I hadn't been to the crabhouse since ownership changed last March, so I thought I'd get the Friday Shrimp special and see what's different. About 90 degrees in September; the main dining room is still closed at lunch time.
Rustic Inn Dining Room Closed
The choices for seating are the bar, which I don't like here, the main room, or the outdoor patio/deck, where I'd never been before. They don't allow smoking even outside, so I thought I'd give it a try.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Outside seating
No real A/C outside, they have big fans and there was wind blowing the paper on the table. >I realized that this was a mistake, but decided to stay anyway. The place is waterfront as a real canal runs by, but it doesn't really feel like waterfront. The view could be worse, I suppose.
My server came out and I ordered Iced Tea, which is included with the daily specials. I looked over the menu and almost changed my mind and ordered the Flounder, but I wanted to see what the special was like. He brought out the tea and I ordered the Special; forgetting to also order 1/2 dozen raw clams.
Rustic Inn Ice Tea
One thing about sitting outside is that you can't see inside, so flagging down a server is nearly impossible. After 5 minutes or so I went inside and asked a bar back to have my server come out so I could add the clams to my order.
No music outside, just the loud whirring of fans. I positioned the condiments basket so the paper wasn't flying around, and the breeze did cool things off.
The clams came out first.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Clams
I asked for an oyster fork; my server nodded and brought me Worcestershire and horseradish. "No, I want an oyster fork". The Crabhouse doesn't have oyster forks. If you serve clams and oysters you should really have oyster forks.
6 clams for $7. Good cocktail sauce. Nicely shucked. A good deal. I was on my second clam when the shrimp came out.
Rustic Inn Shrimp Special
Not an elegant presentation by any standards, $11.95 for 21 shrimp, potatoes, cole slaw and an Iced Tea. This platter has "Peel and Eat", "Key West" and Grilled shrimp. I couldn't really tell you which was the Key West. They were all decent and I dipped them all in the cocktail sauce with extra horseradish so it doesn't really matter.>
I got the idea for some drawn butter, but I didn't see my server again until I was done eating.
The cole slaw was junk, but the potatoes not bad; boiled potatoes with butter remind me of how potatoes used to be before the kiddie culture converted everything to french fries.
21 shrimp yield a lot of shells. I could have made some nice fish broth with these.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Shrimp Shells
There is a shiny new stainless steel sink where you can wash your hands on the way out. It's the only change I can see.
It's not clear what the new owners have in mind. They don't have this place listed on their fancy web site, so apparently this place doesn't quite fit their image. Given the quality of their other venues, I suspect that one day they'll tear this place down and put up a big, fancy restaurant, but there's no sign of it yet.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Sold to NYC Group 3/24/14
The long time owners of Rustic Inn have sold the property to the Ark Restaurant Group for $4.8M. Ark is a NYC real estate conglomerate that operates 20 restaurants throughout the US including Bryant Park Grill and Clyde Frazier's in NYC and Gallagher's Steakhouses and Burger Bars in Atlantic City and Las Vegas. Ark locally runs 7 fast food concepts in the Hard Rock Hotel.
The total value of the deal is 7.5M.
Away from the more commercialized "Crab Shacks" is the Rustic Inn, a place that truly lives up to it's name. An old, worn building in between nothing and nothing, not much has changed here in many, many years.
At lunch time, the "main" dining room is closed, leaving you a choice of the "indoor" patio, the covered patio or the bar. The bar is kind of dreary and the downside of the inside patio is that there's a lot of staff milling around. They have an annoying loud speaker system and now matter where you sit, you're in front of some service area.
Rustic Inn Rear "Patio" Dining Room
But, there's no AC outside, and even though the place is "on the water", it's kind of a junky view.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse "View"
If you don't know about the Rustic Inn, it's one of those places that you smash crabs; there are no crab cracking tools here; smashing is your only option.>jump-->
Rustic Inn Crab Tools
There's a large notation on the menu: "Mallets are not souvenirs"; but you can buy one in the gift shop.
