Riding down a dusty, dead-end lane, we came to the water’s edge. A cinderblock warehouse, some trailers, and a few fishing shacks before us looked as if they would be underwater if the wind shifted. We were at Courtney’s Restaurant, a southern Maryland institution. Tom Courtney and his wonderful wife Julie operate a small southern seafood restaurant with some of the freshest catch around. They serve the fish, crabs, and oysters that Tom catches and harvests early in the morning on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
Knowing how small their operation is and wanting to share this bit of local culture with our gap students, we made sure to call ahead. As we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted with a gruff, “You’re late. I don’t know if I’ll be able to serve you.” Sure enough, soon after taking our order, Tom left for a dentist appointment. A regular of the restaurant who was having lunch himself and one of our gap semester students instead made multiple trips to the kitchen to serve Julie’s lovingly made food. We feasted on fried oysters, softshell crabs, and rockfish — all in a delicate batter — paired with hushpuppies and Maryland Crab soup. As we got up to go back to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Julie gave us a loaf of banana nut bread for the ship and asked that we send her a postcard from Cuba.