The Drift Inn Crab House, Mechanicsville, Maryland

UPDATE: Closed for the season.

Mechanicsville is an unincorporated community in St. Mary’s County, or a wide place in the road. It has fewer than 2,000 residents, but more than its share of good places to eat, with the Smokehouse Barbecue Shack and Captain Leonard’s. My friend, Eric Zabiegalski and I headed to Mechanicsville to try the Drift Inn.

The Drift Inn is another good place to eat. It’s said to be in Mechanicsville mainly because it certainly isn’t anywhere else. It’s over four miles miles away on the banks of the Patuxent River. To get there, you turn off 5 onto 6 across from Captain Leonard’s and, like everyone else, miss the right turn onto Delabrooke and, like everyone else, drive across a path of grass to get back on the route. One of the reasons people miss the turn onto Delabrooke is that it’s right after a tobacco field, a reminder of Southern Maryland’s recent past. When I drove by, they were harvesting the tobacco, a tough job on a hot day.

Delabrooke soon continues under the alias “Horse Landing.” Soon, Horse Landing’s name becomes Riverview, and you’re at the Drift Inn.

That’s Eric’s truck in the foreground, complete with megaladon tooth on the grill.

The Drift Inn is set on the Patuxent River, well away from any distractions.  There are some outside tables, but it was a hot day and Eric and I headed inside. There are three well ventilated rooms: a long room on the water filled with tables for steamed crabs, a dining room landward, and a third room with the bar and some tables. That’s where Eric and I sat.

The bar room is blessed with a great air conditioning system, and decorated with lots of old and new local photos of crabbing and fishing. The tables themselves are covered with, working from top down, brown crab paper from big rolls, newspaper, and easy-clean tablecloths decorated variously with puppies and kittens, shells, or toys. One idiosyncrasy worthy of study by academics is that there are two men’s rooms right next to each other at one end of the building, near the bar entrance, and two ladies’ rooms right next to each other at the far end of the building.

The place was busy at 1:30 on a Monday. After a glance at the menu, I predictably ordered a soft shell crab sandwich,

and on impulse I got a side of fried clam strips.

Eric was being circumspect in the wake of a visit to Captain Leonard’s, during which he, with some help from Kim, had polished off 18 hushpuppies. Eric settled on a bowl of cream of crab soup topped by two crab balls

and, on a less circumspect whim, an order of corn nuggets.

Corn nuggets turn out to be sweet, and nothing like hushpuppies. They’re made of wheat flour and kernels of corn, fried and dusted with powdered sugar. The result is very tasty, and the center has an almost liquid consistency. The cream of crab soup was quite thick, thicker, I believe, than Eric would have liked. After all, he was trying to compensate for all of those hushpuppies. He allowed that the crab balls were quite good.

My sandwich was a treat, fresh, and properly fried. I really do love soft-shell crabs, and this was a good one. The fried clam strips also were tasty, especially considering their lesser potential for greatness, and went well with the Drift Inn’s above average cocktail sauce. I also ordered unsweetened tea to drink. It was outstanding, the best I’ve had since I don’t know when.

All in all it was a memorable meal. A trip to the Drift Inn seems like something out of the past, from the tobacco harvest to the tablecloths, but an extremely valuable part of the past. The customers were a mix of people from various backgrounds, or so it appeared, the atmosphere was relaxed and homey, and the food was delicious. It’s good to get off the beaten path, to take the road less travelled. You can find a memorable meal.


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