If you can believe it, I have now lived in Montgomery Country, MD for over three and a half years, and I had not been to the state capital yet. Annapolis (the capital) is only about a 45 minute to an hour drive from where I have lived and currently live in Maryland, but I have never ventured over there. That is probably because I spend much more time in our national’s capital (which is considerably closer and more exciting).
That is not to say that Annapolis isn’t impressive. I have long heard that Annapolis was picturesque and a nice place to go out on the water. I am not much of a boat person, but I do like to look at them out on the water. Most importantly to me, I have heard that Annapolis had a slew of good restaurants.
Yesterday, my friends (Chris and Andrew aka the other 2/3 of the hungry trio) and I took an afternoon trip out to Annapolis. We planned this last weekend when we were waiting for the mussels to cook, as we had been talking for a while about wanting to go get steamed crabs (such a Maryland thing, I know).
Downtown Annapolis is rather small, smaller than I expected. It is quaint though, with a strong “old towne” feel. I am a huge fan of towns in that style. It feels like you can step out of this modern, fast-paced lifestyle for a moment and just enjoy a serene environment.
We walked up and down Main Street stepping into a couple shops we found interesting, including a very old looking book store. We ventured up the hill to the Maryland State Capitol Building. To my surprise, the building was open to visitor’s on Sundays, so we went inside.
The building is not that big on the inside, and only the first floor is open for visitors. It was neat to see what was there though. You can pop into view the state Senate and state House chambers. They were much smaller than I would have thought. You can also go inside the old senate and house chambers that had some historic informational plaques. There was also an exhibit about Maryland during the Revolutionary period. I honestly did not know that much about Maryland history or participation in the Revolutionary War, so I did learn something.
After exploring the Capitol, we ventured back down Main Street to go look at the dock. There is just something about looking out into the water and watching the boats out in the distance that I find very soothing. It was such a relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Honestly, that is about the extent of things to do in downtown Annapolis, but it felt a little early to go to dinner. I was being cranky and complaining about being dehydrated, so we went inside a Tex-Mex restaurant (Vida Taco Bar) looking to get something to drink. In addition to water (which I very much needed) we were planning to get an order of guacamole and some margaritas and/or sangria. However, after we were sat by the host, no wait staff ever came to our table. I am not someone who is quick to complain about restaurant service. I am usually very understanding and patient, but we waited for ten minutes and no one even came to fill out water glasses. They weren’t even busy, so there really was no explanation for the lack of service. Instead of waiting longer, we decided to leave and just go straight to dinner. It probably saved us about $50, and the restaurant lost potential business. That is completely on them. I wasn’t that disappointed, except that I was still very thirsty. Though the 10 minutes inside in AC did help me to at least stop sweating buckets, so I was in a better mood.
Now onto the real reason for this trip: crabs! Living in Maryland, we have a lot of exposure to crab items on restaurant menus: crab dip, crab pretzels, crab nachos, and of course crab cakes (to name a few). Maryland is very proud of their crab cakes, but it is not that common to find a lot of restaurants in Montgomery County (or even DC) selling steamed crabs by the dozen.
I had actually not had steamed crabs until two years ago when we were on a day trip to Rehoboth Beach. Yesterday was only my second time having this experience. In a typical hungry trio fashion, we didn’t decide what restaurant we wanted to go to until right before we left their house in Silver Spring. We settled on Cantler’s Riverside Inn because the menu looked delicious and it was clear that they did indeed sell steamed crabs by the dozen.
I do like steamed crabs, but they are not for the faint of heart. It is a lot of work for not a lot of meat. It is also not the most visually appealing things to eat. It looks all bright and fun when they dump the pile of crabs in front of you, but once you crack open the body, parts of it are a bit gross. It is also impossible to eat whole crabs without making an absolute mess. You have a little knife and a wooden hammer, but you are eating with your hands. The juices from the crab combined with the piles of Old Bay seasoning leave you hand (and probably your face) a big mess.
We started off with a couple beers and baskets of fried onion rings and hush puppies. We also got a communal cup of cream of crab soup which we passed around between the three of us. Then, they brought out the dozen of medium steam crabs and dumped them in front of us. (When this happened the first time we got crabs together, you should have seen the look on my face. I was not expecting them to just dump them on the table). Crab meat is good when you get a well-steamed crab. My favorite part is the juicy claw meat. I was getting pretty good at getting the claw meat out in one chunk (which was a big improvement over my first crab fest).
Chris and I were doing a bang up job of eating our crabs. Andrew, on the other hand, was having a bit of a struggle. When Chris and I finished our fourth crab, Andrew was just starting his third. All in good fun, we gave him some grief, but he did eventually finish his crabs. Honestly, I think I was the one who ended up the messiest. That is not surprising though. I have always been a messy eater, and a very messy cook.
I was more impressed with some aspects of this restaurant more than others. They did have very fast service. The cream of crab soup was indeed very creamy and had nice large chunks of crab in it. The onion rings were crispy and thick. The hush puppies were pretty good, though I found the shape to be odd. I like hush puppies better as spheres because you get more of cornmeal cake texture and less of the fried exterior, but I did still like them. The crabs were cooked inconsistently, however. My first one had rather mushy meat, so it was clear it had been steamed for too long. The other ones had nicely steamed tender meat. Overall, it was a good crab dining experience. I would go back there if we are in the mood for crabs.
If you are someone who likes seafood, I highly recommended getting fresh steamed crabs. I do feel you really have to live or be traveling somewhere on the coast (where crabs are fresh) to get the full experience.