Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Revolution Comes to Nebraska






The Crescent Moon Ale House
3578 Farnham St.
Omaha, NE




I’m pretty sure nobody in America is more excited about the on-going craft beer revolution than Suit757.

Just a few years ago, one of my typical stopovers at a Middle America sports bar or college hangout like the Crescent Moon Ale House yielded nothing more than a monotonous display of ubiquitous tab handles -- the same dozen boring taps you see in every bar in America.

Under those tap handles pours the identical watered down pale fizzy crap.

I guess that’s the thing I don’t get about all those fans of the mass produced American lagers: don’t you get bored drinking the same damn thing over and over again?

And don’t even try to tell me that Bud Light tastes radically different from Miller Lite. I’ve blind taste-tested them all. Any differences are subtle at best.

It’s all the same exact style. Same formula. Same pale color. Same nonexistent flavor.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

I’m not one of those Nazi craft beer snobs who refuses to allow a mass produced beer to touch my lips.

I mean, my favorite style of beer might be a hoppy Imperial India Pale Ale, but my second favorite style of beer is…

…free. Even if it is a Bud Light.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never turned one down yet.

Trust me, if you get a First Class upgrade, that’s what you’re going to be drinking.

While mass produced watered down American lager might not be my favorite style, I’m not religiously opposed to it either.

In fact, as I type this I have a keg of Coors Light on tap at the bar in my home.

With that admission, I might have just lost half the followers of this website.

But low alcohol, low taste, cheap beer has a role to play alongside the arsenal of good beer stocked in my bar -- particularly on hot summer days or at the tail end of particularly lengthy sessions of beer drinking when the law of diminishing returns has long since kicked in.

What makes me excited about the craft beer revolution is the wonderful variety of good beer out there now just waiting for me to sample.

This revolution is so exciting, it can make even a trip to Omaha, Nebraska an enlightening experience.

I chose the Crescent Moon not for its beer selection alone, but primarily because I read that it serves the single best sandwich in the state of Nebraska, the Blackstone Rueben.

Named after a nearby long-gone historic hotel where the original version was served, this was one top notch Rueben.

Slow cooked in some secret spices, the thick chunks of corned beef melted in my mouth they were so tender. The Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing lended plenty of condiment gooey goodness.

Even the sauerkraut was spot on. And I don’t even like sauerkraut.

On the side, I paid extra for fried green peppers.

Fried green peppers?

The only other menu where I’ve seen them was at a strip mall crab house in Maryland.

I’m making a prediction right now.

Fried green peppers are the next big thing -- coming soon to an Applebee’s “Two for Twenty” menu near you.

First of all, the shape is just fun. Sliced from a pepper cross section, each one was a big oddly formed ring.

Lightly breaded so the mild pepper flavor shines through, fried green peppers are a welcome reprieve from the side dish monotony of fries, onion rings and cole slaw.

To me that is what I love most about eating my way across the USA -- breaking the monotony by trying new things.

Which just happens also to be why I love the craft beer revolution.

Crescent Moon Ale House is a fantastic beer bar sporting exotic never-before-seen tap handles from across the Midwest and across Nebraska.

I was excited. Even more so when the bar tender informed me that all Nebraska beers were just $3.50 per pint tonight.

Bargain!

I started with the Zipline Black IPA out of Lincoln, Nebraska, a toasty flavorful oxymoron in a glass. How exactly can a “pale ale” be black, anyway?

My second brew was the Radial IPA from Infusion Brewing Company across town, a nice wallop of spicy hops.

How cool is it that small microbreweries are popping up in every nook and cranny of America -- even in decidedly non-hipster places like Nebraska??

Pretty cool. And plenty of others agree.

The Crescent Moon had a nice crowd for 10pm on a Wednesday night.

Definitely a college bar vibe with long communal tables full of students from nearby Creighton University, beer banners hanging from the ceiling and a burly bouncer dude checking IDs by the front door in front of a glass case selling t-shirts that say “Moon Me.”

There is even a “Huber-Haus German Bier Hall” in the basement and Max and Joe’s, a Belgian beer bar off in a side room.

