We start off 2012 with the countdown of our road food top 10. Road food is a delightful combination of food, memories, and down home atmosphere. It is, to me, as Anthony Bourdain would say, the “good stuff.” This week starts off the best of my best, Lin Cook’s best of roadfood through the summer of 2011. My apologies to Rehoboth Beach, which surely would have had several entrants.
Southeastern Florida is full of fun spots to dine. There are beautiful higher end spots like the old school, and now sadly departed, Martha’s On The Intercoastal, and the fun but faux Cuban Bongo’s Cuban Cafe where I was accosted by scary bouncers with ear pieces. But, when we are thinking road food, it has to have at least a little bit of Mayberry.
The Rustic Inn is a family favorite. It is the kind of place that I would never go by myself. You have to go in groups, and the bigger the better. And, with our family, bigger is normal. The Rustic is usually very crowded, and it has several different seating areas, each with its own vibe, including waterfront dining. There is a wide variety of types of folks there from couples on dates to families with small children to retirees (like love bugs in an August Orlando) to herds of guys who look like they are having a fantasy football draft. All with different goals and expectations and all looking like they are finding them met at the Rustic. A sure sign of gastronomic success!
There is a wide variety of food, including all kinds of seafood, all good or better. You can really chow down at the Rustic. The portions are large. The selection is larger: the dinner menu is nine pages! But at the Rustic, it is all about the crabs. I am partial to the golden crabs, which are caught relatively locally along the Florida and Carolina coasts. The Old Bay crabs are great too. The crab sampler, with four different types of crabs, is a lot of fun, as are the combo platters where you can mix and match beef and various forms of seafood, primarily lobster, shrimp, and, of course, crabs. Stuff your face on the Admiral platter!
The most fun is the wooden crab hammers. Everybody loves to pound them on the tables, and the staff calls the troops to pounding in celebration of birthdays. People love the vibe so much that bratty little kids can pound their table to death and almost all their table neighbors think it is cute. Let your kid try that at the local TGI Fridays and see how long you last! A sure sign that the Rustic should be in my top ten – one of the hammers has a special place on my dresser. My only other restaurant icons are a plastic bobbing lobster from Yoken’s Restaurant in Portsmouth, NH, and the J.C Strobel bobblehead from the Beacon Restaurant in South Carolina.
A good crab house is where friends and family linger, making noise, picking at crabs, pounding their hammers, laughing and having fun. The Rustic is such a place, and it deserves its place in the Lin Cook Roadfood top ten. Here’s a pound of the hammer to my family, especially my sister Tricia and her husband Ralph, frequent partners with my wife and I at the Rustic.
Stop back next week, y’all, for number nine. Think Florida if you are in the sub freezing weather here in the northern American tundra! If you are at the Rustic tonight, pound your hammer for me!
The term “roadfood” is trademarked by Jane and Michael Stern of www.roadfood.com, and is used by permission. They are the founders of the roadfood movement. Check out their books on Amazon, and head out on one of their food tours!