On the Edge: Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill
by Elizabeth Cogar
Dining out in the spring and summer is especially fun if you can find a spot on the waterfront. A table with a view is perfection. What’s great about Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill at the Gwynn’s Island bridge, is that every table has a view and you can even park your boat out front in one of the eight slips next to the dock.
Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill, named for a nearby spot in the Chesapeake Bay, opened in the summer of 2018 on the same site as the former Seabreeze, a local favorite since the 1970s. Experienced restauranteurs J.C. and Mac Casale and Dean Tsamouras who own Mathews’ White Dog Bistro and Southwind Cafe, respectively, are the proprietors. Heather Minter, who previously cooked at the White Dog, is head chef.
“HITW,” as the menu brands its signature items, is a shoebox-shaped building perched atop pilings that put it above the flood plain where the Seabreeze had been. Steps lead up to a spacious deck, but if easier access is needed, an outside elevator can be used. On the deck are picnic tables with umbrellas for alfresco dining. Inside, the space is wide open from the kitchen in the back to the dining area up front and bar in between. Rustic wood paneling, bare floors and wide windows give the place a bright and relaxed feel. Arriving around 6:30 p.m. on a recent Saturday evening, my friend Sallie and I were seated within 10 minutes at a tall table in the front window overlooking Milford Haven. Because we were closest to the water, we enjoyed a panoramic view of glassy smooth water and a slowly setting sun. The place was soon full of diners, some couples and some larger groups, and a lively crowd at the bar watching a basketball game.
What’s great about Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill at the Gwynn’s Island bridge, is that every table has a view and you can even park your boat out front in one of the eight slips next to the dock.
Our waitress promptly handed us menus and took our drink orders after we chose from the beer, wine and special cocktails. We mulled over the appetizer list and ultimately chose two, fried pickles and seafood bites. Generous portions of each were enough for two or three diners. Dill pickle slices had been dredged in potato chip crumbs and were piping hot. A little bit like hush puppies, the dozen or so fried seafood bites were full of bits of crab and lobster. Both appetizers were served with two dipping options, a homemade ranch dressing and HITW sauce, a Thousand-Island-based concoction that was slightly spicy and very delicious. From that point on, we dipped everything in the HITW sauce (except for our dessert!).
Perusing the entree selections, all priced under $20, we debated the options. Everything sounded good, from the Blue Crab Louis salad to a hot open-faced roast beef sandwich, enthusiastically recommended by a bar customer from Deltaville. A raw bar selection featured steamed or raw oysters from William’s Wharf Oyster Co. and clams and shrimp by the half or full dozen. Tacos, burgers, salads and baskets of seafood rounded out the menu. Sallie finally settled on fish (flounder, according to our waitress) tacos, and I chose a fish (catfish, she said) basket that came with two sides — I opted for the traditional French fries and cole slaw.
The soft tacos were stuffed with chopped lettuce, tomatoes and, of course, fish which Sallie was surprised to find fried, not grilled, but she enjoyed it nevertheless. My fish and chips basket included a tasty filet and a healthy portion of sidewinder fries sprinkled with a house-made seasoning similar to Old Bay. Though dessert seemed like a step too far, we’d already been tempted when a waitress brought a piece of berry and mascarpone cake to our table by mistake. That up close look had us convinced so we agreed to split a slice and weren’t sorry. Looking like a buttery piece of blueberry coffee cake with a creamy interior layer of mascarpone, the cake was the perfect delectable finish to our dinner.
By the time we left, the sun had set and the crowd was gone. Chef Minter waved from the back of the kitchen as we headed out, sure that we’d return to this place that offers attentive service and guarantees a water view and satisfying meal.