You would think this place would be a sausage fest of frat guys downing beers and telling fart jokes.

But you’d be wrong.

There were as many girls as guys knocking back brewskies.

How cool is that?

As I was crunching on my fried green peppers at the bar, a couple of attractive college girls stopped by to order several good local microbrews.

“Damn, I love beer,” the brunette said.

The blonde one replied, “I know, right?!? The next time you go home to Denver, I want to come with you so we can stop off at every brewery in Colorado.”

Wow!

Besides sounding like a VERY fun roadtrip (would it be rude if I interrupted them and invited myself along?) -- I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Girls who like good beer?

Apparently I was born too early.

When I was in college, the cool girls would help you finish your four dollar pitcher of Busch.

The less cool high maintenance chicks would demand you make a special side trip to the Tiny Giant to pick up a four pack of Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers.

Losers.

Thank God those dark days are behind us.

The craft beer revolution has saved us all from such indignities.

And the evidence is right here at The Crescent Moon Ale House in Omaha.

Craft beer in Nebraska. College students drinking IPAs. Girls planning brewery roadtrips.

Yep. The revolution is complete.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chili Slaw Dogs Prove West Virginia is Worth Fighting For





Morrison’s Drive Inn
126 Stollings Ave.
Logan, WV




Socialists like Barack Obama hate people who work for a living.

I mean, if you are one of those folks who has a job and can afford to make a living, provide three meals a day for your kids, scrape together the rent or mortgage every month and pay your own cell phone bill…

…who the hell needs Obama?

And that is a problem…

…if you are Barack Obama.

Which is about the best conspiracy theory I can come up with to explain Obama’s War on Coal.

West Virginia is the only state in the union that can be utterly destroyed by killing just one industry.

Come down here to the hills and hollows of Logan County West Virginia and you will understand what I’m talking about.

Except for the car hops at Morrison’s Drive Inn and a few McDonald’s burger flippers and Wal-Mart grocery baggers out by the four-lane, coal is far and away the one source of cold hard cash -- and liberty from government dependence -- the hard working folks in Logan County have.

So naturally Obama wants to destroy coal -- and the people of West Virginia -- who gave him barely one third of the vote last year.

His EPA regulations have already shut down 411 American coal fired electrical plants in America and are estimated to result in the closure of hundreds more over the next few years, which currently produce 40% of America’s electricity.

Through rules, regulations and carbon taxes, Obama aims to reduce that percentage to as close to zero as possible, putting thousands of West Virginians out of work -- and onto the welfare rolls.

Which is exactly where Obama wants them.

After all, these West Virginians are the same hard working folks Obama derisively claimed were shunning Democrats because they were “clinging to their guns and their religion” -- despite all the free goodies Obama was offering them.

This is Obama’s final strategy to win them over. Destroy their livelihood and make them dependent upon food stamps, Obama phones and welfare checks signed by Obama and his minions in Washington DC.

Now, I know what you are thinking.

You are thinking, “Okay, Suit757, enough with the Sean Hannity anti-Obama rant and get on with telling me about those famous West Virginia chili slaw dogs. Besides, all Obama is trying to do is save the world from global warming.”

But if you really believe that, I have one thing to tell you…

…as they might say down here in Logan County…

…“bless your heart.”

Dude, get a clue.

Do the math.

The United States of America has roughly 300 million people. That is just 4% of the population of the world.

If Barack Obama could shuttle every last one of us off into a FEMA extermination camp and wipe America off the face of the earth, it would hardly put a dent into global carbon emissions.

China and India alone account for over a third of the entire world’s carbon emissions.

China burns five times as much coal as the U.S.

And guess what?

They ain’t going to comply with the same rules and regulations Obama is imposing on his own country.

Oh, and by the way, even with a glut of domestic natural gas and rock bottom prices, coal is still far and away the cheapest way to boil water and churn the massive turbines that create the electricity to power the lights in your house -- and in the White House.

And it always will be -- if Obama would just let the miners, truckers and engineers of southern West Virginia do their jobs.

But it’s not all work and no play in Coal Country.

A highlight of any trip to West Virginia is a tray full of chili slaw dogs.