Much of the menu here is the dreaded "Market Price"; it would be nice if they had an insert with the current pricing but there isn't much forward thinking going on here. No yellow for iced tea; they don't even have blue.
I've had the NE Clam Chowder and the Conch Chowder here; the soups are to be avoided. I inquired about the Crab Sampler, but it was $39. Seems like a lot. I went for the Lunch Combo instead, which for $15.95 includes a crab cake, slaw, fries, veggies and a sampling of crab.
There's not much waiting here; the food came out quickly.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Lunch Combo
A pretty big plate. I wonder what you get for more than twice as much; this would be more than enough food.
The crab cake was mushy and was saved only by good tarter sauce. Vegetables are always better when there's drawn butter to dip into. I'm not big on crab if it's not lump or in a cake; picking shells and cartilage out of my mouth to get little bits of meat is not my idea of an enjoyable meal. I just kept thinking of Tom Hanks in CastAway, when after eating nothing but crab for 4 years returns to a celebration where they serve Crab Legs.
If nothing else, eating crab here is an adventure. They don't give you a board where you can smash your crabs, so you're smashing crabs in a salad bowl. Smashing crab is messy business.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Aftermath
There's no wet naps at the Rustic Inn; they have a sink in the dining room where you can wash your hands.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Sink
No Splenda, No Bread, No Wet Naps, No Iced Tea refill and no crab crackers. And frankly I didn't taste much difference between the different crabs. But it was kinda fun.>
First, lets get something out of the way. I wouldn't take my Mother here for her birthday, nor would I take a date here. At least not one that I had an interest in seeing again. The Rustic Inn Crabhouse fits its name perfectly; its Rustic; old, gray and dreary. The outside is like an old boatyard, with an unpaved parking lot. Inside the lights are dim, the furniture is old and the bar has pieces missing.
If you didn't already know, the Crabhouse is one of those places where you wear a bib and smash crabs with a mallet. So maybe its a good thing that they don't have good furniture; it would just get ruined by the butter and crab juice all over the place. On weekends you may have trouble getting in as it gets quite crowded. Its pretty cheap; which means that it attracts a crusty crowd from all over. They have an obnoxious loud speaker system where they call out your name when your table is ready.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Interior
The place is huge, with a main dining room and a "patio", with a large bar area in the back. The main dining room is closed at lunchtime; you'll have to sit at a table for crab. No crab smashing at the bar. They have a variety of crab types and samplers so you can just order whatever you want. If you come in a group you can try everything and have a smashingly good time making a mess. They have lunch specials listed on their web site that end at 2:30pm.
If you don't feel like crab or you wear clothes that didn't anticipate the smashing, they have plenty of other things on the menu. You can get a hoagie or chicken or even a steak. One standout is the broiled flounder; a massive portion served with rice, potatoes and vegetables. The veggies are junk (mine were cold). They put some sort of bread mixture on it that has mild onions (maybe leeks) and it comes with a very good tartar sauce. Its not great but for $11.50 you'd be hard pressed to get a fillet this big elsewhere. I recommend skipping the lousy new england clam chowder.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse Flounder
The clowns at New Times gave this place an award for the best conch chowder, so I had to give it a try. As usual, it's just mis-information. Everything in the chowder is tiny; little bits of conch, potatoes and carrots, and it's just too salty.
Rustic Inn Islamorada Conch Chowder
It also had a vinegary taste; maybe too much sherry or something, but I couldn't even eat it. It's so dark in the place that I couldn't get a focus without a flash, so I took it out to get a shot of it. I recommend skipping the soup course in this place altogether.
If you must smash crabs and you're looking to save a bit of money this is about your only choice. Just don't wear anything you might want to wear again. Note that their address says "Ravenswood" but most maps have it as Anglers Rd. It's called Ravenswood for a stretch of the road; the signs on the road have both names on them.