Newcomers to Garrett County might not know the rich culinary history of their new home. Even those whose families have lived here for generations may have forgotten the spots that once were the talk of the town. In an effort to celebrate those treasured places to dine, some of which have been lost to time, The Lake-Front spoke to former owners, employees, and patrons and compiled a collection of favorite recipes straight from the kitchens of those restaurants past.
In 2001, Doug McClive sold his namesake restaurant, McClive’s, located on Deep Creek Drive in McHenry, to a developer who erected condominiums to capitalize on the real estate boom, which hasn’t exactly slowed down since. But, before that, McClive’s was a booming spot for both locals and tourists alike since it opened in 1987. Eleven years later, a 1998 Baltimore Sun article encapsulated this place perfectly: “Care to watch the sunset while you dine? Try McClive’s.” I spoke to former chef Scott Doolan about his memories surrounding this lake favorite among locals and tourists alike – the Crab Cakes. “When people make it for the first time, they tend to make it with too much sauce,” he said. “It gets loose and runny. You want just enough sauce to hold it together.” I could almost see him give the cliched chef’s kiss as he exclaimed, “It’s all about that Imperial Sauce!”
Will O’ The Wisp
Will O’ the Wisp Motel was established by Helmuth “Ace” and Evelyn Heise in 1953. Helmuth purchased the property from his father, Gustav Heise. In 1961, Ace and Evelyn opened the Four Seasons Dining Room at Will O’ the Wisp, which instantly became popular for its gorgeous lake views and delicious cuisine. The Four Seasons Dining Room remained as one of the area’s most popular dining and special event destinations for 50 years until 2012. Ace’s Run Restaurant now occupies that same space.
The Silver Tree still exists today as Dutch’s and the Harbor Bar, but we wanted to harken back to an earlier time at the lake when there were far fewer people who had discovered this gem nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. The history of the restaurant stretches back to when it was known as Nemacolin and operated as an inn with only two entrees on the menu. In May 1976, the building opened as Silver Tree Inn and the Lascaris family ran the restaurant until the year 2000.
Doc Holiday’s was a staple of the 1980’s Garrett County experience. Jack DuBose, a former cook at Doc’s and current English Professor at Garrett College, kicked himself for not initially remembering the spot when asked for comment about local places he missed. “I worked there in the kitchen,” he professed. “We made a lot of good stuff, but the one I really remember is Prairie Pizza.”
Dominick’s & Pizzazz Pizzerias
The yearly visitors to Deep Creek Lake might enjoy the whopping 26-inch Abbondanza pizza at Brenda’s Pizzeria overlooking the lake, but they may not know the vibrant history of that delicious pizza. The lineage of Brenda’s amazing Italian food started at Dominick’s Pizzeria in February 1988 on Deep Creek Drive in McHenry, near the post office. Up until 1995, locals could all be found enjoying all types of Italian food including the favorite that Brenda McDonnell sent over from her treasure trove of old recipes.
In 1996, Brenda moved to the Wisp Resort and opened Pizzazz Pizzeria. It is within the walls of Pizzazz that I personally first tried ranch dressing on pizza. Brenda claims that there is “nothing special” about her ranch that she serves to this day at her namesake restaurant on 219, however many locals know the truth. While the pizza was to die for at Pizzazz, the true seekers of authentic Italian fare gravitated towards the meatballs.
Local Real Estate agent Russell Bounds regaled me with an anecdote about Red Run’s glory days. “Oh man, prime rib night,” he exclaimed. “Red Run had an all-you-can-eat prime rib night. I hold the record. I ate five prime ribs in one sitting.” When talking about the ambiance of the place Bounds said, “When you took a boat up to Red Run, it was an almost remote setting compared to the more visible restaurants at the lake, like a pirate hideout or something. When you got to Red Run, located in a barn from the 1940s, it felt like it was a unique destination; like a secret hidden away. Red Run was essentially a landmark in one of the oldest buildings on the lake. While Red Run was beautifully renovated, owner and proprietor Ruth Umbel also boasted beautiful outdoor dining and a variety of amenities. Beyond that, there were things that made it special, like midnight volleyball,” Bounds said. “It was one of my favorite places and I wish it had never closed.”
To see recipes, pick up your copy of the April Lake-Front today or read at lakefrontmagazine.com
Written by Collen DuBose