“Memoirs of a Main Street Boy” an Annapolis reflection, Part 1

| November 21, 2016
west-street-little-tavern

West Street — Little Tavern

I’ve had my eye on Annapolis since I was born here in the old Emergency Hospital on Franklin Street on December 16, 1933. That’s why I appreciate Eye On Annapolis giving me the opportunity to write about “Growing Up in America’s Ancient City,” the subtitle of my new book, Memoirs of a Main Street Boy.

Yes, I grew up on Main Street, in the most disruptive, yet most dynamic eras in our nation’s history – from the end of the Great Depression, through World War II to the Cold War.

My eye on Annapolis was from the front windows of the third-floor apartment at 183 Main Street.

Looking out those windows, from Church Circle to the city dock, I could see the stores that supplied almost everything a family needed to live. There were numerous grocery stores, butchers, shoe stores, clothing stores, two 5 and 10 cent stores, several banks, and restaurants galore.

Almost all the store names have changed now, and many types, such as grocers, have disappeared, but restaurants still dominate the street.

Main Street restaurants became my generation’s personal havens over the years. As a teenager, I played chess with the young proprietor, Johnny Cristo, in a tiny eatery called the New Grill at the bottom of Main Street, just up from Green Street. Johnny went on to open the popular Fred’s Restaurant in Parole. (But that, too, is gone.) However, the New Grill’s location now houses Sakura Café. I doubt that they have a chess board.

Across the street from the New Grill was an eatery with the name, believe it or not, The Sanitary. Would you expect it to be otherwise?

A few doors up from the New Grill was the Maggio family’s Italian restaurant, La Rosa’s, where I took my earliest dates (including my soon-to-be wife in 1950) for the best pizza I ever ate, made from Mama Maggio’s own recipe. Today, that spot is occupied by O’Brien’s Steakhouse.

As you walk up the left side of Main Street today, you encounter Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt and Jimmy John’s. In my youth, you’d encounter Al’s Delicatessen and the Little Tavern, where you could buy a bag of 10 tiny hamburgers for a dollar.

Across the street, in the flatiron building at Francis and Main, now occupied by SunTrust Bank, was the Mirror Grill restaurant, run by the father of my childhood pal, John Henneberger, later a pilot, military officer, lawyer and judge.

Up from that corner is a current restaurant called Preserve, which is two doors down from one of my youthful haunts, The Wardroom, a midshipman’s dining favorite run by the Bounelis brothers, Angel and George, and where I put too many nickels in slot machines, legal and ubiquitous then in Annapolis.

Across Main Street from The Wardroom was Brunswick Billiard Hall, nicknamed Pap’s (later Pete’s) pool room, one of my favorite entertainment spots, which is now Acme Bar and Grill.

Next door is Chick & Ruth’s, an Annapolis institution. Yet it really is a newcomer to my generation, who remember it fondly as Bernstein’s Ice Cream Parlor, above which, in another third-floor apartment, my grandparents lived. Living above Main Street stores was typical housing for working-class Annapolitans.

When you cross Conduit Street today, the Main Street restaurants proliferate with names such as Joss, Nano, Dry 85 and, on the corner, Osteria (which in my youth was the site of the historic, colonial Carroll Barrister House, moved to St. John’s College campus in 1955). One of my favorites today is the restaurant Café Normandie, for two reasons: 1. I love the French food, and 2. It’s next door to 183 Main Street, the apartment house where I spent my youth.

And on and on the restaurants go, all the way up to the Maryland Inn at the top of Main Street. Its Treaty of Paris restaurant is well named because, after ratifying the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Revolutionary War, some of the signatory congressmen left the State House to celebrate in the Maryland Inn. You can still celebrate there, 232 years later.

I sometimes lament the “restauranting” of Annapolis. But, to be honest, it really hasn’t changed that much. Main Street is still full of great flavor and fun, though none of the restaurants offer a game of chess.

A native Annapolitan, Mr. Crosby is founder and chairman of Crosby Marketing, a national advertising/public relations firm headquartered in Annapolis. His book, Memoirs of a Main Street Boy, is available at the Annapolis Bookstore, at Back Creek Books on Main Street or online at Amazon.com.

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About the Author ()

A native Annapolitan, Mr. Crosby is founder and chairman of Crosby Marketing, a national advertising/public relations firm headquartered in Annapolis. Mr. Crosby's book, “Memoirs of a Main Street Boy: Growing Up in America's Ancient City,” is available at local bookstores (Annapolis Bookstore, Back Creek Books and Old Fox Books) or online at Amazon.com.