Yes. Slaw.

As in cole slaw.

I know it sounds weird. I thought so the first time I ventured into West Virginia coal country down in Mercer County as a naïve suit in his early 20s.

You are going to put cole slaw on my hot dog?

Yes.

I haven’t regretted the decision yet.

Morrison’s Drive Inn here just outside of Logan has been serving them to hard working locals since 1948.

Morrison’s still offers up efficient old fashioned carside service.

From the moment I put my rental Dodge Hemi pick-up into park, to the moment I honked my horn and the friendly car hop hauled away my empty tray, was a grand total of eleven minutes.

Which was good because that’s about all I had to spare to make my flight out of Charleston Airport over an hour away.

But it was the best eleven minutes of my day.

Wrapped in clear cellophane, the hot dog buns are steamy soft stuffed with a nice wiener topped with mustard, chopped onion, spicy chili and creamy slaw.

Morrison’s dogs are a perfect kaleidoscope of flavors and textures. Crunchy, creamy, sweet and savory. In every bite.

You get the feeling that the exact ratio of ingredients and condiments is a carefully followed formula -- and a closely guarded Logan County secret.

The homemade onion rings were crunchy with the ideal fried-breading-to-onion ratio.

As one of the only non-chain restaurants around, Morrison’s looks like it has a loyal clientele of hard working locals.

These are the folks who are going to save West Virginia from a man who has never held a real job in his life.

The folks who come to Morrison’s Drive Inn and munch on chili slaw dogs, fried chicken and onion rings want work -- not welfare.

In fact, workers in Logan County have died for the right to work. Literally.

Just ask the family of Eddie York.

When the United Mine Workers forced their members out on strike here in Logan County in the 1990s, Eddie York wasn’t even a member of the union.

He was just doing his job. Driving a truck. Making a delivery into a mine just a few miles from here. Providing for his family.

For that, he was shot in the head by a UMW militant and slumped over his steering wheel.

The union thugs pelted the rescue workers with rocks when they rushed to Eddie York’s aid.

But it didn’t matter.

Eddie York was killed instantly.

Murdered in cold blood in front of hundreds of UMW witnesses -- for the crime of working for a living.

Thanks to an exemption in federal law for prosecution of union violence, the only charges brought against the murderer were for “Incapacitating a Driver.”

What did the United Mine Workers leadership have to say about the role their thugs had in taking Eddie York’s life?

When asked about the incident, the president of the UMW was quoted in the Virginian Pilot newspaper stating, “If you light a fire and stick your finger in the flame, common sense says you are going to get burned.”

So who was this unsympathetic union boss condoning murder?

His name is Richard Trumka.

He is now head of the AFL-CIO and is Barack Obama’s largest benefactor. He has visited the White House more than any other American.

In the last election, Trumka funneled $1.7 billion (yes, billion) in union dues from the paychecks of workers in places like Logan County to help elect none other than Barack Obama -- the man who is trying to put all those workers out of a job.

And to add insult to injury?

Because West Virginia is not a Right to Work state, all those union mine workers are required by law to pay those dues as a condition of employment.

What a freaking racket.

As Travis Tritt once eloquently sang, “They’re billing me for killing me.”

As you can tell, I get pretty fired up about this stuff.

If we lose our cheap domestic energy powered by coal, we lose the whole state of West Virginia.

And while my personal feeling is West Virginia never should have yielded to the threat of federal firepower and split from the Commonwealth of Virginia in the first place, I still respect folks who are willing to work hard for a living.

And I love West Virginia chili slaw dogs.

So I think West Virginia is worth fighting for.

What do you think?

Rating: Bought the Shirt!


Morrison's Drive Inn on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Searching for Cultural Enlightenment in Sin City






Aces and Ales
3740 S. Nellis Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV





The last time I wrote a review in Las Vegas, I think I clearly articulated my distain for Sin City.

Vegas is an inauthentic lowest-common-denominator amusement park for unimaginative American travelers too timid to use their precious two weeks of vacation time to go anywhere real or interesting.

So here I am. On another business trip to Las Vegas.

Trillsville.

