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Tiki Central Forums » » Locating Tiki » » Vera's White Sands, Lusby, MD (restaurant)
Vera's White Sands, Lusby, MD (restaurant)
rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2005-07-18 08:40 am   Permalink

Name:Vera's White Sands
Type:restaurant
Street:1200 White Sands Drive
City:Lusby
State:MD
Zip:20657
country:USA
Phone:(410) 586-1182
Status: operational**but call ahead to see if they're having music!!

Description:
[NOTE: this description is outdated as of 2006; please read the thread for further info on the changes at VWS]

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):
http://www.veraswhitesandsbeachclub.com/

Great discussion in Tiki Central (includes many links & photos!):
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=2206&forum=1&hilite=vera's



[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2006-07-10 14:18 ]

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2007-05-25 07:03 ]


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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2005-08-01 08:55 am   Permalink

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.

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2005-08-01 08:57 ]


 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2005-08-18 6:12 pm   Permalink

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:



[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2005-08-18 18:13 ]

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2005-08-18 18:13 ]


 
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The Sperm Whale
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 23, 2004
Posts: 1546
From: Lakewood California
Posted: 2005-08-18 6:46 pm   Permalink

Very Cool!!! Thanks for posting pic's!!
Later,
Spermy


 
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Sabina
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 08, 2002
Posts: 371
From: The Lounge of the Seven Pleasures!
Posted: 2005-08-20 6:00 pm   Permalink

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-

http://www.sevenpleasures.org/gallery/Veras

It's like a virtual vacation looking through the gallery


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ikitnrev
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1305
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2006-05-26 9:33 pm   Permalink

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.
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=19679&forum=1&2

Vern







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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2006-05-27 05:15 am   Permalink

Vern,

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.

Cheers,
Rupe


 
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ikitnrev
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 27, 2002
Posts: 1305
From: D.C. / Virginia
Posted: 2006-05-27 05:33 am   Permalink

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.

Vern



 
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Deery Luau
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Oct 06, 2004
Posts: 89
From: Baltimore, MD
Posted: 2006-05-27 06:09 am   Permalink

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!

Deery


 
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JackLord
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 18, 2006
Posts: 157
From: Washington, DC
Posted: 2006-06-06 8:11 pm   Permalink

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.


 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2006-06-12 07:11 am   Permalink

Vera's news in the Washington Post, Monday June 12, 2006:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/11/AR2006061101009_pf.html



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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2006-07-10 11:56 am   Permalink

***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 dining room is essentially intact, with what appears to be all new bamboo and some sort of heavy-gauge thatch up there. The shell outrigger, the little marked off booths, all that stuff is still there. The room seems very much identical to how it used to be, although some of the “Morticia Adams”-style highbacked wicker chairs are gone.
-Mr. Moai Head is still on-site, just off to the left hand side of the hill, overlooking the water.
-the place has gotten some much-needed groundskeeping and a lick of paint. The outside area looks much more inviting than it used to. The banana trees and other faux-palm sorts of flora are still around.
-off to the right side near the water’s edge there is what appears to be some fake palm trees with hammocks and maybe same chairs and such.
-the place was more crowded than I’d ever seen it before. We went at about 6pm on a Sunday evening, and the dining room was full.
-the big sign on Route 4 has been repainted with a colorful parrot logo that looks pretty good on t-shirts the staff is wearing.
-Miss Vera herself was in attendance at dinner, seated in a booth by the window.
-the booths in the front room are still there, intact.
-the bar itself is still bamboo-ish, with the leopard-print stools still in evidence.
-the outside porch has been redone with seating of various kinds: umbrella tables, some casual chairs, and even a chaise lounge were in evidence. There’s even a lemonade-stand-style “Tiki Bar” out there. It looked kinda plasticky like the ones Target has been selling recently.
-there are a pair of tikis out in the pool area.
-the carved tiki door handles are still there on the front door.

