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Name:Vera's White Sands
Vera's White Sands is legendary. It's a restaurant, bar and marina all in one, and probably the last great vintage tiki in the DC Metro Area. Although it's roughly 45 minutes to an hour from the beltway in Southern Maryland.
The decor is outstanding: there's a large Moai head outside overlooking the marina. Loads of glass balls, tikis and an amazing seashell-sculpture of a mermaid hangs from the ceiling. I highly recommend arriving during daylight just so you can explore the outside areas of the establishment, especially the point overlooking the marina.
The drinks are on the sweet side, and are served typically in hurricane glasses, not mugs. One highlight: the MYSTERY DRINK, which is a great concept. It's different every time you order it! Eventually we found one we liked and kept ordering "Mystery Drink - the purple one." So if there's one you like in particular they can make it for you.
One caution: the food we found to be not so good. Overpriced, and just in general not worth going for. Do go - for the drinks and atmosphere, but you may be better off eating elsewhere.
Vera's Website (as of 2006):
Great discussion in Tiki Central (includes many links & photos!):
[ Edited by: rupe33 2006-07-10 14:18 ]
[ Edited by: rupe33 2007-05-25 07:03 ]
Had the good fortune to visit Vera's White Sands July 31, 2005. It was a good time! Miss Vera herself came out and spoke with us a bit.
Sampled the mai tai, which was red & sweet. Not very much like Vic's original recipe. Drinks tended to be strong! My companions sampled the martini and pronounced it quite good. As the sign on MD-4 says, "piano nitely" and we tipped the pianist accordingly for honoring our requests.
Vera's White Sands & Marina sits on the banks of the Patuxent, and as the sun began to set, the light reflecting from the water really offset the darkened innards of the bar/restaurant - making it seem more like some polynesian paradise. The scale of this site is hard to believe. Vera appears to be in her 90s, and I have this terrible worry that White Sands will disappear once she goes. This may be the last vestige of vintage tiki (she's owned it more than 50 years) left in the Metro-DC/Baltimore area. We ought to treasure it while we can!
Every visit to Vera's brings something new to your eye: this time I noticed the nudie painting over the bar. Above that there's a sign that reads "what you looking up HERE for?!" Good fun. A very high TIPSY rating - tikis outside and inside, and some other unusual touches abound as well. Such as the gigantic painting of Vera, the deep-sea diver's helmet on display, or the suit of armor. Not to mention the seashell outrigger hanging in the bamboo dining room! One other note of interest: the tables in said dining room are all made from ships' hatches, per a note near the door as you exit the room.
The actual grounds themselves are decaying somewhat, but if you go out the restaurant door and to the left you can walk around to the front where the large Moai head overlooks the water (his back is to you as you're inside). There's also a former fountain there made of huge clamshells and a concrete fish that would've spat water into them. Neat stuff. There's also a pool which hasn't been open any time I've ever been there.
Bottom line: if you've not been to Vera's, you're missing out.
In other news, they're supposedly reissuing the book that was written about Vera later this month. There is to be some sort of event on August 28 that may include autograph signing. Have written the website for the full details, and will post them here. Also - photos to come too.
From the DC area, take the beltway to exit 11A and follow MD-4 east towards Solomons Island. Take a right on White Sands Drive, and that'll bring you right to Vera's White Sands.
[ Edited by: rupe33 2005-08-01 08:57 ]
Promised some photos, here ya go -- I've got a ton more, so if you'd like to see more of Vera's just let me know!
The sign from the highway:
The front door -- note the KU door handles and the sign overhead says "Vera's martini spoken here":
A huge painted portrait of Miss Vera:
Overhead hangs a seashell outrigger:
Yours truly approaching the front door:
This sign reserves Vera's two seats at the bar:
Here's a great look at the main dining room; note that the tables are all made from ships' hatches:
More on the tables:
This delight hangs over the bar - check the sign above it!
Closeup of the front door:
This moai head overlooks the Patuxent river & marina on the point in front of the restaurant:
Miss Vera herself in one of her more colorful outfits:
[ Edited by: rupe33 2005-08-18 18:13 ]
[ Edited by: rupe33 2005-08-18 18:13 ]
Very Cool!!! Thanks for posting pic's!!