Okay. I have an idea. I’ll do what Suit757 always does.

Why should Las Vegas be any different?

I’ll seek out the local crowd -- away from the vulgar tourist masses.

Yep. I’m setting out to find “real” Vegas.

Wherever that might be.

Most of the 40 million tourists who come to Las Vegas every year never venture more than 100 yards in either direction from The Strip.

But as anyone who has sat in a window seat on approach to McCarran International Airport can attest, there is more to Las Vegas than The Strip.

More than two million people live underneath the apartments and residential rooftops that sprawl outward across the desert valley floor as far as the eye can see.

Yeah. That’s where I am headed.

Screw valet parking, lousy beer selection and hoards of 80 year old widows on walkers throwing their Social Security checks into slot machines 25 cents at a time.

I am going to find a local’s hang out to drink real beer with real people.

So I typed my favorite word into Google Maps.

B-E-E-R.

One of the first results that popped up was Aces and Ales, 25 minutes out into the Vegas sprawl.

There was just one problem with my strategy.

There aren’t any “real people” in Las Vegas.

I mean, I’m not saying that Vegas is populated with the Walking Dead, I’m just saying there really isn’t much of a local Las Vegas culture to tap into.

First of all, nobody is actually “from” Las Vegas.

Hanging out with the “locals” in Sin City isn’t like going to a Friday night fish fry with the lumberjacks in Northern Wisconsin.

Workers in Las Vegas don’t grow timber or mine coal or extract oil from the ground or build automobiles.

Virtually everyone in Las Vegas works in one industry: servicing those 40 million tourists -- and each other.

They park your car or carry your bag or give you your room key or slide you a beer or make your bed or cash out your gambling voucher or take off their bikini top for your viewing pleasure or taxi your drunk butt back to your hotel.

All for a tip of course.

So I guess what I’m saying is that hanging out on a Wednesday afternoon with the locals at Aces and Ales wasn’t quite as culturally enlightening as I hoped it would be.

But the beer was top notch.

Aces and Ales is a Las Vegas Mecca for good beer that is open 24 hours per day.

Yeah. Like Sin City itself, this joint NEVER closes.

Aces and Ales was started by bonafide rock star, Keri Kelli, in 2009.

The former guitarist for Alice Cooper loves craft beer and has utilized his connections to some legendary craft brewers to create a destination in this metropolis of mediocrity to try rare high quality beer.

Fortunately I got there just before 3pm -- the start of “Hoppy Hour”. All drafts are five bucks, a steep discount off the high alcohol/high priced beers on tap.

Awesome.

I sat at the only spot at the bar that didn’t have a video poker machine.

And I was the only patron in the place under the age of 70 -- and every one of them had their heads down punching away at the video poker buttons.

Surprisingly, most of them were drinking Budweiser or Miller Lite.

Maybe this isn’t so different from The Strip after all.

The 40ish bartender was friendly and helpful. She flipped the TV to the afternoon baseball game for me and waxed enthusiastically about all the high powered beers on tap.

I started with the Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Stout, from those crazy beer geeks in Denmark who specialize in brewing off-the-wall concoctions for adventurous American craft beer drinkers.

It wasn’t really breakfast time but I suppose 3 o’clock on a Wednesday is close enough.

Malty, sweet and smooth, I’d happily make this beer my breakfast of champions -- if I were to take up beer drinking at 8am.

Probably not a good career move, but as they, say, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start first thing in the morning!”

Noticing that I liked strong imperial stouts, the bar tender gave me a sample of Nectar Black Xantus, an 11.5% powerhouse of flavor. Luxurious and sweet as liquorish, it was like going straight from breakfast to dessert.

The Stone IRS 2011 was yet another imperial stout -- but very different from the first two. This one was more sour than sweet. Interesting, but not what I’m looking for in a dark beer.

Eventually I switched to a nice IPA by Smog City Brewing out of Southern California called
Hoptonic. Excellent choice. Perfectly balanced with a nice hoppy kick.

If this sounds like a lot of beer, well…

…it was.

And it wasn’t.

Most of the beers are served in small 8oz shot glasses. But that is because they have double to triple the alcohol of a normal beer.

