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Cantler's Riverside Inn, Annapolis - Crab Shack and Seafood House on Forest Beach Road at Mill Creek Open since 1974


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I'm doing my best to herd cats and get a bunch of friends and family together for my brother's birthday on Saturday. Someone in the group suggested Cantlers.

I've always wanted to go, but I envisioned a hot day in August crackin crabs and drinkin beer. Would you go at this time of the year? Anything to recommend? Any pitfalls to avoid?

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I've never been this early in the season, but I LOVE Cantler's!

To warm up a bit, start with the soups - they typically have three kinds. During one of my waits last year, a bartender suggested mixing the she-crab soup with the chowder...sounds gross, but YUM! Perhaps get one of each cup and play with your food.

Enjoy!

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In summer Cantlers can be great - when the crabs and corn are local, it's warm enough to sit out on the deck with pitchers of beer, and it's a weeknight when there aren't as likely to be tour buses idling in the parking lot wafting diesel fumes out across the deck. But for now, they are still getting their hard shell and softies up from Louisiana, and at $55 for a dozen large hard shells, I'd want them fat, fresh and local.

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Agreed. Wait for the summertime when its hot and you can really enjoy a bucket of beers on the deck. But I'd suggest either budgeting ample time for parking (the lines can get ridiculously long) or going on a weekday night.

And the soups are the bomb.

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I'm putting as much thought into my review of Cantler's as they put into the food:

Raw oysters= edible with extra grit

Fried oysters= hockey puck with soft oyster center

Smoked blue fish= not bad

Soft shell clams= gag

Soft shell crabs= more like "soft shell crab shells"

Steamed shrimp= appeared to be dredged up from oil spill

Scallops= lame, really lame

Jumbo crabs= $80/dozen

Service= well meaning

Disappointing. :lol:

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Should've had the soup!

Seriously, their soup is really good. I wish I had seen this earlier to warn you about those soft shell clams.

Their hush puppies are good too. But if you stray from a soup --> crabs w/hushpuppies --> beer menu, your chances for disappointment skyrocket.

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Who knew they had all that other stuff on the menu?! :lol:

While I encourage more people to believe that Cantler's is horrible (thereby clearing the driveway to the shack for me and those I drag out there), I would hate for you to go through life thinking your first visit was status quo, Al.

Might want to try again in July...stick with soup and crabs...just what The Doctor ordered!

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i went on a brief getaway to annapolis yesterday afternoon. every time i go to the serene capital of maryland i wonder why i don't go more often. the express purpose of this trip was to decompress while eating crabs and drinking cheap beer. my companion asked if i had a favorite crab house because she knew of a "joint" that i would love. i yeilded to her judgement and found myself at cantler's riverside inn. it is not an easy place to find, but very much worth the trouble.

there is no pretense to this place, it is jammed with picnic style benches inside and out. they drape the table with paper, and bring out the crabs on cafeteria style trays. beer is available only by the can and the selection is limited to heineken, amstel, miller lite, corona, and yeungling. the staff appear to be all high school and college age ladies and gentlemen who are equally concerned with maintaining thier tans, and a very light hearted atmosphere.

$45 gets you a dozen large steamed crabs - mediums are also available but they were out of the jumbos. the crabs were steamed to a nice shade of brick red and glistened with an ample amount of old bay seasoning. the trays also come with drawn butter, vinegar, and extra old bay - forsake all of them. the crab meat was sweet and delicious all by itself. we also had two sides of french fries and coleslaw. neither was anything special but they were satisfactory support players to the starring crabs.

service was a little slow - in fact, i notticed that most of the regulars ordered beers two at a time and requested a bucket of ice to keep the back-ups cold. on the upside, i watched as a very patient 20yo (guessing) young lady spent 15 minutes teaching a rookie crab eater proper technique.

this was a delightful way to spend an afternoon - eating great crabs, sitting by the river, watching the sunset. it was well worth the price of admission. crabs, sides, beer, and gratuity about $90 for two people.

cantler's riverside inn

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Cantler's is delightful. Last time we went, we got a dozen jumbos as well as crab cakes to take home. The crabs were so fresh and the cakes were the size of baseballs. It's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, but get there early on the weekend since it gets quite crowded. Even the parking lot fills up. I understand that you can reach the Inn via a water shuttle from Annapolis also.