The bad news (for tikiphiles):
-The drink menu isn’t finished yet. But we tried their 2 “signature drinks,” being a Big Kahuna (pineapple juice, dark rum and a few other things that escape me) and Vera’s Pink Lady (frozen drink not dissimilar from a strawberry dacquiri, topped with whipped cream). Neither of these was that amazing. To be perfectly fair, since the drink menu’s not finished, it’s hard to know what else we could’ve compared these to. In addition, for no apparent reason, the Big Kahuna comes in a glass… while Vera’s Pink Lady comes in a plastic cup. Perhaps this will be cleared up when the drink menu is ready.
-service speed is still slow, both in regard to food & drink. Since our appetizer & first drink took so long to get to us, we declined to eat dinner there.
-the bar area and front room has changed dramatically in character. The large portrait of Vera was not in evidence (although we could not explore this area fully). The bar has given way to loads of beer-branding: giant Bud surfboards, flip-flops, neon signs and such.
-one interesting thing about the bar area: several new murals have been painted up on the walls.
-some of the umbrellas outside were beer-branded as well: Corona, etc.
-in the front room when you first come in the door there now exists a low stage that comes right up to the glass wall that separates the dining room from the front room. During the dinner hours on Sunday when we were there, a bar band was playing. VERY LOUD. Every time the dining room door opened to allow for someone bringing in drinks or food, we were blasted out of our seats. Miss Vera was seated as far away from the band as possible, as the windows were rattling with their volume. I’m all for loud rock music, but when playing in buildings smaller than the 9:30 Club there comes a time to turn it down to a level which suits the venue.
-there are now flat-screen TVs in the bar area.
-I did not see the piano anymore, so am not sure if the piano player is out of a job. That being said… we really did not explore the bar area too much due to the extreme audio levels going on in there.
-the bathrooms have yet to be decorated, they’re still just white. The doors no longer say “Buoys” and “Gulls” though.
-the new parrot logo gives a big hint to the type of crowd the place is trying to pull in: pretty much the same crowd that frequents the Tiki Bar at Solomons Island. Boat drivers, Harley drivers, people who are able to spend their weekends on the water. It is a marina after all. They’re obviously looking to make much more on beer than they have in the past. It's a bit of Buffett-style tiki bar, which I know will stimulate some discussion among the denizens of Tiki Central. The Buffet influence even extends to some of the painted adirondack chairs on-site: the arms have a shark along with the lyrics from "Fins".

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...
~Rupe

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2006-08-07 05:40 ]


 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2006-07-12 08:51 am   Permalink

Promised some photos, here's a selection...
if you'd like to see all of them, the photostream starts here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/74188640@N00/187791097/in/photostream/

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.

Mahalo!
~Rupe

[ This Message was edited by: rupe33 2006-07-14 12:38 ]


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JackLord
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 18, 2006
Posts: 157
From: Washington, DC
Posted: 2006-07-14 09:58 am   Permalink

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.


 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 317
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2006-09-08 11:20 am   Permalink

Greetings...
a bit of an update on Vera's: although I've not been out there yet, one of the servers PM'd me awhile back with some gripes about my last posting on this subject as well as some additional info. I encouraged said person to post on here - saying that's the only way we learn stuff, from what others have to say... especially when it came to refuting some of the things that I'd seen as negatives in my review. Also welcomed said person to Tiki Central and tried to explain the idea that most people here think of as a "tiki bar" -- and that if a venue is going to differ from that idea, they're going to want to know in advance. Was hoping this person would elaborate further as to the state of Vera's White Sands Beach Club, but it's been over a month now and it does not look like that'll happen.

Anyway, here's some of the additional info:
-Vera's White Sands Beach Club now has both specalty drink and wine menus.
-Staff training has begun, so it should mean less of a wait for food & drink.
-Regarding music: On Friday and Saturday nights starting at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays 3:00 p.m., live bands play Oldies, Country, southern/classical rock music.

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.

Cheers,
Rupe


 
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