These aren’t gulping beers.

Which was a problem for me when I bit into my Moondog Grilled Cheese Sandwich loaded with pepperoni, salami, cheese, olives and jalapenos.

Most restaurants that serve jalapenos as a garnishment cook the spice right out of the peppers. So I wasn’t too worried when I placed my order.

But after one bite, my head was on fire.

This sandwich included big disks of raw jalapeno -- seeds, stems and all.

Fortunately, the bar tender rushed me a glass of tap water to douse the flames. Wouldn’t want to try that with a ten percent alcohol beer.

While I would have preferred a higher cheese/meat to olives/jalapenos ratio, the sandwich was exactly as advertised.

Can’t complain.

For me, the highlight was the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings made from scratch with its namesake beer batter.

As I enjoyed my meal, it became clear that as usual I was the only guy in the place nobody knew.

And the only one in a suit. Of course.

Two very old men and a women who has been working in Las Vegas for 47 years sat next to me.

She and the bar tender started whispering about “the good looking guy in the suit.”

I immediately began nervously calculating how many minutes it would take me to finish my beer and get the check.

It didn’t take long before the lady turned my way and began telling me her story of how she came to Vegas, dealt cards for decades at the Sands and then took a job working for the government.

She soon launched into a monologue about how the “difficult working conditions” doing government work were made bearable because of the union.

She is now the union shop steward -- a bonafide government union boss!

“You know, they claim we make $80,000 per year, but that’s not true. I make $39,000. The rest is benefits and that shouldn’t count,” she tried to explain.

“But at least we can’t be fired.”

I didn’t bother to tell her that the $80,000 sure counts for the taxpayer who has to pay the bill.

But that is Vegas culture for you, to the extent that it has one: two million people working hard doing nothing but taking other peoples’ money.

By the time I polished off my sandwich, the bar tender asked me if I minded cashing out since her shift was over.

Even though I was still contemplating one more beer, I didn’t mind at all. This is Vegas. Everyone lives and dies on their tips.

She worked hard and deserved to be tipped for it before she hit the I-515.

Since it was “Hoppy Hour”, my three beers and sandwich were all five bucks each. So $20 plus tax.

I figured if I was paying full price, the tab would be closer to $34. So I left her a $7 tip on my credit card slip.

I guess I was feeling generous since the Depression Era patrons drinking Buds and playing video poker didn’t figure to be big tippers.

Meanwhile, the replacement bartender, a young attractive girl, who possessed the assets to make more money at any number of other various Sin City occupations, took over.

I ordered a pint of Smog City’s Saber Tooth Squirrel, a delicious 7% red ale, from her.

Since it was my last beer, I handed her some cash to pay for it up front and left $1.50 tip on the bar.

Like I said, I appreciate good service.

Just then, Bartender Number One makes her rounds, grabs my credit card jacket and the cash I left for Bartender Number Two and walks off in a huff.

She probably figured all I left her for her TV channel surfing and beer commentary efforts was a buck and half.

Hopefully she figured it out when she looked at the credit card slip.

But that didn’t stop her from pocketing the younger girl’s tip.

So if I ventured out to the Las Vegas suburbs to immerse myself in the real culture of this city, I guess I got what I came for.

From the 70 year old government union boss sitting next to me -- to the bar tender -- everyone’s in competition to pocket everyone else’s money.

And now you understand why I’d just assume hang out with the lumberjacks in Wisconsin.

Rating: Would Wear a Free Shirt.


Aces & Ales on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Buffalo Café: Montana’s Last Best Place for Breakfast








Buffalo Café
514 E. 3rd St.
Whitefish, MT





Stand on a mountaintop in nearby Glacier National Park and you begin to understand this state’s famous moniker. The blue Big Sky stretches from horizon to distant horizon seeming to crush the earth.

As the 4th largest state in America by land mass, Montana is a pretty diverse place.

From the oil field rough necks on the barren eastern plaines to the unemployed union workers in gritty Butte to the Blackfoot Indians across the flat north country to the celebrity Hollywood refugees in bucolic Bozeman and Helena, Montana means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

But for those of us who don’t live here, when we close our eyes and think of Montana, an image of Whitefish is what comes to mind.

