West Street has a pretty new face—several of them, in fact. Once a major eyesore of ramshackle buildings and down-on-their-luckers, West Street has undergone a major nip and tuck. And it looks mahvalous.
A short stroll from the Naval Academy, and the Main Street and Maryland Avenue shopping districts, West Street has morphed into a hip and happening ‘hood.
Until the makeover began a decade ago, the turf belonged largely to prostitutes, drug dealers, and lost tourists searching for City Dock. To drive down the street was to risk eviscerating your buggy’s belly or disappearing in a pothole bigger than Peoria.
Best I can recall, when I arrived from the D.C. ‘burbs in the mid-80’s, the Rams Head tavern, then a teeny basement brew-and-burger joint, and a mom-and-pop pizza parlor were the only draws.
Fast forward 20 years. The unsightly power lines are history, the road is smooth, and the Annapolis Visitor Center, anchoring the block between Church Circle and Calvert Street, opens its arms to out-of-towners.
The street is alive—with the sounds of music emanating from Ram’s Head On Stage—and a string of distinctive new restaurants and boutiques that draws raves from locals and out-of-towners alike.
While tee-shirt shops and national chains threaten to squeeze the vitality and color out of Main Street, West Street celebrates vision, entrepreneurship, and creativity.
It took a transplanted Aussie, Gavin Buckley, to light the fire that fueled West Street development within the shadow of St. Anne’s. Together with business partner Jody Danek and their wives, they lobbied to save some falling-down buildings from the wrecker’s ball and developed the properties into a home for several new businesses.
Here are some snapshots of West Street’s pretty new face.
A la mode
32 West St.
Come here to purchase alluring lingerie by Chantelle, Huit, Hanky Panky and unique gifts for yourself or the the woman (or women) in your life. It’s never too late to forsake flannel and tee-sweats for silk and illusion. Timing is everything.
45 West St.
The attractive, well-priced pottery, jewelry, glass, candles, sculpture, photography and paintings are all handcrafted by area artists. Translation: there’s a heap of talent on the shores of the Chesapeake. If you’re shopping for a discriminating and/or difficult someone who claims to have it all, come to Artfx for something extraordinary that won’t break the bank.
175 West St.
Open daily, or by appointment
Owner Julie Williams will help you coordinate a silk, cotton or knit top with the appropriate skirt or designer jeans. Julie hand-picks items from New York, Paris and Australia and sells Hobo bags too. Shoes are on their way (in February). The boutique hosts private events such as girlfriends and bachelorette parties.
177 West St.
Open Mon-Sat; closed Sunday.
Northern Virginia transplant Dot Hewitt has assembled a primo selection of irreverent cards and books (“The Complete Neurotic”), gifts, jewelry and items of sheer whimsy such as Bacon Strips adhesive bandages. If you’re feeling blue, come to Object for a mood-elevating experience and one-of-a-kind finds not usually available in our button-down Zip code.
Tin Can Allee
63 West Street
A one-stop shop for the home (yours or someone else’s), TCA has everything from silk flowers, furniture, pottery and accessories to Thymes skin care products. Ask Michelle or Chrissie for help with accessorizing your favorite space.
169 West St.
Open Mon-Sat lunch and dinner; Sunday dinner only.
Bring a book to read while waiting in line at peak times.Or get it to go. Reservations are not accepted at this local hot spot dishing up very tasty Thai fare. No wonder they’re so busy. Along with a wide range of salads, soups, and close to 2 dozen entrees are 10 vegetarian dishes. Entrees average $2 less at lunch.
169 West St.
Dinner only. Reservations recommended.
A stylish, sophisticated black-and-white restaurant—think, the Stork Club, Annapolis-style—with intimate tables and banquettes, Metropolitan offers diners choices—a downstairs wine bar where you can drink and graze on small portions from $8 to $19; second floor dining room, and rooftop bar and dining area (in season). Chef John Joseph oversees the eclectic menu of New American cuisine which changes seasonally.Most entrées are in the $25-$30 range. Ask about the 5-couse tasting menu.
36 West Street
Open daily. Reservations suggested.
I had despaired of finding in Annapolis a true Italian bistro like those in New York that draw me like grated Pecorino Romano to pasta. Then along came Luna Blu. I’m working my way through the menu. Thus far, everything—soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, veal, chicken, seafood—is bellisimo. And it’s dished out in an attractive and cozy setting. Four-course dinners are offered nightly. Me, I prefer to share with my dining companions. On- and off-site catering is available.