“Captain’s Sailing for Perfection”

by Ryan DuVall
Restaurant Critic for The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

It’s not quite warm enough to get the boat out of the garage, but in my book, it is never too early to head to the lake for some food.

As a matter of fact, during my first visit to Captain’s Cabin on Crooked Lake in Angola, I was reminded that the lake can be even more inviting in the dead of winter. A man was walking his dogs across the quaint, snow-covered lake during that first visit. And my 4-year-old loved that the restaurant’s parking lot is right on the water and spent about 10 minutes playing on the ice before we headed inside for supper.

Captain’s Cabin is, indeed, a cabin. The tables have log for legs, and the reflections of the candles on every table flicker on the glossy-finished log walls and ceilings. The view from the dining room is breathtaking. So, with a great view and a perfectly chilled martini in a fancy stainless steel glass in one hand, I dove right into the menu, which was heavy on the seafood.

For starters, I opted for the creole shrimp and a cup of clam chowder. Before I received either, I was given a basket with a variety of crackers and a crock of cheese spread. The spread – a Wisconsin cheddar I am sure – was thick and rich, and I had to slow down because I was eating too much of it. Then, a basket of Amish-style rolls arrived. These yeasty, chewy, oddly shaped rolls were perfect, and I really had to stop before I filled up.

The shrimp appetizer was served over Captain’s Cabin’s signature bleu cheese slaw. It included four gigantic, perfectly cooked shrimp smothered in a zesty, more-peppery-than-spicy sauce. The slaw, which can also be ordered as a side, was quite savory.If you like your slaw sweet, you will not like this. And if you don’t like bleu cheese, you probably won’t love this slaw. Captain’s Cabin makes it’s bleu cheese dressing from scratch, and it is heavy on the cheese.

The clam chowder was creamy with a decent amount of potato, celery, onion and a few spices. Although the clams were chopped a tad too fine for my liking, the broth was bursting with the essence of clam, so there was no mistaking this for potato soup.

During this first visit, I went right to the top for my first entree and sampled the large South African cold-water lobster tail. The 16-ounce behemoth sells at market price, which was a hefty $62 when I dined. It was worth every penny. Forget the “Lobster fest” commercials you see on TV from the chain with the big red crustacean – this tail blows away anything you can get there. Perfectly browned on top (i.e. very lightly), this tail was tender and sweet with just enough texture from the broiler. It was served with a candle-heated crock of butter and a half lemon, which was nestled inside a cute little mesh diaper of sorts, which prevented seeds or pulp from getting on the shellfish.

If you are hankering for crab, you can get a pound of Alaskan king crab legs at market price, or if you need a little beef too, get the Captain’s Combo Bull and Legs – a half-pound of those crab legs with an 8-ounce Black Angus filet. (note: you can get an 8-ounce lobster tail with the same filet if you order the Bull and Tail Combo).

The crab legs, like the lobster were impressive-looking. They were already split and easy to handle – always an issue with legs, especially the spiny Alaskan ones – and there was a ton of stringy, sweet, delectable meat in each one. Was it as good as the lobster? No, but what crab is? But they were better than any legs I have had at other places. In this combo, the filet was truly king. This big filet, which is what I would call beef baseball, was seared perfectly on top with just a dash of salt and pepper. The meat inside was bright pink, and juice poured out onto my plate with every cut. It was simply tremendous.

As was my first trip to Captain’s Cabin. I ended my dinner with a bowl of the restaurant’s somewhat famous peppermint ice cream, which was bright pink and full of tiny sweet bits of peppermint candy. Peppermint ice cream is a rarity these days, and peppermint ice cream as good as the one Captain’s Cabin serves is even scarcer.

By the time I made it back to Captain’s Cabin for my second visit, the ice had melted away. But the picturesque view and quaint atmosphere were still there. And so were the crackers and cheese spread, and those great rolls.