Whitefish is the quintessential small Rocky Mountain town.

Nestled in the shadow of Big Mountain carved up with high priced ski slopes, Whitefish’s Central Avenue is lined with quaint shops selling western gear and fun watering holes like the Great Northern Bar and Grill.

Sure, Whitefish is a bit touristy, but it still has the feel of a real place.

That sense of Rocky Mountain authenticity hasn’t yet been subjugated to the tourist shops selling t-shirts that proclaim Montana “The Last Best Place.”

But that is an apt slogan for Montana -- and Whitefish specifically.

As I strolled through town on a sunny Saturday morning searching for breakfast, I couldn’t help but sense how fleeting Montana’s greatness can seem.

“You call something paradise, kiss it goodbye,” Don Henley once sang.

Whether it is the proliferation of Montana’s cheesy roadside casinos or the influx of California leftists like Henley, you can’t help but simultaneously admire the beauty of this small town while fearing it can’t possibly stay this quaint.

All I can say is enjoy Montana’s “Last Best Place” while you can.

When you do come to Whitefish, you have to stop by for breakfast at the Buffalo Café.

You’ll be treated to a vacation highlight Montana meal well worth the wait for a table.

While the gourmet specials on the blackboard such as the local huckleberry French toast were mighty tempting, I have a Suit757 rule about dining.

If a place is “famous” for something, order that something.

In the case of Buffalo Café, that “something” is their famous “Buffalo Pie”.

Since 1979, the Buffalo Café has been piling plates high with eggs, hash browns and various breakfast meats in delicious combinations.

The decision making was agonizing. They all sounded so good.

Sausage? Bacon? Ham? Fancy Kansas City bacon? Smoked cheddar? Green Chili? Cream gravy? Spinach? Onions? Peppers?

I was as conflicted as Barack Obama facing a foreign policy crisis.

Eventually I settled upon the Morning Glory Pie.

Epic.

That’s all I have to say.

Of course the Buffalo Pie is nothing like a pie.

There is no crust. I thought maybe the hash browns would serve as the base with the mountain of other ingredients serving as the pie filling, but that’s not the case either.

The base of this “pie” is a savory and slightly spicy patty of country sausage which added just the right amount of kick to the pile of goodness on top.

The next layer is the Buffalo Café’s famous hash browns, topped with grilled onions and spinach, topped with a couple eggs over easy, topped with a hearty covering of peppery cream gravy.

Holy heart attack, Batman!

This just might be one of the greatest breakfasts to grace Suit757’s taste buds.

The spice from the sausage, the pepper from the gravy, the sweetness from the onions, the crunch from the fried potatoes and the runny goodness of the eggs produced a kaleidoscope of flavors, textures and colors in every bite.

I even savored every bite of the buttered local nine-grain toast served on the side.

Normally I toss aside bread as a distraction to the main attraction. But not at the Buffalo Café.

Of course I couldn’t help but suffer a bit of buyer’s remorse -- not from dissatisfaction with my purchase. But from regret from just thinking about what else on the menu I might be missing.

I relieved a bit of my angst by ordering a side of Buffalo’s famous “Kansas City bacon”.

A Suit can never have too much meat after all.

Good call.

More like a cross between Canadian bacon and country ham, Buffalo’s Kansas City bacon was thick and smoky, an ideal accompaniment to a hall of fame breakfast.

I left Buffalo Café and Montana feeling like I had discovered something special.

You should too.

But hurry. It indeed just might be the last best place.

Rating: Bought the Shirt!


Buffalo Cafe on Urbanspoon


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Harris Crab House: More Fun than a Trip to the Shrink








Harris Crab House
433 Kent Narrow Way N.
Grasonville, MD






My Harris Crab House t-shirt sums it up perfectly:

“Group Therapy – One Bushel at a Time”

With a little waterman dude emblazoned on a big old bushel of freshly steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs.

(Spoiler Alert: I know I like to keep you in suspense until the end of the review, but…I bought the shirt.)

