Okay okay. I did go to Annapolis and enjoy the lovely downtown area. But the real reason for the short trip out to Annapolis? Jimmy Cantler’s Roadside Inn. Basically, crabs.
We arrived around 7pm on a Sunday evening, and were notified of a 90 minute wait. 90 minutes waiting for a small restaurant – any restaurant – in the District would cause outrage. But here at Cantler’s, where it was clear folks came from far and wide to have a crack at the crabs, it was just another normal night. And frankly, better than the two-hour estimated wait that I later overheard.
The inside of the restaurant was pretty much what I though a crab restaurant in Maryland should look: slightly dank, musty from the smell of crabs, long wooden tables covered with butcher paper and piles of clam carcasses. The loud buzz of conversation was only interrupted by the pounding of mallets, and the occasional bouts of laughter from groups of friends. A huge bar on the left half of the restaurant provided a rowdy dine-at-the-bar option, with other patrons hovering behind bar stools calling out for beers while they waited.
The weather outside was pleasant, so we managed to get in our orders for several cans of beer at the bar, and then joined the other crowds of people in the parking lot and down along the waterfront, where we watched a Cantler’s employee sorting fresh caught blue crabs (so small compared to their Pacific brethren!) in what I call the ‘crab staging area’.
Our little group of four found a nice, removed spot on the dock, where we watched boats coming in and out for gas and for crabs. We made it through two cans of Fat Tire, each, and a sunset in the hour+ wait.
When we were finally seated, we were starving. The menu was fairly extensive, with more options I would have guessed. There was quite a varied seafood selection, including crab cakes, mussels, king crab legs, steamers, shrimp, fried fish, and more. There were also non-seafood options for people who were crazy enough to go to a crab joint and not like crab or fish.
Crabs were sold according to size, and depending on the catch that day. Our server informed us of what was available: Large, and Extra Large. By the 1/2 dozen, dozen, and bushel. I’m going to blame our hunger and over-eagerness to eat crabs, but for our party of four we ordered an appetizer of blackened rockfish bites over coleslaw, followed by a dozen (half Large, half Extra Large) Old Bay seasoned steamed crabs, along with hush puppies and four ears of steamed corn. Oh, and a rack of ribs.
When our crabs arrived on a large red cafeteria tray, they were promptly dumped onto our butcher paper-lined table. Free for all! Equipped with a mallet and pick each, what followed was nothing short of ugly. Kind of reminiscent of another one of my recent crustacean-involved gastronomic endeavors….
I’m used to eating crabs from the Pacific, which have much harder shells, are larger, and thus have more meat that is slightly tougher. These crabs were small in comparison, but the meat that I managed to extract was tender, and oh-so-flaky! The problem is the shells were doused with what must have been a metric ton of Old Bay seasoning. By the end of my third crab, I could barely feel my lips, as they were numb from an excess of salt.
We did it, though.
We finished off the dozen crabs, and only had half a rack of ribs left over. Not bad for a party of four, of which two persons supposedly don’t really like crab. I’ll admit, I did try to over-compensate. Also, my hands, which were covered in crab juice, rib sauce, and seasoning, made it rather difficult to take a decent photo.
Here is where we indulged our bellies:Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn 458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, Maryland 21409
Phone: 410-757-1311 menu