Friday, January 21, 2011

Rusty Anchor Stone Crabs

This is the last of my three essays on the recent visit of Kirk and Jay from Seattle. My wife's cousin Kirk and his long time buddy Jay were in town for one brief night to check out family vacation possibilities for wives and offspring later in the year, and they neither of them knew anything about Key west. Only that Kirk's "cuz" lived around here. Kirk wanted stone crabs, so I sent a text to my colleague Keith who knows this sort of thing and this is what he recommended. Kirk loved it.When they drove into town Kirk and Jay stopped by our house at Mile Marker 27 and we then had lunch at Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key. That was a success, not only because the food is uniformly excellent and the service is efficient, but also because that restaurant is located in an unprepossessing barn more clearly labeled as a beauty salon (upstairs) than an excellent restaurant (downstairs). "We'd never have found this on our own," Kirk marveled as he wiped off the last crumb of fish on his plate. The Rusty Anchor in the boonies of Stock Island, a noted Conch hang out, gave off the same "off the beaten track" aura that Kirk loved. He didn't mind the stone crabs either. He was entranced by the "squid" rings- "No pretentious calamari here" he laughed. "Forget your Italian heritage, cuz!" he said to me as he scarfed his "squid" rings. They were delicious.Jay and i had fish, mine was mutton snapper rice and beans. No frills just an honest helping of fresh fish and proper Cuban sides, which I preferred over the potato and salad options.My wife joined Kirk in the stone crab dish. On the advice of the waitress they ordered the large as opposed to the jumbo on the grounds the flavor is better and there is less shell in the weight.It was a quiet night in the restaurant, not quite as quiet as I show here but I felt rather self conscious pointing a camera round the room so I aimed for the quietest corner.Jay and Kirk both thought the Rusty Anchor was the bee's knees.Our waitress was divine, a woman full of humor and chatter and she told an astonishing story of a life as a single mother moving from Cudjoe to Key Haven to be near her multiple jobs and raise her multiple children. Her children are almost all grown and scattered across the country following her footsteps on the college route from California to Key West. Kirk has this ability to draw people out and I watched, fascinated as he found shared experiences and drew the conversation along.Her son-in-law had invented an iPhone application and they were busy looking it up. She told of her other son laid off from his construction job, making unemployment and going fishing with his sister as his mate. She was immobilized after breaking both ankles in two freak accidents but she was out there in her wheelchair on the boat baiting for her brother. And so it went laughing all the time at these most unfortunate of stories. I hope Kirk tipped her enormously because she gave the meal a Key West flavor I could never have replicated.The stone crabs were the draw but the evening was quite a success for a totally different reason.How much we spent I have no idea (thank you cousin Kirk!) but he said the meal was exceptionally reasonable and included coffee and Key Lime Pie (not tart enough...the search continues for the best). Now I need some more out of town guests to justify a return visit. If you want to check out their website you can't because the Rusty Anchor doesn't bother with electronic folderol. You can find them on 5th Avenue on Stock Island and read the reviews on Trip Advisor, which are a mixed bunch. It was good for us, though this is the first time I have been there in ages. Silly me.