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Staff photo by EMILY BARNESOwner William Stewart holds the crab cake and shrimp entrée on the deck at Rivers Edge Restaurant in Benedict.
Rivers Edge Restaurant, just offshore and just off the edge of the road, offers a dining room with big views of the Patuxent River and the Benedict Bridge. The catch is that you might be too busy enjoying your meal to really appreciate them.
Country music provided the soundtrack on a recent Saturday evening. My wife, Emily, and I chose from a list of domestic drafts, but the restaurant, which has been under new ownership for about a year, also stocks local wines. Servers delivered crackers with port wine cheese.
The carpeted dining room is comfortable and homey. There is an adjacent dining room, for parties, a small bar and a year-old outdoor deck that might not be used again until spring. (River's Edge is open all year.)
The restaurant has been promoting a Halloween costume party on Oct. 24, and a few decorations, like a cardboard skeleton, were already hanging on the wood-paneled walls. Other decorations, like a fishing pole centered above a chalkboard, suggest a seafood spot. Still, as the menu notes, the restaurant offers almost as many items from the land as from the sea.
From land, meals include chicken Chesapeake covered with a creamy Dijon sauce ($19.95), filet mignon ($25.95) and a grilled or barbecued pork chop ($15.95). From the sea, try a tuna dinner ($19.95), fried oysters ($20.95), crab cake meals ($21.95 to $30.95) or platters ($30.95 to $32.95).
Meanwhile, the chalkboard listed daily specials, sides and free desserts … for ladies who order an entrée. (Behave yourselves men; perhaps she will split it with you.)
The casual appetizer list has about a dozen items. Some are chicken tenders, fried or blackened, served with honey mustard sauce ($9.95); steamed shrimp; and mozzarella sticks. Frankly, we found none of that particularly enticing (although a second look revealed homemade hush puppies) and opted for cups of soup instead.
The cream of crab was topped with pieces of crab meat doused in Old Bay. It was a bit of a letdown below the surface, but the soup was as enjoyable as any I've tried. Vegetable crab, in turn, had a nice kick and plenty of savory vegetables. Even better, it was loaded with crab. (The third soup option is oyster stew.)
Diners can start a meal with a small dinner salad ($3.95) or make a meal out of a blackened seafood salad ($14.95) with scallops and shrimp on a bed of greens, vegetables and cheese.
We tried one of the day's specials — a full rack of ribs with two crab balls ($21.95) — and a crab cake with large grilled shrimp ($21.95), off the menu. Both meals came with two sides.
Rivers Edge seems to take confidence in its ribs. The baby back ribs, in fact, were among three highlighted selections on a menu our photographer brought back to the office after her assignment.
That confidence might stem from its sweet-sour vinegary barbecue sauce, which was slathered (at least a couple coats worth, I'd say) across the rack. Indeed, the sauce is a winner, although I would draw the line at adding it to the baked beans.
I also liked the meat, which peeled right off the bone, yet offered a pleasing amount of resistance.
For sides, the baked potato was hot, served with butter and sour cream. The coleslaw was about average.
The crabs balls, on the other hand, were perfect — dense and lightly fried. Magnify that, then, to the size of a baseball and you have a Rivers Edge crab cake.
There was just enough filler inside this creation, and that was all this lump crab needed. The shrimp were steamed (blackened is an option) and nicely spiced. Emily also enjoyed her side of kale.
Rivers Edge truly provided a memorable Around town venture — and for all the right reasons. It seems worth noting, too, that the restaurant's menu includes sandwiches for about $10 and a special insert of items priced for the times. (Had the editors not been paying, the insert would have drawn a finer eye, although I do recall seeing a fried shrimp dinner priced at about $12.)
But let's not forget the dessert.
The price was right, of course, and that always helps. But the whipped cream-topped cheese cake was also a surprise, as it came served in a martini glass. Lucky for me, Emily did share, and so I can report that it was quite good.
7320 Benedict Ave. Winter hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Entrée prices: $10-$33. Credit cards: MC, V. Phone: 301-274-2828. Go to Riversedgebenedict.com