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Good soups, Good crabs. Do you know if they are serving local crabs this year?

I e-mailed that very question to them today, and this is their reply:

We are serving a mix right now of 80-85% local crabs and 15-20% Louisiana. We do not buy NC crabs.

Sounds good to me.

My husband doesn't eat crab in any form (heathen!), so he always gets the fried clam strips. Yeah, yeah, I know, but he likes them. He tried the fried shrimp once and they were awful (all breading).

My usual order is the veggie crab soup, large crabs, and hush puppies. This, in fact, was my "last meal" before I had gastric bypass surgery. Luckily I can still eat blue crabs afterwards, just not quite so many.

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Hmm - I was there yesterday afternoon, as well. We ordered two dozen large crabs, 3 ears of corn and one cole slaw (MIL doesn't like corn???) The corn was local and tasty. The crabs were fantastic with ample Old Bay. The weather - sweltering.

I did notice a large table that decided against eating crabs. I wonder - why go to Cantler's if you're not eating crabs? The other food - from what I've always understood - is mediocre at best.

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I went to Cantler's last month and am heading back again this weekend.

We usually get crabs, hush puppies, fries, onion rings, slaw and corn.

Last time, someone ordered some jumbo steamed shrimp and in my opinion, they weren't all that great. I guess I stick with what I know.

On a side note, some friends highly recommend Mike's Crab House...has anyone been?

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I spent a couple of blissful hours on the patio at Cantler's this weekend eating to my heart's content. We got there early and actually got to pick a spot in the corner just under the overhang (the place was packed 15 minutes later). The group ordered a cup of each of the soups to mix & match to taste. The vegetable crab soup mixed with the crab bisque is wonderfully soothing - the sherry is pungent but blends well with the tomato-base of the veggie soup. We then moved on to a dozen large crabs drowning in Old Bay. They were delicious & relatively cheap at $40/dozen. Sides were an order of onion rings and fresh, sweet corn on the cob (dessert).

While some complain of the amount of work it takes to yield enough meat to feel full, I find the entire process to be relaxing somehow. Maybe it's the sense of accomplishment that fills you when the meat clears the claw in a pristine chunk or the fact that you get your own mallet and paring knife... :lol: Whatever the reason, I'll take a couple of hours picking crabs on a beautiful, low humidity day in late summer over almost any other activity.

There's still time left if you haven't gone this season!!!

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On a whim we went to Annapolis today and decided to go to Cantler's before heading downtown. We kept it simple with a dozen large crabs for $50 and an order of onion rings. Overall a positive experience with 2 mediocre weighted crabs, 1 dud that they unflinchingly replaced, and 9 above-average to Sumo-heavy crabs. Filling and well worth the stop.

Pax,

Brian

P.S. My wife grew up going to Mike's as a "treat" and felt Cantler's was "comparable", but nostalgia can poison one's memory.

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On a whim we went to Annapolis today and decided to go to Cantler's before heading downtown. We kept it simple with a dozen large crabs for $50 and an order of onion rings. Overall a positive experience with 2 mediocre weighted crabs, 1 dud that they unflinchingly replaced, and 9 above-average to Sumo-heavy crabs. Filling and well worth the stop.

Pax,

Brian

P.S. My wife grew up going to Mike's as a "treat" and felt Cantler's was "comparable", but nostalgia can poison one's memory.

What time did you get there and how long did you have to wait? We arrived at 5:30 thinking the line wouldn't be too long - maybe 30-45 minutes. It was twenty minutes - to get into the effing parking lot!!!!! And a two-hour wait for dinner!!!! What are you supposed to do for two hours? The neighbors must hate this joint, with the cars backed up all along their road and those who give up making u-turns in their driveways and on their lawns. The kid directing traffic said that the line starts to form at about 1-2 p.m. So apparently, if you want to eat at six, you need to get there at 4 and bring a book and plan to hang around. It's ridiculous that a place like this, totally isolated and with minimal capacity, won't take reservations. I was really disappointed as this was my first trip to Cantler's and when we phoned to ask about the length of the lines at various times of day, no one said anything about two hour waits. We ended up driving over the Bay Bridge to the Narrows, which was a wonderful "consolation" prize - no wait at all and great food.