Some activities in life, like using a bathroom on a Regional Jet, man was meant to do alone.

But man is a social creature. We crave the company of other humans.

That is why other activities are best enjoyed in a group of friends.

Picking crabs is definitely one of those.

A crab feast is all about sitting outside on the water, passing around pitchers of cold beer, enjoying the sunshine and salty sea breeze and whiling away a lazy summer afternoon in conversation about matters simple or sublime, profound or frivolous.

Yeah, there is food involved. Sort of.

But a crab feast isn’t really about sustenance. It’s about the experience.

Group therapy.

Forget your daily routine, leave the laptop at home, power off your smart phone.

Get together with some friends you haven’t seen in a while, engage in dialogue that doesn’t involve thumbs on a tiny keyboard and hang out pounding away at bottom dwelling sea creatures with little wooden mallets.


The conversation, beer and sunshine provide the therapy. The crabs are just the excuse.

So for me, Harris’ perfect waterfront locale of its upstairs outdoor deck on Kent Narrows just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Annapolis is justification enough to bestow upon Harris the title of quintessential Maryland crab house.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.

That being said, the tab for our group therapy (there were eight of us) came to $500.

Ouch.

So no matter how bucolic the setting, for that price, you better dump some decent crabs onto the table in front of us.

In the three or four times I’ve visited Harris, the place hasn’t let me down yet.

While the conversation at any crab feast usually remains appropriately light, controversy can erupt unexpectedly.

Our most contentious discussion on this Saturday afternoon dealt with this very subject -- critiquing Maryland’s famous crab houses.

One person in particular in our little party was aware of my alias as an internationally-known world-famous food critic -- and took exception to my panning of Cantler’s on the other side of the bridge.

Cantler’s is arguably the most popular crab house in Maryland, but my lone experience there left much to be desired. (Read about it here.)

My argumentative friend declared, “You can’t say Cantler’s has bad crabs. Nobody MAKES crabs! They just serve whatever is caught in the crab pot.”

While I conceded his point that crab houses don’t “make” crabs (a guy at a higher pay grade gets the credit for that), there are some important rules to follow when you make your living selling bushels of crabs that cost more than an early model Ford Focus.

First of all, the crabs need to be fresh -- as in still kicking and clawing for life when you put them in the steamer.

Second, you need to steam the crabs the exact number of moments that turn their shells from blue to red without transforming their delicate crabmeat into crabmush.

And finally, the steamed crabs should be served within minutes -- not hours or days -- after emerging from the steamer.

I’m happy to say, Harris has this process down to a science.

Our four dozen “large” crabs (Harris was out of the much more expensive “extra-large” and “jumbos”) were dumped upon our brown paper-covered picnic table in perfect condition.

Bright red, still warm and coated in Harris’ signature salty seasoning, these 48 crustaceans provided the table with an afternoon of picking, pounding and prying.

And even a little bit of crabmeat.

You’ll burn more calories than you consume.

But that’s why God invented hush puppies as well as crabs.

Harris serves excellent puppies, warm, doughy and sweet.

Even more sweet was the moist cake-like corn bread.

Of course the most important part of any crab feast is not the crabs. Or the hush puppies. Or even the conversation.

It’s the beer.

Harris has a decent selection of local craft beers available in the bottle.

My Lot No. 3 IPA from Evolution Brewing Company in Salisbury was a new one for me.

Of course you can never go wrong with a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA from just down the Delmarva.

But let’s face it, if you are going to sit outside in the August sun all afternoon eating salt-coated crabs, even the most devout beer snob should switch eventually to pitchers of lower octane, lower priced good old American lager.

And that is basically how the afternoon unfolded.


We left the suits at home, put on our flip-flops, passed around cheap pitchers of Coors Light, soaked up the salt air and retold those decade old stories -- some of which even have a bit of truth to them.

Group therapy.

Yeah, $500 is a steep price to pay for an afternoon of hanging out on the Chesapeake.

But it’s a hell of a lot more fun than an appointment with your shrink.

Rating: I Already Told You -- Bought the Shirt!

Harris Crab House on Urbanspoon