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The Foxy Fish

28976 Three Notch Road, Mechanicsville

Hours: 5 p.m.-close Tuesday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Appetizers $4.99-$12.99, sandwiches/submarines $5.99-market; dinner entrees $9.99-market

Reservations: 301-884-4235

MC, D, V, AX

There wasn’t much doubt that Debbie Gagnon was destined to one day own a restaurant of her own, and that happened when the St. Mary’s County resident opened the doors of The Foxy Fish in Mechanicsville in March 2013.

Buckler’s father Bert owned Bert’s 50s Diner until he sold it in 2001. Her brother Jeff owned Bert’s II in Prince Frederick and brother Greg owned Club Hollywood, a bar and fine dining restaurant in Charles County. And her husband David had an extensive background in the seafood restaurant business with various relatives owning Sandgates Inn and Crab House, Captain Leonard’s Seafood and Drift Inn.

Buckler spent 21 years at Bert’s and was the restaurant’s general manager before she stepped down in 2005.

“Initially my dad was [disappointed], but he realized I made the right choice because I was putting in sometimes 70 hours a week there and sometimes worked three weeks without a day off,” she said. “That was kind of the way the restaurant business was.”

She stepped down in part to help care for her youngest daughter Carlie, who was ill and needed numerous stays in the hospital, and to help her husband run his electrical company. The couple also has another daughter Courtney Marie, who is a waitress at The Foxy Fish.

A few years later, Buckler was approached by Lois Leicht, the owner of Crabby Rick’s, about purchasing the restaurant and finally, Buckler purchased it in December 2012.

“It was a win-win situation,” Buckler said. “[I thought], ‘I’ll get back into what I know,’ and [Lois] can go to Florida and retire. Initially my dad said, ‘Are you crazy? Are you absolutely nuts?’ But I think he enjoys it now. He comes in every Friday and Saturday, and he’s a people person. He loves talking to customers. He tells people, ‘I work for food.’ And Mom does the books, God bless her.”

Buckler gutted the old restaurant and knew she wanted to open a seafood restaurant in keeping with the theme of Crabby Rick’s and the previous tenant, Copsey’s Seafood.

“I kept it what it was because that’s what was here, and I didn’t want to compete with Bert’s,” she said of her family’s former restaurant. “Diner-style [food] is what I know, but we’re less than a mile away.”

One of the hardest things she had to do was come up with the name.

“We would sit down to dinner over and over again and say, ‘OK, this name, that name,’ and they were all getting tired of it,” she said. “We went through 1,000 names at least.”

Finally, it appeared she had settled on Aqua Holic. Well, not quite everyone.

“Everyone voted [yes], but Carlie hated the idea because she couldn’t understand the aqua was water and not alcohol,” Buckler said. “She would cross her arms and say, ‘I hate the name, and I cannot go there.’ Finally, we came up with The Foxy Fish, and they both loved that, and they rarely agree on anything. So I said, ‘That’s it.’”

And it appears the restaurant has it going on during a family dinner before a Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball game.

A hot crab dip ($10.99) had plenty of crab pieces along with Parmesan and cream cheese. Also available were rockfish bites ($7.99) and a crab truffle ($8.99), which was served with lump crab meat, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapenos and panko bread crumbs, deep fried and served with a remoulade sauce.

“You can go a lot of places and get a crab ball but a crab truffle you can’t,” Buckler said of the dish, which was created by one of her former chefs. “That’s what I’m looking for, that unique little niche of different things you can’t get everywhere.”

A rockfish sandwich ($9.99) was served with a hand-sized piece of fish atop a potato bun, and a crabcake sandwich ($11.99) was, according to one of my fellow diners, “one of the better ones I’ve had.”

Service was fast and personable by server Mandy Ashmore.

Other entrée items include chicken tenders ($8.99), a fried clam platter ($10.99) and, Buckler’s favorites, the 12-ounce Kansas City strip steak ($16.99), the shrimp scampi ($14.99) and the crabcake platter ($20.99), which is served with a pair of 8-ounce crabcakes.

“Actually my crabcake, I have two recipes I’ve been messing with,” Buckler said. “I know people like the one I have, but I want it to be something nobody has. I have a lot of good reviews on my crabcake even though I think it can be better. People are like, ‘Are you kidding? Do you know how many crabcakes you sell here? Why would you mess with that?’ If my crabcake is talked about all over St. Mary’s County and Charles and all over Maryland then I’m happy. Until then I’ll keep changing and adapting. I’m always striving for excellence.”

The kitchen manager is Richard Maples, while Lisa Jacobs is a manager who has been with Buckler since Day 1. Buckler does most of the cooking.

She buys some of her seafood from local watermen, who sometimes fillet their catch at the restaurant.

Buckler would like to increase her occupancy from 60 to more than double that and also hopes to add a banquet room and front porch.

mreid@somdnews.com