It blows my mind that so many people are willing to put up with a 2-hour wait. For that kind of nonsense, I expect the world's best crabs....delivered by Don Rockwell himself.

Ellen

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And a two-hour wait for dinner!!!!
I don't think that I have ever waited less than an hour and a half at any of the crab places that I go to - Cantler's, Harris, and Fisherman's Inn Crab Deck. But, I usually go on pretty days, grab a beer, and chalk it up to the experience.
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What time did you get there and how long did you have to wait? We arrived at 5:30 thinking the line wouldn't be too long - maybe 30-45 minutes. It was twenty minutes - to get into the effing parking lot!!!!! And a two-hour wait for dinner!!!!

Don't hate me, but we walked right in and got a table outside. Now, we did come at the odd time of 2 PM. The place was busy but people were seated rather quickly then, but, yes, I'm sure it became a show later.

Longest wait time for a restaurant I've ever been quoted: 3 hours and 45 minutes at the Columbia PF Changs. They did us a favor by allowing us to eat somewhere else that night.

Pax,

Brian

ETA: I'm sure it didn't help that the Annapolis Magazine just came out and named it the best place in Annapolis for crabs. I saw it on sale in Silver Spring today.

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I made the trip to Cantlers on Saturday evening and ended up waiting about an hour to be seated. We arrived around 5pm, and there was a huge line (20-30 mins, roughly) to get into the parking lot - yikes! Tip: send someone from your car to put your name in for a table while you wait for a parking spot. It cuts your wait-time significantly.

Once we were seated, the crabs were good, corn was super-fresh and the service was great - considering that most of the servers appeared to be between the ages of 17 and 20 and the place was PACKED all evening. Those kids are workin' hard for their money!

I'll definitely be back.

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I made the trip to Cantlers on Saturday evening and ended up waiting about an hour to be seated. We arrived around 5pm, and there was a huge line (20-30 mins, roughly) to get into the parking lot - yikes! Tip: send someone from your car to put your name in for a table while you wait for a parking spot. It cuts your wait-time significantly.

Once we were seated, the crabs were good, corn was super-fresh and the service was great - considering that most of the servers appeared to be between the ages of 17 and 20 and the place was PACKED all evening. Those kids are workin' hard for their money!

I'll definitely be back.

Did they have large or jumbos? How were the crab prices?

Thanks.

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We arrived around 5pm, and there was a huge line (20-30 mins, roughly) to get into the parking lot - yikes! Tip: send someone from your car to put your name in for a table while you wait for a parking spot. It cuts your wait-time significantly.
Or just anchor in the river and tie your dingy up at the dock. ;)
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Large. It was $50/tray...maybe $55...I forget.
how funny! politburo and i were there saturday night as well...we got there around 4:30 and also waited a little over an hour (we bought beers they were selling outside and sat in our minivan's tailgate in the parking lot). right before our name was called to be seated, i heard the hostesses telling people it would be a 2 hour wait. ouch!

it was $50 for a dozen of large, which was the only size they had. imho, a little bit pricey, but the crabs we got were nice and heavy.

i don't understand the mallet - i think it might be the worst tool to use when eating crabs. i barely touched it. (i'd rather have a cracker - like a nut cracker type tool).

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i don't understand the mallet - i think it might be the worst tool to use when eating crabs. i barely touched it. (i'd rather have a cracker - like a nut cracker type tool).

Try to tilt it very slightly so you're actually striking with the edge of the mallet face. Saves energy and delivers a nice fracture where you want it. Otherwise you'll be hammering on those claws repeatedly with increasing force until something yields and crab bits go spraying everywhere ;)

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i don't understand the mallet - i think it might be the worst tool to use when eating crabs. i barely touched it. (i'd rather have a cracker - like a nut cracker type tool).
I've been taught that you put the knife on the crab claw and then hit the dull side of the knife with the mallet, producing a clean and more easily controlled fracture.

