Wonder at the Waterfront: Pier450
Former fishing camp has been transformed into upscale dining destination in southern St. Mary’s
Writer: Crystal Oliver | Summer 2021
“One of the most creatively appointed motel/restaurants you’ll likely ever encounter,” reads the website for Pier450 in Ridge, and the sentiment could not be truer. Fortunately, Southern Maryland residents don’t have to travel far to find this delightful pearl located at the southernmost tip of a beautiful rural countryside drive at the end of St. Mary’s County.
The restaurant, POV, opened in fall 2020, and despite opening in the middle of a pandemic, has quickly become a favorite dining destiny for many, offering flavorful cuisine, signature cocktails, fabulous water views, indoor fine dining, beach front outdoor seating complete with firepits, friendly service, eclectic décor and an atmosphere of excitement.
Formerly Scheible’s Fishing Center
Pier450, the former Scheible’s Fishing Center, has been transformed over the past two years into a beach-chic hospitality destination. The former motel/restaurant operated for more than 70 years as a family-owned charter boat fishing camp.
It was part of property in which many Southern Maryland residents have fond memories. It sat empty for several years before being purchased by Peggy Binzel, a government relations specialist from Georgetown, and the owner of Scotland Yards, a local vacation property management business. She wanted to give her guests additional options for dining and entertainment.
After purchasing the Scheible property in 2019, Binzel recruited in her friend and marketing expert Cathy Austin as a business partner and then convinced her favorite Washington, D.C., chef Carlos Gomez-Starnes to join the POV team.
The creative team then dug into a complete overhaul and renovation project on the eight-room motel (“The Quarters,” upscale-casual restaurant (“POV”), boutique shop (“The Chandlery”), waterfront bar (“Le Bar and Beach’’), a renovated recreational pier (“The Pier”) and grounds (“The Yards”). Working with designer Paul Haynes, Binzel transformed the spot into something that feels simultaneously rural and metropolitan. Since taking ownership, they added private gardens, including a special edible garden that Binzel personally curates to supply herbs, spices and vegetables to the restaurant. Austin uses her horticulture talents in creating the exquisite gardens scattered throughout the property.
The Pier450 name came to Binzel when she was in line to obtain a permit and needed to give a name for the business. Since the onsite pier is 450 feet long, Binzel wrote that in, which turned out to be a perfect fit.
The restaurant’s name POV has an accidental coincidence in that it suggests a government acronym. “We didn’t realize until after we’d picked that name there’s a military acronym associated with it (Privately Owned Vehicle),” says Austin. Although the name came because from where they are sitting, “it was always about the view.” And what a view it is!
While the beauty of the view, facilities and natural surroundings are enough to entice you to drive to this southern destination, the food is what makes it worth the trip. Chef Gomez-Starnes, who served as a chef for both the Mayflower and Hay-Adams hotels in D.C., has created an incredible menu of dishes infused with his Spanish heritage as well as many Southern Maryland favorites including Spanish paella, roasted local corn and crab cream soup, classic Maryland crab cakes, fresh-caught fish tacos, pan-seared rockfish, baked oysters on the half shell, to-die-for center cut pork chop, melt-in-your-mouth beef tenderloin, coconut shrimp and so much more.
For those looking for lighter fare, there’s a great selection of delectable salads, sandwiches and burgers options. The dessert menu includes a decadent chocolate cake, a blueberry lavender classic brulee and more of course!
When possible, locally sourced ingredients from area livestock and produce farmers and fishermen are used. The specials menu also changes regularly depending on what is in season.
There is a full bar featuring selections from regional breweries and a thoughtfully curated wine list. Fresh herbs grown on the property are used both in the food dishes and cocktail offerings.
While the commute from their respective homes in D.C. and Virginia are long and sometimes exhausting, Binzel, Austin and Gomez-Starnes are committed to making this property a sought-after destination. At least one of them, and most days all of them, can be found on the restaurant floor ensuring their customers are delighted.
Positive Customer Feedback
When asked to share the most surprising aspect of running Pier450, Binzel and Austin agree that it is the customers.
“The distance that people are driving to come here, and that they keep coming back, is a happy surprise,” says Binzel. “We are getting people from the cities, and we are so heartened by that. We thought that we would draw people from a ways away, because it is a destination, but even in winter they came.” Thinking that they would have to close for the season, the clientele ultimately made them change their plans.
“The business was tracking along so nicely that we only closed for ten days and as soon as we reopened it picked back up,” adds Austin.
The future looks bright
Plans are in work to host weddings and receptions, hopefully by the end of summer. Although they have not done weddings yet, they are starting to do rehearsal dinners as they develop plans to update their outdoor spaces to add a large beachside bar, outdoor food service (potentially in the form of a food truck), and an area to accommodate larger groups, including a special garden just for nuptials.
“We’re calling it the wedding garden, and it’s framed with a path so that a bride could feasibly come through it to walk down the aisle.” Eventually, they will do tented dinners.
Pier450 is at 48342 Wynne Road in Ridge. POV serves dinner Tuesday through Saturday, lunch on Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Le Bar on the beach is open daily, excluding Mondays. For more information and to make a reservation check out the website at Pier450.com or call 301-679-3900.
What a great time to take the scenic drive to this incredible destination. Reservations are recommended.