Rustic Inn Crab House
4331 Anglers Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Beer selection: A few interesting Caribbean imports like Kalik and Red Stripe
Food: Garlic Crabs.
Some activities require you to have the right mindset to fully enjoy them.
The easily offended or noise sensitive probably wouldn’t enjoy a Hank Williams, III or Ted Nugent concert.
Vegans wouldn’t appreciate a good old-fashioned pig pickin’.
So when it comes to eating crabs, you have to actually enjoy picking crabs. Because picking crabs isn’t about sustenance. I’m pretty sure I burn more calories than I take in.
Eating crabs is all about the atmosphere. Sitting outside on the water, drinking beer, and having fun with friends and family. It’s an event. An experience. Not just a meal.
The best crab shacks on earth – like Harris in Maryland, Crab Shack in Georgia, Bubba’s in Virginia, D.I.’s in Louisiana, and in my back yard – understand their product well. They know how to serve up a no frills crab feast accompanied by lots and lots of beer.
I’m sure the Rustic Inn understands all of this, they just don’t pull it off very well.
First of all, their concrete ocean-front “deck” felt more auto-repair shop than beachside fun. Under the hum of giant industrial sized fans and the buzz of fluorescent lights, it was like dining in my garage.
I guess there was water somewhere near me, but I couldn’t see it from my table.
For an experience like crab picking, this evening wasn’t off to the best start.
And the crabs didn’t make up for it either.
The Rustic Inn has been a South Florida institution since 1955 and are famous for their “garlic crabs.”
Done right, garlic crabs is one of the great experiences of life, assuming you like garlic. I mean, really, really, really LIKE garlic.
Because these blue crabs come in a bowl buried in a mound of pureed garlic and melted butter. You have to dig down deep to retrieve your crab claws from under the layers of pungent goodness.
You’ll also need a 30 minute shower before you can step foot in public after this meal.
But that’s a good thing because I happen to like garlic.
There was just one problem.
My crab claws, once I was able to get to them, had the consistency of rubber.
Having steamed a few live blue crabs in my day, I recognized the problem right away. The crabs were over-cooked.
If you steam or boil crabs too long, they’re ruined. The shells get rubbery and the meat inside turns to mush. The joy of pulling out a big hunk of succulent crabmeat becomes a frustrating exercise of trying to pry open a rubbery shell, just to end up pulling out mushy crabmeat in tiny bits at a time.
How in the world can a “world famous” crab shack that’s been in the crab business for 55 years screw this up?
I couldn’t figure it out. Is this just the way they do crabs here at the Rustic Inn? Or did I get a bad batch? Was the crab cook new? Or was I just feeling crabby?
I’m still not sure why and I won’t be going back to find out. After all, I know where to go for the real crab pickin’ experience. And it ain’t the Rustic Inn.
Rating: Wouldn’t Wear Shirt If They Paid Me.