Food & Drink

Review: Charly’s Sue Creek Woos Diners With Chef-Driven Cuisine and Outdoor Fun

Chef David Quiroz brings a culinary thoughtfulness to the menu that you don’t usually find at other outdoor spots.
The lobster roll at Charly's Sue Creek. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

Charly’s Sue Creek in Essex is raising the bar for casual waterfront dining. Sure, there’s a picturesque view of Sue Creek, toe-tapping island music, and creative crush drinks to set the mood, but the chef in the kitchen is bringing a culinary thoughtfulness to the menu that you don’t usually find at other outdoor spots.

For starters, chef David Quiroz, who trained under chefs Julian Marucci when he was at Cinghiale and Neill Howell when he led the kitchen at Bond Street Social, makes most of the dishes from scratch, including the dough and the sauce for the restaurant’s signature deep-dish pizzas.

The year-round restaurant, which opened last October, has positioned itself for both landlubbers and the boating crowd, who can dock at convenient slips at the Baltimore Boating Center, where Charly’s is located. Co-owner Ryan Perlberg, who also oversees the popular Stuggy’s and Rye in Fells Point, took a former marine store on the property and transformed it into an indoor dining area and bar with about 45 seats, adding an outdoor deck with shade sails and seating, and an open area by the water with a fireplace.

No matter where you sit, the head-turner on the menu is the lobster roll. It’s pricy at $33, but the huge mounds of buttery Maine lobster meat on soft butter lettuce in a toasted, split-top bun will make you think you’re chowing down at a New England seafood shack.

You can also feast on several of the starters, which are large enough to share. The tuna tataki with cubes of ruby fish is a palate pleaser, layered on a refreshing seaweed salad, topped with sesame seeds and a tangy Sriracha dressing, and accompanied by purple tortilla chips.

Brussels sprouts have been hanging around on menus since the early 2000s—and with good reason. Charly’s adds its own successful version of the crispy, tiny, cabbage-head lookalikes, with drizzles of balsamic honey, ribbons of prosciutto, and a shower of Parmesan.

As mentioned, house-made deep-dish pizzas are also on offer, but with one caveat: They need a day for the dough to rise, which means you’re out of luck if you order one on a Wednesday. (Charly’s is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and the dough is made fresh on Wednesdays.)

But all is not lost for pizza-loving diners who arrive midweek. The chef fashions a New York-style (read: flat) pizza in its place, using the deep-dish toppings listed on the menu. We were more than satisfied with our crisp slices topped with arugula and prosciutto. Our server told us the pie is available every day for those who prefer that type of pizza. We like the option.

For those wanting an entree, the kitchen obliges with ambitious offerings like spicy crab pasta, bouillabaisse, and a filet Oscar. Desserts are made in-house, our server said. And we found that the coconut-laced panna cotta was a cooling end to a powerhouse meal.


CHARLY’S SUE CREEK, 2015 Turkey Point Road, Essex, 443-234-3350. HOURS: Lunch, Wed.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; dinner, Wed.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5-11 p.m., Sun. 1-10 p.m.; brunch, Sun., 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.