Famous for the Oysters and not the Oscars!
By Bob Tagert
Famous for the Oysters and not the Oscars!
This month we decided to go south to Hollywood, Maryland in St. Mary’s County – it is a straight shot down Rte 5 to 235 from the Beltway. Just follow the signs to St. Mary’s. It was named in 1867, when a store owner at Thompson’s General Store near the Uniontown section of the county required a name for the post office inside the store. The store owner was inspired by the gigantic holly tree planted in front of the store and named the post office Hollywood. Hollywood also includes the nationally renowned Sotterley Plantation on the banks of the Patuxent River. Sotterley was founded in 1703 by James Bowles, a wealthy planter.
Hollywood is also noted for the letter O, and it doesn’t stand for Oscar…it stands for Oyster, and Hollywood Oyster Company produces some of the best oysters in Maryland. Aquaculture has become a popular profession and is creating an industry of sustainable oyster farming. The Patuxent River is the deepest river on the East Coast and is over a mile wide where the Hollywood oyster farm is located. Hogs Neck Creek has a clay/sand bottom and is lined with fossilized rock-giving the oysters their signature taste! These are the very popular Sweet Jesus oysters. Hollywood Oyster Company has a fleet of their own trucks that deliver locally and flies oysters regularly around the USA. There are many restaurants in the DMV that serve the Sweet Jesus oysters. Look for them the next time you crave some good bivalves.
Close to Hollywood Oyster Company is Snellman’s General Merchandise Store on Sotterley Road. This local store is worth writing about by itself. If Snellman’s doesn’t have it, you don’t need it…pretty much. I have driven by this store many times over the years and my only purchase has been ice and beer to take to my boat. Little did I know what I’ve been missing on Friday nights. This is a local’s secret (or it was) that I heard about from friends who have a house on the water and are regulars. Every Friday (and only Friday) the “Shuck Shack” is open in the little bar in the very back of the store. From 5pm to 7pm you can belly up to the bar in this back room, listen to some live music, meet local folks and get a complimentary serving of five of those Sweet Jesus oysters on the half shell. You can order more either steamed, roasted or raw. You will be greeted by Willy, the proprietor, when you walk in and shown to the bar. Get there early to get a good seat – it’s well worth the experience.
A short drive on Sotterley Road will bring you to Sotterley Plantation, a historic landmark plantation house located at 44300 Sotterley Lane. We have featured Sotterley a few times over the years in the OTC. It is an amazing place. It is a long one and a half story, nine-bay frame building, covered with wide, beaded clapboard siding and wood shingle roof, overlooking the Patuxent River. Also on the property are sawn-log slave quarters circa 1830, and 18th-century brick warehouse, and an early 19th-century brick meat house. Farm buildings include an early-19th-century corn crib and an array of barns and work buildings from the early 20th century. Opened to the public in 1961, it once was the home of George Plater, the sixth Governor of Maryland, and Herbert Satterlee, a New York business lawyer and son-in-law of J.P. Morgan.
The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Sotterley was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2000, its natural significance due to the extremely rare surviving elements of the main house’s oldest phase, ac. 1717 post in ground structure, and the other elements of its later historical architecture and landscape. Sotterley Plantation is the only Tidewater plantation in Maryland open to the public that offers visitor activities and educational programs. In early October the Riverside Winefest is held at Sotterley. Celebrate the best of Maryland wines with over 20 Maryland wineries, live music, local food, cooking demos, local beer tasting, and artisan marketplace.
Greenwell State Park is located in the same area as Sotterley on Rosedale Manor Lane. Funded by the Greenwell Foundation, this park is host to all sorts of nature field trips, summer camps as well as equestrian programs. There is access to the water and activities for all ages.
Tobacco Barn Distillery, located in Hollywood is the first “legal” distillery in Southern Maryland. They are bringing back the heritage of the whiskey bourbon distilling that was born in Maryland when Basil Hayden, Sr. was making whiskey from corn in the 1700’s in St. Mary’s County. While it was not yet called bourbon, it was made from corn and had a high rye content, a true bourbon mash bill. Hayden unfortunately left for the “frontier” (aka Kentucky) in 1786, but they honor his spirit of a high rye content bourbon. Tobacco Barn Distillery has been selected as Maryland’s Bourbon by the Whiskey Advocate Magazine and continue to make and age their bourbons and whiskeys on the farm that grows the corn for these great products.
Tobacco Barn makes bourbons, whiskeys and rum. They use their own corn for the whiskeys, and locally source any other grains used. They buy molasses from Dominion Sugar located in Baltimore. Their Big Z rum is fantastic and is aged in barrels that are placed in the hold of the naval ship The Constellation which resides in Baltimore Harbor. The slow motion of the ship moves the rum around in the barrel imparting color and flavor.
Dining opportunities in Hollywood are plentiful when it comes to the chain variety but if you want something more local, Stoney’s Clarke’s Landing is a good place to land. It is a bit off of the beaten path on Clarkes Landing Road but it sits on the water and is home to some good seafood and a few adult beverages.
We didn’t stay overnight in Hollywood area since we made plans to stay on the other side of the river with friends, however, there are several B&B’s (we recommend The Victorian Candle – it has 7 beautifully appointed rooms and includes a full breakfast) and roadside hotels the likes of Holiday Inn, etc. While you are in Hollywood you are close to lots of the people, places and things that make Southern Maryland a destination. Take the time for a road trip and visit these historic and fun places. They are right down the road in St. Mary’s County.