What makes a great crab house?
I imagine the same kinds of questions are asked in Nashville for BBQ or Philadelphia for cheese-steaks, or NYC for pizza. Here on the Chesapeake Bay it is all about the mighty crab!
Cantler’s is a traditional crab house. For the uninitiated that means paper plates, brown paper placemats, piles of steaming crabs dumped onto the table and a wooden mallet to do battle with the crab in front of you. It’s worth noting that I’m a fine dining kind of guy so I always cringe just a little upon entering a great crab house. The activity, the smells, the rows of family style tables, the laughter and good cheer hit you hard. It is not refined dining, but the food is nature’s bounty at its finest.
Let’s talk about Cantler’s. This is both a restaurant and a place local crabbers’ come to sell their daily catch. Both fish and crabs. The deck overlooking Mill creek is popular and there is usually a wait always of day. Inside, fills up second and if you get there before the crowds you can be seated quickly. Be prepared to strike up conversations with the other guests around you. Our table mates were visiting from Florida and we came to learn used to live just a few miles from us.
Good food and good friendship with a cold beer make for a very enjoyable meal.
The star of the show is always the steamed local blue crab seasoned liberally with Old Bay seasoning. I for one am just too lazy to work so hard to get a few bites of juicy crab meat and usually order something else. The reason crab cakes are so popular in Maryland is you get the crab without having to work so hard. Cantler’s crab cakes are perfect (although that is somewhat of a personal preference). Lumps of crab meat, lightly seasoned, and held together with a minimum of breading.
On my last visit I tried the fish and chips as I wanted something simple and quick. The fish was a locally caught white fish, juicy and plump and everything tastes better when fried!
Cantler’s is a 15-minute drive from downtown Annapolis and well worth the side trip. Traditional Bay crab house in a beautiful setting. Not pretentious, just good food.