Monday, September 14, 2009

Travel Dish: Cantler’s Riverside Inn

After my week in New York, I traveled to the Washington, D.C. area to visit my sister and her family. While most of my time was spent playing with my 3-year-old niece and having home-cooked dinners, I did venture out for some “Single Guy Goes to Washington” eating adventures.

A Labor Day Feast of Maryland Blue Crabs
458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis
Waterfront area
PH: 410.757.1311
Open daily, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. (until midnight on Friday and Saturday)
Major credit cards accepted, no reservations except for parties of 10 or more


I arrived in the Washington, D.C. area last week to visit my younger sister just in time for the Labor Day holiday. But my sister, who moved from Portland, Ore., to Alexandria, Va., in the last year, still hasn’t settled into a permanent home. So my brother-in-law’s grill was still in storage.

Without any grilling or picnic in sight for Labor Day, I left it up to my sister for suggestions on how to save the holiday. She said Annapolis was a nearby drive and she’d heard of a place for a crab feed. Fresh Maryland blue crabs? I’m. So. There.

We arrived early for lunch at the Cantler’s Riverside Inn, which had all the ambiance of a seaside crab shack. We were taken to a wooden bench table on the back deck facing the water. Even though the weather was overcast and a storm was brewing, it was nice to be outside by the water.

Several parties were already there and while it wasn’t packed (it got busier later), we still had to share tables. We didn’t mind since the couple next to us was friendly and kept to themselves. Already I was eyeing their table full of cooked crabs.

After the waitress covered our side of the table with fresh butcher paper, my sister suggested ordering the large platter of fresh Maryland blue crabs ($55). I ordered iced tea and my brother-in-law got a Budweiser beer, and we got an assortment of sides: corn ($3.50), hush puppy basket ($5.99), cole slaw ($2.25), potato salad ($2.25) and a grilled cheese sandwich for my 3-year-old niece ($3).

We each got a wooden mallet (except my niece) and soon after our platter of crabs arrived (dozen total). It looked huge, despite the fact that the Maryland blue crabs are much smaller in size that the Dungeness crabs, which I’m used to eating in the Bay Area.

I should note this is my first crab feed. I didn’t know what the crab feed etiquette might be, but I knew this wasn’t going to be a clean eat. I was ready to get dirty, especially since the crabs were coated with a healthy dousing of Old Bay seasoning.

The three of us dug into our crabs, pounding away at the claws and marveling at the pieces of meat we were able to unveil in complete form. My niece gnawed away at her grilled cheese and corn, not at all interested in the orange prickly objects we were devouring.

The Maryland crabs were definitely smaller than Dungeness and less sweet, IMHO, but because they were fresh they were soooo good. And I think just gathering around the table with family on a holiday with a big table of crabs in front of you is just a whole lotta fun.

Our waitress gave us some clarified butter to dip our crab meat in, but I didn’t feel it helped the taste. Instead, I just enjoyed the Old Bay seasoning that gave the crab a nice extra kick. You couldn’t help but get your fingers totally covered with seasoning, so whenever you got a fresh piece of crab meat, all you had to do was rub it with your Old Bay-spiced fingers and you got all the seasoning you need.

I also wanted to note that I looooved the potato salad. It was a Southern-style potato salad so it was more yellow than what I’ve seen on the West Coast. But there was something about the taste that was so addictive, slightly tangy, slightly sweet. It was so good that I ordered an extra cup after I finished my crabs just to have more of the delicious, comforting bites. (The cole slaw, BTW, was just OK, and my brother-in-law didn’t like the corn, which was boiled to the point of being soggy.)

Since I don’t eat fried foods, I ignored my brother-in-law’s order of hush puppies. But I was curious so I took a bite of the cute, rounded fried cornmeal. This particular version from Cantler’s was a bit thick and tough, so lucky for me I didn’t feel the urge to try another one.

My sister says she liked the vibe of another crab shack she visited farther north in Maryland, where they didn’t have to share tables and the service was slightly better. But we all agreed that the crabs were fresh and tasty at Cantler’s. They were indeed the star of the day. And really, how can you beat a crab feed on Labor Day?

Single guy rating: 3.25 stars (Crabby Fun)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Cantler's Riverside Inn on Urbanspoon

Some of my crab recipes:
Crab Radicchio Risotto
Black Bean Crab
Creamy Asparagus Soup with Crab


foodhoe said...

wow that looks really fun alternative way to celebrate the day! I've never had maryland crabs either but they look bigger than I thought they were. what no dessert?

Carolyn Jung said...

Messy, but fun! And so, so worth it from the looks of these photos. Yum!

Sarah @ The Foodie Diaries said...

love this place!!

Elizabeth said...

Welcome to DC! Looks like you had a good food guide if you were led to Cantler's.

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, I didn't even notice any desserts on the menu, but when you eat with a 3-year-old, when the food is gone, you have to leave or the attention span is totally gone! :)

Carolyn, it was sooo messy, but good!

Sarah, Elizabeth, welcome to my blog!

New York Hotel said...

love your post! seems like you had a great time. readinh your post made me hungry so im off for a bite!

Unknown said...

Love Cantler's! I'm from Annapolis and have been going there since I was old enough to walk. Best seafood place in the Annapolis area, IMO. Did you check out the tanks below the deck?

Single Guy Ben said...

Erin, yes, my 3-year-old niece had to check out the tanks and she had lots of fun wandering around looking at the live crabs. It's nice to know that everything is right off the boat since they were getting deliveries right at their dock.

Single Dude Travel said...

Really love what you're doing here.

Single Guy Travel Tips

Anonymous said...

FYI re local vernacular, it's called a crab feast. Never heard it called a crab feed before.