Schaefer’s Canal House in Chesapeake City: A Dining Review

Bridging the Gap: Schaefer’s Canal House reopens in Chesapeake City. Does it live up to the hype?


Published:

At a Glance

Schaefer’s Canal House
208 Bank St., Chesapeake City, Md.
(410) 885-7200, schaeferscanalhouse.com

Prices
appetizers $7-$15
sandwiches $10-$16
entrées $15-$36
Recommended Dishes 
Panko oysters, crab cakes,
mango-avocado stack

 

The mango-avocado stack with crab and shrimp is a standout dish. It was one of the last perfect evenings of the summer, and the disappearing sun shot the sky full of hazy orange and cool pink swatches high above the C&D Canal. A three-piece calypso band plinked away at steel drums and clacked on claves. A two-story Silverton yacht bobbed in the water.

It was the sort of night made for kicking back at the beautifully restored Schaefer’s Canal House. For taking shelter beneath the bright yellow umbrellas. For staring off into the water.

Only, 40 minutes later, you’re still staring. The snacks still hadn’t arrived. Empty drinks piled up on the edge of the table, and the vibrantly colored sky had turned black. The band had been replaced by an iPod.

Just a few weeks into its revival, Schaefer’s Canal House—a Chesapeake City classic—was slammed. The waterfront restaurant and banquet hall was reborn last summer after a seven-year slumber, and has been aggressively refitted with 750 feet of decking, a marina, a fuel dock and a marine office. The overhaul nearly doubled the restaurant’s capacity to almost 300 seats.

Chef Bruce Wetterau presents his chocolate truffle pie.

On a busy Friday night, a vision of the new Schaefer’s seemed actualized. All 1,200 newly installed deck boards felt the chaos of crowds dancing and carousing, as customers squeezed around a 32-seat outdoor bar and spilled onto the dance floor.

The party raged—unless you were a party of two waiting to eat dinner. The young staff, as well as the kitchen, seemed overwhelmed and frazzled during the restaurant’s initial, hectic weeks. Waiters and runners zipped around frenetically, delivering food to the wrong tables, presenting appetizers before drinks had arrived, and leaving dirty dishes to pile up.

The cooks, led by veteran chef Bruce Wetterau (whose previous posts include the esteemed Kitty Knight House, and the Granary Restaurant) gave the impression that they, too, were under quite a bit of duress.

How else can one explain the Schaefer’s unforgivable Steam Pot? Gritty, sour middleneck clams, and puny, unappetizing mussels skulked among the bottom of a dry roasting pan along with one shriveled lobster tail. Any semblance of seasoning came from two halfhearted shakes of an Old Bay canister and a dish of clarified butter. At $29, the house-special steamer pot shouldn’t be highlighted by corn on the cob.

Diners are treated to a legendary view of the C&D Canal and the Chesapeake City bridge.

Elsewhere, sloppy plating and hastily chosen ingredients torpedoed Schaefer’s best-laid plans. Sliced ahi tuna was smeared messily with wasabi aioli and served with a gloppy pile of wakame seaweed salad.

It’s a shame that food felt like such a harried afterthought, because there were good ideas amid the rubble. Homemade spinach gnocchi, hearty and flavorful in its warm bath of sun-dried tomato cream sauce, choked with starch and chewiness. Other inoffensive fare like crab dip and Waldorf salad were simply underseasoned.

While I sat and shrugged about chicken salad, I wondered: Did anyone else at Schaefer’s mind? It didn’t seem so. On this night, the new-look Schaefer’s is party central—high-volume, resort-style dining, with drinks in hand. Waiting 55 minutes for a table? Grab a mojito, watch the game, and dance to a calypso version of “Funkytown.”

The view of the C&D Canal bridge is a Schaefer’s signature.Much like its neighbors at the cross-canal Chesapeake Inn, Schaefer’s is bound to spend summer nights as central HQ for much docking, drinking and dancing. The renovated deck and outside bars created by new owner John Giordano and family create a great vibe, and the view out there—particularly at sunset when the suspension cables of the neighboring bridge chop the fading sunrays—is unmatched.