More here (#9).

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I've been taught that you put the knife on the crab claw and then hit the dull side of the knife with the mallet, producing a clean and more easily controlled fracture.

More here (#9).

You could do what my mom does and cracks them with her teeth! She has some gold molars though. (My mom has grills!) Though I do believe the shells of blue crabs are a little more delicate than those of other crabs. I've never done the knife trick. I've gently tapped them with a mallet, though the tendency is to give a wallop.

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i don't understand the mallet - i think it might be the worst tool to use when eating crabs. i barely touched it. (i'd rather have a cracker - like a nut cracker type tool).

Hit hard! If swung hard enough to crack the claw in a single swipe, the mallet works perfectly. If you do little baby cracks, you will just end up frustrated with a bunch of shell impaled bits of meat.

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Never, repeat, never think its a good idea to go mid-day on a 3-day weekend. After 2 hours of standing in the broiling sun drinking beer, followed by an hour of sweating over picking crab, I nearly passed out. Nonetheless the crabs (x-large) were fantastic and the scene festive. I won't hold it against them for being so popular.

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Stopped in for lunch on my way home from the DE beaches. I ordered more food than my waitress thought I could possibly eat (although she didn't say so until I was done - her actual comment was "you did better than that I thought you would"). Shellfish is no match for my stomach of Kobayashi. I started with some fried whole belly clams (good but not as good as Freddy's - different breading used) and I asked for hush puppies instead of fries, then sucked down a dozen cherry stone clams. Next to arrive was their Drunk'n Mussels, followed shortly after by 2 large crabs. I think I heard the crabs were from Louisiana ($6.35 each for large ones) but they were quite tasty, as were the mussels. I was told to eat the tomatoes with the mussels as the tomatoes soaked up the sauce. I actually didn't finish the mussels, only because they were so many to start with and I prize crabs more than mussels. By the time I had finishing picking through my 2 whole crabs, my mussels were already tired. I would say Cantler's comparable to Harris Crab House on Kent Island.

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I'm putting as much thought into my review of Cantler's as they put into the food:

Raw oysters= edible with extra grit

Fried oysters= hockey puck with soft oyster center

Smoked blue fish= not bad

Soft shell clams= gag

Soft shell crabs= more like "soft shell crab shells"

Steamed shrimp= appeared to be dredged up from oil spill

Scallops= lame, really lame

Jumbo crabs= $80/dozen

Service= well meaning

Disappointing. dry.gif

Should've had the soup!

Seriously, their soup is really good. I wish I had seen this earlier to warn you about those soft shell clams.

Okay, Doc, I know it's almost 8 years later, but ... I'm not sure a good bowl of soup would have overcome this meal. :lol:

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I've been taught that you put the knife on the crab claw and then hit the dull side of the knife with the mallet, producing a clean and more easily controlled fracture.

More here (#9).

I just hit the claw with the handle of the knife (assuming a metal knife). Then flip the knife over and use the blade to pull out the meat.

Best to use a dull all-metal dinner knife for this.

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If you're a soft-shell crab eater rather than a hard-shell person, is Cantler's worth going to? What about for fish, or fried clams?

We'll be in Annapolis soon and are wondering where to eat in the area. I love soft-shells and crab cakes, but don't generally do hard-shells (not a fan of Old Bay and not great at getting the meat out). Others in my family will want rockfish or other fish, or clams or scallops.

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I would not go to Cantler's or Harfris, my favorite hard shell crab house, and expect any cooked item to be any good. They do one thing good and that's it. Every time we have gone beyond crabs, even to the point of the miserable bloody mary's from a mix with rubbing alcohol flavored vodka, we say why won't we ever learn. Hard Crabs? A+! Everything else? Why oh why!

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I would not go to Cantler's or Harfris, my favorite hard shell crab house, and expect any cooked item to be any good. They do one thing good and that's it. Every time we have gone beyond crabs, even to the point of the miserable bloody mary's from a mix with rubbing alcohol flavored vodka, we say why won't we ever learn. Hard Crabs? A+! Everything else? Why oh why!

Totally agree.

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