Wow! What a great place! Nancy and I had learned of The Reluctant Navigator from local food guru, St. Mary’s Paul, also the tipster for the Drift Inn and Captain Leonard’s. St. Mary’s Paul reported that The Reluctant Navigator had “good food and the best Bloody Marys and Irish coffee in St. Mary’s County.” So much we knew, but what we didn’t know was that they have oysters, wonderful, fresh, and local oysters.
The Reluctant Navigator is at Tall Timbers Marina, set on McKay Cove just off the Potomac River. We wove our way to it, walked to the entrance and saw a sign, Oyster Garden, which I obediently followed. It led to nine picnic tables set under shade trees right on the water.
We picked a table and sat in the shade, enjoying the view and a gentle breeze. The temperature was in the 70s, and all was right with the world, especially after I saw Rick Meatyard shucking oysters. When the waitress informed me that the oysters cost $1 each, or $2 charred with a bourbon-scampi sauce (!), I nearly swooned. I managed to pull myself together and ordered a dozen raw and a crab cake sandwich. Nancy also ordered a crab cake sandwich. I had forgotten all about Bloody Marys and Irish coffee.
The oysters arrived.
Beautiful, and an honest baker’s dozen. And they came with a good cocktail sauce plus a generous container of horseradish. Cocktail sauce always should come with a separate container of horseradish. The server found some saltines for me and I used them as vehicles for the souped-up cocktail sauce — a healthy dollop on each cracker. As always, I ate the oysters with only a few drops of lemon juice.
The oysters were delicious, nicely briny and tasting of the sea — and a good size. And the oysters were remarkably bright and fresh, which makes sense, as they were raised a stone’s throw away.
It seems that one day in 2008, Rick Meatyard and his son, Spike, started to scrape the bottom of their boat by the Meatyard place — the family has been there over 100 years — on Herring Creek, just across McKay Cove from the marina. They found a bed of oysters underneath it, and thus was born Double “T” Oyster Ranch. In 2009, the first locally made cages went in, and Double T gradually refined and expanded the ranch to 60 cages on two underwater acres. The scope of the family operation allows them to focus on quality, and they hand-cull the oysters.
Oh, did I forget the crab cakes? How could I? They were very good, fresh and well prepared, and came with some good slaw and house-made potato chips.
As you can see, I adorned my chips with Tabasco sauce, which is something I like and warily recommend to all who think they might like it.
It was a great lunch in a great location. It could hardly have been more pleasant. For less gentle weather, the Reluctant Navigator has heaters and a fire pit for the outdoor Oyster Garden, a screened porch with circulating fans, and a room with indoor all-weather seating. The COVID shutdowns hit them hard, and The Reluctant Navigator closed for about a year before reopening. Meanwhile, Rick and Spike built the Oyster Garden and grew the Double “T” oyster ranch. In addition to stocking their own restaurant, they sell to restaurants in the DC-Annapolis area, including the excellent Salt Line in Washington. They also sell oysters in the shell or in a jar right off their dock.
I told Rick Meatyard that I’d be back for more oysters in every month with an “R.” He pointed out that they now raise oysters safely all year long, and I changed it to “every month.” And I will. The Meatyards are good people. Rick and Spike are friendly and engaging, and willing to mail a credit card to a numbskull who forgets and leaves without it. And they sure know how to raise oysters.
You owe it to yourself to go to the Reluctant Navigator some Friday or Saturday for lunch or dinner, and/or on Sunday before 2:30. You’ll have a great meal, and perhaps, as I will, a great Bloody Mary.
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