Grilled steak, crab cakes, chicken dijon?the dishes at Aqua 103 may sound familiar, but the restaurant takes care to elevate its modern American cuisine while remaining true to the recipes' casual roots. Using organic produce as well as locally raised meats, the chefs create hearty meals with an emphasis on fresh flavors and artful presentation. Racks of ribs arrive glazed with a Rinehart Orchard's apple-butter barbecue sauce, the spicy pasta fra diablo overflows with shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels, and bacon-wrapped cuts of filet mignon are seared to perfection atop a cold fusion-powered grill.
Echoing the theme implied by the restaurant's name, Aqua 103's dining room features a striking cerulean-blue accent wall. This subtle maritime homage is echoed by the turquoise cushions on the patio lounge and the blue-lit waterfall flowing behind the space's bar, which was handcrafted from stone and wood according to Hagerstown magazine. Crisp white linens adorn the tables, catching the natural light that cascades through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows.
The windows at Panorama at the Peak provide picturesque mountaintop views of Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the weekly changing menu provides tastyesque dishes constructed from organic produce and produce from local farms. Start your square meal on a round note with an order of lamb meatballs served with feta-dill dipping sauce ($8.99). If you'd like to keep your meal as light as a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try a crunchy toasted-walnut watercress salad in a Pennsylvania Dutch–inspired bacon-and-onion dressing ($7.29). Roll Thanksgiving into a conveniently portable sphere with turkey croquettes, three pan-fried cakes served over local apple-cranberry compote ($18.99). Panorama offers vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, and its efforts to provide cruelty-free meats have earned it the Certified Humane label from Humane Farm Animal Care.
Chopstix Cafe & Grill at Urbana serves Chinese cuisine, only with a healthy twist. Instead of stir-frying ingredients or shooting them with chili-flavored lasers, chefs there specialize in grill-style cooking that results in tastier, better-for-you dishes. The cafe's list of quality ingredients doesn't hurt, either, and includes pork tenderloin, extra-large shrimp, and white-meat chicken that can be found in such popular dishes as the chicken with broccoli. As a full-service restaurant, Chopstix also pours adult beverages, including beer, wine, and Polynesian-style drinks.
The chefs at Griff's Landing scour docks for freshly caught seafood to stuff plump crab cakes into massive, thick sandwiches and fry shrimp, clams, and scallops in flaky batter. Servers bear platters through the dining room's lime-green walls and tropical murals to tabletops covered with white cloths. Ornamental lights beam down from the tiki bar, where bartenders dole out beer, wine, and specialty cocktails. Outside, a wooden deck stretches out over a cheerful front patio to protect diners from sun, rain, and clouds that aren't fully nailed to the sky. Throughout the week, the restaurant hosts special events ranging from Wednesday-night trivia contests to Friday-night dance parties.
Bentz Street Sports Bar serves up a menu of classically comforting favorites alongside entertainment that's ideal for the athletically inclined. Kick off mealtime by sinking fingers and teeth into a basket of wings bathed in a choice of sauce selections, such as sweet and spicy thai, Cajun, or Old Bay ($9 for 10, $16 for 20). Sandwich savorers may delve into a hearty bacon cheeseburger accompanied by made-to-order potato chips ($9.50), or sink teeth-hooks into a Belly Buster fish sub, a crispy, fried haddock nestled in a sub roll and sided with tartar sauce ($10). Heartier appetites can be swiftly satisfied with a 10 oz. New York strip steak ($18), accompanied by two platepanions such as french fries, a twice-baked potato, or miraculous room for dessert.
Each day, the Timonium and Frederick branches brew eight different types of coffee (Annapolis brews six per day), mining from the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company's coffee reserve, a treasure cove of 120 different varieties of beans. Types of coffee ($1.60 for 12 oz.) are offered on rotating basis, with flavors such as coconut cream and pumpkin spice introducing new aromas to bored taste buds, as well as Swiss Water–decaffeinated varieties for those that love the taste of coffee but find themselves inadvertently building a shrine to Grease after two cups of regular joe. Introduce yourself to the well-crafted wares of Mother Earth with a cup of tea ($1.95 for 20 oz.)—the shop features more than 1,000 kinds of leaves for consumption, from medicinal herb tea to an Eastern Shore variety—or go full throttle with an espresso concoction ($1.50–$4.25).