Lots of GREAT pix! Mahalo!
The 'martinis' sign above the door is definitely new since we were there last.
What I love most about Vera's is all the rituals preserved, the gong when Vera enters, her seats reserved, the Leis at the placesettings. The place is legendary- and maintains that sense of PLACE.
Looking through this, I realized the older thread didn't include the permanent web address for the older Vera's pix, you can find them here on my site-
It's like a virtual vacation looking through the gallery :)
Those of you who had planned on someday driving to southern Maryland and experiencing firsthand the charms of the original Vera's - well, I am afraid you are too late.
I drove by Vera's earlier today, to discover that Vera's has been sold, and the new management is doing some major modifications on the place. Vera is still alive, still lives next door to the restaurant, and is looking forward to stopping by when the place is ready to open. The new owner's will keep the Vera's name.
However, changes are happening.
Big change #1 - the big pink Vera's sign located on Highway 2/4 is no longer there - it has been replaced by this big sign
I drove my car to the vera's parking lot, which was full of various construction/contractor vehicles. There was a flurry of activity on the building. I looked and could not see any tikis on the premises - apparently, some of them were removed for protection during the renovation, while some of them were too rotted away and were thrown away.
Big change #2 - there is no longer an A-framed entrance. The new owners are going with a nautical theme, and the whole building and patio area (overlooking the Bay) is being designed to look like a ship.
I walked in the doorway, and met with one of the new owners, who kindly gave me permission to walk through and take these photographs.
Big change #3 -- Much of the bamboo and rattan was removed from the interior. The new owner said that much of this was in really bad condition, and was suffering from major dry rot. They have tried to preserve as many of the major pieces/artifacts that Vera had collected over the years. The former Penguin room had several key pieces safely stored there, including the big portrait of Vera, the gong, and that cool 60's London swinging picture that some of you may recall.
This picture shows some of the items, pushed to one side of the main entry room.
Vera's will no longer have the bamboo rich interior that it had before. The new interior will be more modern, and there will be an additional bar in the place. This pictures looks backwards, towards the main entrance and kitchen, where the entry gong used to be. There will be a new bar placed along the wall on the left-hand side. Note the new modern blue lights hanging from the ceiling.
I looked in the kitchen area - everything had been ripped out of there, and new kitchen equipment was waiting to be set in place - this is probably a very good thing, based on the stories I was told. The bathroom areas were also be completely redone, and many more items are being completely refurbished.
This is the main bar area, looking out towards the bay
This is the main dining room, with the seashell outrigger still hanging. It is a bit shocking to see the bare floors, but I did see the new carpet being laid out - it really looked nice, with a dark green vintagey jungle look
The new owners did say that the look and feel will be a bit different, and that things may look much barer than before. They also added that they hoped that they would also slowly be able to add more of their own pieces and decor through the coming years, much as Vera had done.
Big change #4. The original Moai head located on the patio facing the bay was relocated, to a small wooded area on the other side of the access road to the boat docks. The Moai head is in the foreground here - further back is the former patio area, now shaped to look like a ship bow.
A mermaid statue is now located on this patio area.
It was sad to see all of the above changes. Vera's will not be the same, but time will tell how the new vision of the owners works out. It is somewhat unfair, showing the above pictures, as they are taken in the middle of renovations. I'll have to come back later in the year, to see how things are working out.
I guess it is good news that Walgreens did not purchase the land. I do praise the new owners for keeping many of the decor items - other persons may have simply auctioned them off or offered them for sale on ebay.
Earlier in the day, I checked the nearby Solomon's Island Tiki Bar, where big changes were also happening. Read about those changes here.
Thanks so much for posting about Vera's and the Solomons Island Tiki Bar, as we're probably heading out that way this weekend.
Did the folks at Vera's have any anticipation of when they might be open again for business? Obviously there appears to be a lot of work to do. Although if they're laying carpet that suggests they might already be all done with the walls and such, as far as the renovation goes. From a business point of view, one can see how the upcoming nautical theme might be a better draw -- with their marina attached still doing heavy business, it might bring in more of the boating crowd.
