Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn bills itself as the place “Where the Watermen Gather,” and thank gosh for that.
Seafood, especially crabs, doesn’t get much fresher.
Cantler’s has gotten some favorable press including a pick by CNN as one of America’s Seafood Dives but it still feels like an undiscovered secret and the perfect way to kick off my 19th cross country jaunt. To get there is a bit of a haul, including a fairly long 10 MPH road where the locals wave you down if you’re doing 20 MPH on the way to the coastal Shangrila. Tantalizing glimpses of water & boats are sprinkled along the way to tease those with seafood hunger.
But the wait and effort is worth it. It is homey and quaint, while still being professionally competent. You get the feeling that they know there stuff as you pull into the parking lot. By they way don’t miss the entrance (like I did)because you are transfixed on the idyllic view. The entrance is in the middle of the building under the blue Riverside Inn triangle shaped sign, even if you come by boat, as many do.
On a mild summer day nothing beats sitting on Cantler’s view porch enjoying the yachts & riverfront mansions, the very friendly staff and customers (see video for the friendly Doug, Larry & Cindy) amid the tap-tap-tap of “crab-a-tarians” while a good water breeze keeps the heat at “bay” (almost a pun but Cantler’s is on a river). I can imagine you thinking about adult beverages and have to admit that if you add a beer and idle hours to the mix, which I did not because of the driving, you’d have my version trumped.
It was a hard temptation to resist with the family dining company of the aforementioned trio and Matt & Lauren, my table mates. Let me just say this, I plan to return with plenty of time and a designated driver for the ambiance alone and to get a “Crack” (that was a pun) at those crabs, on which skilled Maryland natives Doug and Larry, and Ohio transplant Cindy demonstrated their stellar de-construction techniques.
To the uninitiated, or the unpracticed, hard (soft are those caught Moulting, the link is to Youtube) Maryland Blue Crabs are not a fast food but a fun one. Matt & Lauren’s leisurely, hour and a half “crab picking” over the Blue Crabs seasoned with Cajun Dust and steamed to a red perfection made me jealous. I wish I had had Mrs. P Chef, the little P Chef’s (in tolerant and patient moods) and some more time with me.
Against the backdrop of polite but earnest hammering by everyone, including kids as young as 7, it sounded like a mini-construction site if you focused on it, I opted out of the $27.95 all you can eat crab (and corn) deal with the 2 hour time limit because I was pressed and only a few hundred miles into my 4,300 mile trip. My meal was the faster crab dishes and great nonetheless.
I started with Maryland Crab Soup, which was like a deep hearty minestrone with the slightest bite. Light and “gardeny” (I’m coining that one), it was the perfect crab item to open with even on a summer’s day.
A dozen Cherry Stone clams followed, which were shared around the family style picnic bench, as ice-breakers, with Matt & Lauren on their day off. They were served with a wedge of lemon, butter on one side and Cajun Dust on the other: a winning combination in my opinion.
The Piece de la (No) Resistance was the the soft shelled crab, actually a moulting blue crab. Blue crabs moult to grow from May through September, and if you are interested in how crabbers capture the she-grabs & jimmy peelers Bluecrab.info explains it. Jimmy Cantler’s soft shell crab had a unique fattier (not greasy) fry taste that complemented the crab and crowned the meal. I do have to say I was not crazy about the hush puppies at Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn.
Before I knew it the food was gone and the road was calling. I said good bye to my new friends and hit the “clean-up” station on my way back to the SmartKitchenmobile and the next stop.
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