Just then: Wham! A woman’s hand on the railing snapped me back to reality, as a conga line—at least 20 people deep—paraded by, right on cue.

But what about when it’s cold out?

A few weeks later, with fall weather tightening its chilly grip, the inside portion of Schaefer’s felt much calmer. When Wetterau and his staff weren’t running ragged, they were able to author some terrific homespun flavors. Servers, afforded time to breathe, exuded ample charm.

And the food—delivered hot and on time—was often delicious. Panko-breaded oysters,  plump and crispy, held strong onto their texture and briny pop, even under a sprinkling of wasabi aioli and toasted sesame cream. The dueling sauces manage cleverly to accentuate the oysters’ inherent sweetness and pungency.

Panko-breaded oysters receive a sprinkling of wasabi aioli and toasted sesame cream.Chesapeake eateries usually know their way around a blue crab, and Schaefer’s sturdy and meaty crab cakes (broiled lump, little filler) matched the panache of creamy crab dip, which was punctuated by more shredded jumbo lump and sharp cheeses.

Without the crush of summertime revelers, Schaefer’s kitchen proved it could transform ingredients into creative dishes that transcended the fish-house norm. A colorful plate of avocado and ripe mango made fitting dance partners for crabmeat and boiled shrimp, while a drizzle of honey-cilantro glaze reinforced the salad’s clean notes.

Crabmeat again emerged, this time as a plump sweetener in a cascading pool of beurre blanc sauce, which dripped onto wild mushroom risotto from its summit atop a stunningly constructed veal napoleon. Stacked high, crispy cutlets of breaded veal and sautéed spinach towered, and eventually found flavor partners in the woodsy rice, poppy beurre blanc, and piquant roasted tomato.

A choppy opening month aside, I’m willing to count it as a victory for the people of Chesapeake City and its many visitors that they can party at ol’ Schaefer’s Canal House all summer, just as they used to—and enjoy quiet, waterfront refinement during the cold months.

And I’m willing to bet they can’t wait until Memorial Day. 

 

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Telephone: 302-239-2434
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Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
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2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
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2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
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200 South Madison Street
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View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Delve deep into the watercolors and biography of Barbara Bodichon on a tour with Curator Margaretta Frederick. 

Cost: Free with Museum admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

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The Connected Series engages local creative community members to produce art-based programs at the Museum. Join us for appetizers, cash bar, and short introduction to the Connected Series followed...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Three times James Beard Best Chef Semi-Finalist to cook at The Whist! LIMITED seating. Owner of a(MUSE) and Grampa(MAC) in Rehoboth, DE. Five to six courses with chef-selected wine pairings. The...

Cost: $200/person

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

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More than 50,000 books for sale!  Thurs., 1/24 from 5 PM to 9 PM Friends Members Only (membership available at the door for $10)  Fri., 1/25 from 9 AM to 9 PM  Sat.,...

Cost: $10 on Thursday night; free the rest of the weekend

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
610 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Hockessin Library
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through discovery, exploration, and hands-on experiences.Ages 2 and up. Visit delart.org for list of books. ...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

More than 50,000 books for sale!  Thurs., 1/24 from 5 PM to 9 PM Friends Members Only (membership available at the door for $10)  Fri., 1/25 from 9 AM to 9 PM  Sat.,...

Cost: $10 on Thursday night; free the rest of the weekend

Where:
Hockessin Memorial Hall
610 Yorklyn Road
Hockessin, DE
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of the Hockessin Library
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Mr. Nathan Avakian from New York City will be performing on the 4th Largest Theatre Pipe Organ in the world  selections of comtemporary popular music along with Broadway and...

Cost: $20 Adults, $12.00 Students under 21

Where:
The Dickinson Theatre at John Dickinson High Schoo
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-5630
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

By Michael Gotch Directed by Mark Lamos Stung by personal, political, and economic setbacks, a young, urban couple build an off-the-grid, tiny house in an isolated mountain paradise…or so they...

Cost: 15-32

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Telephone: 302-831-2204
Website »

More information

This workshop will explore using pieces to create a larger whole. Using multiple small and simple objects, students will stack, hang, layer, or weave them into a larger sculptural...

Cost: $55 Members, $70 Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

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