The Cove at Cobb Island

Story by Angela Mattingly Breck

The first thing you’ll probably notice when you walk into The Cove at Cobb Island is the mural that circles near the high ceiling in the coffee shop. The mural depicts waterside scenes you might find if you studied the landscape around the nearly 300-acre island. The waterfront community is in southern Charles County, where the Potomac and Wicomico rivers and Neale Sound meet.

It might be a misnomer to call The Cove a coffee shop. While it does serve great coffee (roasted by Maryland company Orinoco) and coffee drinks, there’s much more. Inside you’ll find creative food and drink menus, yummy pastries, fresh gelato and sorbet, a bar that offers wines (some local from Port of Leonardtown and Robin Hill wineries) and other mixed drinks, and an art and music gathering place.

The cafe is owned by the Rothells, Bonnie and Danny. Son Foster, 22, is the chef and manager. Daughters Francesca, 20, and middle-schooler Faith, 14, also work there (Francesca when she’s not away at college). On a recent Sunday, Bonnie gave our party a tour. Foster and Faith were in the kitchen finishing up from the day’s brunch crowd.

Also on hand was Vicki Marckel. Vicki has been a mentor to Foster and is now like one of the family. She teaches at Henry E. Lackey High School in Indian Head and at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata and works part time at the coffee and wine house. She is The Cove’s artist-in-residence and painter of the aforementioned mural.

Local point, focal point

Foster came up with the idea for the mural before the shop even opened. He wanted the place to have a local feel, “so every piece of flora and fauna, every duck, every bird, frog, every plant is something that can be found in the local environment,” Bonnie says.

With Foster’s vision and desire to highlight the local character and Vicki’s know-how and talent, the mural was on its way to being created.

The mural took about eight months to complete. “It started with one wall and ended up in panoramic mode,” Bonnie recalls.

Cobb Island is home to a few well-known seafood restaurants, so the Rothells wanted to create a place that complemented the other establishments there.

The Cove at Cobb Island opened in January 2018. It was winter so the Rothells planned a soft opening to “test the waters.”

“Everyone was excited, and we had the community behind us,” Bonnie says. Once the doors opened and patrons found them, things just took off.

Eat, drink and be merry

One look at the menu board, and diners will see there’s more to The Cove than hot beverages. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the items on the drink menu. Enjoy an espresso, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, French press, hot chocolate, smoothie, tea or lemonade. (“People come from all over for our lavender lemonade,” Bonnie says.)

Bonnie was once a vegetarian, and Foster is a big meat eater, so diners can expect to find plenty on the menu for any dietary preference. “There are many options,” Bonnie says, and the kitchen uses as many locally sourced items as possible.

Our group traveled there for the Sunday brunch. We weren’t disappointed.

The menu, created by Foster, included three different quiches, bagel melts, croissant sliders, scones, pancakes, Belgian waffles, bagels and lox, soups, salads, quesadillas, paninis, wraps and avocado cups. Since it’s winter, expect more soups on the menu.

The pumpkin scones were created from a recipe by Faith and made fresh that morning.

A sweet treat was available after our meal. We sampled the gelato offerings which included raspberry red velvet, chocolate peanut butter and sour apple.

Never a dull moment

It might be winter in the sleepy riverside community, but there’s still a lot going on at The Cove.

Vicki organizes two paint parties a month, and there is usually a children’s craft night once a week. Sometimes there are movie nights. With a few guitars displayed on the walls, it’s not unusual for an impromptu acoustic jam session to break out. Occasionally local musicians perform.

Jacob Smalley and friend Cindy Thalman, both Mechanicsville residents, were at The Cove waiting for the Sunday afternoon paint party to begin. A CSM student, Jacob is taking a 2-D art class taught by Vicki. He says the paint parties are “phenomenal,” and he rarely misses them.

The paint class got started while we were there, and it seemed to be a lively crew enjoying an afternoon painting pictures of the Maryland flag and a crab.

On the horizon

The Rothells have a lot going on. They have a plan for a winery and vineyard in Charles County. They are renovating a property across the street from The Cove to serve as an airbnb-type rental. Bonnie hopes to attract visitors who come by boat if they so choose. They want to have kayak rentals there, too.

Next spring, The Cove will offer outdoor seating so diners can enjoy the view of the sound, and plans are in the works to expand the bar area in the rear of the cafe.

The Cove space makes it a great place for office and birthday parties, bridal and baby showers, small receptions and corporate retreats. Wine tastings, and wine and cheese pairings can be arranged.

About The Cove, Jacob offers this review: “It’s comfortable. It’s got a beautiful view.” He calls the staff “super nice.”

A quick glance at the guest book kept near the front door offered some notes from recent visitors. “Great coffee,” “Love this place. Such a great concept,” and one that really sums up the atmosphere, “So quaint and relaxing.” •

The Cove at Cobb Island is at 12133 Neale Sound Drive in Cobb Island.
Winter Hours:
7 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays
7 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m.