. Both are $5.

I was charmed by Evans’ staff. The servers, bartender, hostess and manager⁄chef were upbeat and friendly. The camaraderie they shared was palpable. And I wonder if it is related to the fact that St. George Island now has its restaurant back.