Thirty Years of Fitzies Marina and Restaurant: family business rebuilt after the blow from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and serves customers with an expanded menu and outdoor seating featuring classic crabcakes

Fitzies-after-being-gutted-by-Hurricane-Isabel-in-2003-being-readied-to-be-rebuilt

Thirty Years of Fitzies Marina and Restaurant: family business rebuilt after the blow from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and serves customers with an expanded menu and outdoor seating featuring classic crabcakes

Fitzies Restaurant before the beach and Tiki Bar serving area were added along the waterfront. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
Large tents are erected for private parties and weddings at Fitzies Marina and Restaurant in Compton, Md. on Breton Bay. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
High-tide-in-Compton-Md.-where-the-popular-restaurant-Fitzies-Marina-was-wrecked-in-2003-by-Hurricane-Isabel taken the morning after the storm hit Maryland.
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Waterfront doesn’t get any closer than this that is available at Fitizies Marina and Restaurant. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
In addition to operating the restaurant, Dan FitzGerald also oversees the marina and gas docks each weekend. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Fitzies Marina & Restaurant Now Back in Operation After Smash Hit from Isabel Two Years Ago

BY KEN ROSSIGNOL
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

COMPTON — (This story was originally published in 2005) Next month will mark the two-year anniversary of when Hurricane Isabel rearranged much of the waterfront of St. Mary’s County as she pounded the states along the east coast.
Danny FitzGerald has spent much of the last two years, digging out from the wreck made of his restaurant and marina by the huge storm and now he is back in business with a modernized restaurant, breezy lounge, and sports a waterfront Tiki bar.
Catering to local and long-distance boat traffic, Fitzies now is back to selling gasoline, a prized commodity along the Potomac River, which is hard to find, regardless of the price.
While boaters will stop in for gas, what they are really heading to the convenient dockage for is the good food, a classic rendition of Southern Maryland cooking, with highlights of their own crabcakes recipe and steamed shrimp made the way they used to be prior to the trend of dumping in heaps of Old Bay over steamed shrimp.
At Fitzies, they are careful to not overcook their big shrimp and cook them with pickling spices and steam them in beer. Spicy and tender, these shrimp are worth digging out a map and figuring out how to find the place.
Longtime residents simply know Fitzies as Delahay’s Marina, which always had a small bar next to the oyster house. The way there by land is to turn next to what used to be the state highway garage at Rt. 243 and Leonardtown Center and drive back to Joe Hazel Road, turn left, and drive to the land’s end. To get there by water, take a left at the first inlet on the north side with a black marker going in Breton Bay.
Being redecorated by a hurricane is a dubious distinction but one that many local establishments went through, among them Drift Inn on the Patuxent; Morris Point Inn at Avenue just off St. Clements Bay; Courtney’s Restaurant down at Wynne on Smith Creek; and Oakwood Lodge, which was wiped out and now has six large waterfront homes being built in its place.
While most other waterfront restaurants were quickly rebuilt none suffered quite the damage of Fitzies and the reopening wasn’t accomplished until this past May. The marina is still being rebuilt but a large number of guest slips and rental slips are now back in service along with a brand-new gas dock and above-ground tanks featuring ethanal-free gas.
This now is the only gas dock on the St. Mary’s coastline, between Quade’s Store at Bushwood Wharf all the way down to Tall Timbers Marina. The only exception are two gas docks up on St. Patrick’s Creek which is becoming more shallow by the day as silt continues to fill in the creek and dredging has been delayed.
The large dining room at Fitzies has perhaps the world’s biggest collection of family-size tables, with more than a dozen round tables, suitable for families of 12, which is about the size of Danny’s clan at any given time.
While the staff of Fitzies is attentive and quick to serve, there are some extra vendors who have set up shop outside the entrance to the restaurant by the dock. Signs proclaiming ‘ice cream’ beckon the sweltering boaters heading for the door to pause, Danny says his kids are budding entrepreneurs and he is glad to encourage them.
Keeping his family close is the reason he built a large family-size room overtop of the new waterfront bar, big enough for any reunion he cares to put on. With its own kitchen, a big waterfront room with fireplaces, and an open office suite, the Rockville mortgage broker is able to keep in touch with his uptown office while supervising his nieces, nephews, and children.
While being from Montgomery County, Danny’s roots are here as his grandmother, Dorothy Shannon, was a longtime reporter and writer with the Enterprise, during its heyday when the late Charlie Molitor owned it.
Shannon and Penny Rue were on top of the local social scene and Dorothy’s columns each week would begin with an accounting of the visitors to High Chimney’s, the home of Penny and Jack Rue which overlooks the mouth of the Patuxent and the Naval Air Station.
Dorothy Shannon lived at St. Clements Shores, not far from where her grandson now operates his family-run restaurant. Danny said he designed his massive family quarters overtop the restaurant so that his family would be involved in the operation and he wouldn’t be isolated at the business five miles away from his home.
It’s a tough life for these kids who get to live the life that patrons of the restaurant enjoy when they show up for lunch or dinner from Thursday through Sunday, year-round.
The big windows overlooking Breton Bay, out to the Potomac and clear across to Virginia are a view that reaches more than seven miles, giving a bayfront or ocean view to this spot just minutes from the center of Leonardtown and less than an hour and a half from the beltway.
The Tiki bar is just about complete and what used to be a drive-around parking lot is now a sandy beach with thatched roofed huts built to shade outdoor diners. Inside or outside, restaurant customers have just as good a view of boating traffic as being on a tourist cruise without the motion or the expense.
The old-timers around the marina are more than willing to help out with a line when the wind pushes boats around while docking and the owner is quick to assist arriving boats with lines and disembarking their vessels, small or big.
Fitzies decision to cater to families shows in their décor which is simple and devoid of beer signs in the dining room, deciding that the best décor is that which God made outside the windows. The lounge area is clean and airy never is heard a word that would make families cringe.
A few years ago, an attempt was made by a Washington caterer to turn Fitzies into something it wasn’t and never could be and now Danny FitzGerald is confident that his formula of Southern Maryland cooking and family-oriented service is the right way to run a restaurant. The constant stream of folks into his place shows that his customers agree.

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