It also seems like the new owners have taken some steps not to alienate the folks who loved the place as it was. Last summer when we were out there it felt like it was on the verge of some sort of permanent change, a feeling that pervaded because Miss Vera herself seemed so frail.
Thanks very much for the update... yet another bit of East Coast tiki history being altered forever.
The new owners did not provide a new opening date. They had hoped that it would be Memorial weekend, but that has obviously slipped - in my guess, at least two weeks, perhaps more. I know little about the restaurant business, other than it requires preparing and cooking food, and mixing drinks. The new owner said that if they had to further delay the opening by several weeks to get some core, basic elements right, then that is what they would do.
You had the same sense that I did, when visiting Vera's last year, about changes happening soon in the future. Actually, every visit I had there in the last 3 years had that sense of appreciation, of recognizing something in its final form, almost like the place being an antiquated cocoon, waiting for a metamorphosis to occur. Well, that change is happening now and it will be interesting to see what the new result is.
Argh! Can't believe I got sick for the last MD/DC/NoVA pilgrimage to Vera's last summer and missed my chance to see it as it was! Argh!
I visited the infamous Vera's last year (9/05) and was quite impressed. Looked exactly like the Tiki bars you see in old tv shows. Worth the hour long drive to see that time warp.
But I had the same feeling that its days, at least its pristine ones, were numbered. Glad I was able to see it before it turned. It will be interesting yet sad to see what it turns into.
Vera's news in the Washington Post, Monday June 12, 2006:
Vera’s update July 10, 2006
Well, we took a trek out to Vera’s White Sands on Sunday the 9th of July to see what changes were wrought with the place. As is usual in a situation like this, there’s both good news and bad news.
The good news:
The bad news (for tikiphiles):
While I’m a fan of Vera’s White Sands for the décor, I’ve never been all that impressed with the food or the drinks. Obviously the changes being made by the new owners are an effort to bring in more people to their place. I hold no grudge on that account – they’re doing what they need to in order to be profitable. A restaurant/bar owner in rural Maryland cannot necessarily survive on the patronage of the occasional tikiphile event. In the 3 or so years since I’ve been going out to Lusby, this year’s visit was the most crowded I’d ever seen it – it was difficult to find a parking place! While Vera’s White Sands Beach Club (the new full name) isn’t the same as it once was, the changes wrought aren’t as devastating as they might’ve been. They seem to be having success, and for that's reason to be mildly excited for them - at least the place has not been wiped off the planet lilke so many venues. In fact, if you’re in the dining room facing the water, you’d not really notice many of the changes.
My recommendation if you're driving way out there - make a day of it and hit both the Tiki Bar at Solomons Island, eat a meal, then hit Vera's. One bit of advice: call first to see if they’re having music. Seriously, it was absurdly loud.
Photos to come...
[ Edited by: rupe33 2006-08-07 05:40 ]
Promised some photos, here's a selection...
Here's some tikis relegated to the pool area:
The dining room ceiling is intact!
Here's the new mermaid statue on the "front deck" of the boat. Note NASCAR flags hanging off the main building:
A small shot of the front deck - that whole front part has been completely redone. It used to be quite treacherous to walk out there:
One of the new adirondack chairs out front:
The door handles are still there, though the doors have been repainted:
Here's a new frog fountain out by the front door with the classic mural:
The "front" of the ship:
The front of the property:
And a shot of the deck overlooking the water - you can see the new umbrella tables:
There are a few more photos on the Flickr link up top of this post - feel free to peruse if you're curious.
[ Edited by: rupe33 2006-07-14 12:38 ]
Thanks for the report.
It seems it is heading into a Jimmy Buffet/Spring Break direction. Sadly, that is today's trend. I guess it could be worse, but I am glad I saw the place before this metamorphosis took place.
Anyway, here's some of the additional info:
I happen to really love Vera's White Sands, even in its new incarnation. The history behind it is fascinating, and I'd still like to read that book about Miss Vera -- whom we've met and spoken with on previous visits. When I do go there, it takes nearly 90 minutes each way to get there from where I live. I definitely look forward to my next visit, and hopefully will find things improved since the last one.
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