Photos by Josie Koler
Even when the mercury hits 92°, six out of ten hungry diners indulge in this cold weather concoction. Ideal to eat when the temps plunge in co-owner’s John Myers’ Pennsylvania hometown, the hot item is proving to be a hit in the heat at his Ramrod Key restaurant, Boondocks Grill and Drafthouse. His two chefs go “rock, paper, scissors,” every morning to see who’s going to sweat over the stove to simmer one of the island’s most requested items. For this entry, the Key West Weekly is spoonin’ up Creamy Crab and Asparagus Soup!
“Obviously it’s hot. But, people still like it!”
George Sprague is Boondocks’ day cook. He and Chef Andy Baker cook the creamy crab and asparagus creation every morning at about 7:30. This middle keys admixture has been in the Myer’s family recipe for only four years, but has curbed the appetite of diners from MM 27.5 all the way to their other family restaurant in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, the Wrightsville Inn Grille and Drafthouse, 1,306 miles north of the inviting tiki hut on US 1.
“John, his father, and I put our heads together. Through trial and error, we came up with this soup. We like good food. We’ve taken Best of York County for Colossal Crab Cakes,” John’s mom, Ruth says over the phone from her northeast eatery. “We’re three blocks from the Susquehanna River. Everyone kayaks, canoes, and boats. People have cabins and stay out there, so we do a lot with the boaters.”
And sell a lot of soup! Even when the temperature hits 88°, as the mercury read today.
“We even had to close this summer in July. Was so hot the temperature inside the kitchen hit 138°! But, people still order the soup. We’ll sell close to 300 bowls by the end of this weekend. I make five gallons a day,” Ruth shares the soup’s success. “My son actually flew me down to teach George and Andy the technicalities of cooking the soup the proper way. There’s a technique to the madness.”
You can’t make the soup in one big pot. Otherwise, the cream won’t thicken.
Made 100% from scratch, the soup is designed for days in dark denim, coats, and ski hats. Nonetheless, Ruth, flew in to see if the Creamy Crab and Asparagus would fly amongst diners feeling free to feast in bikinis, board shorts, and flip-flops— not boots!
Sprague and Baker sweated and stirred, and fine-tuned the Myers’ major seller. Right now, they make four batches a week, equal to four gallons. In season, they guys’ll stir up seasonal residents by simmering three gallons a day!
“Obviously, cold weather helps sell soups,” Sprague supplies. “It’s crazy to me. People come in from different places. They then buy the soup by the quart or gallon to take home.”
The same practice seen in Pennsylvania.
“I sell it to-go, sell it by the pints, sell it by the quarts,” Ruth is quizzical about the soup’s popularity in the summer months. “We go home and think, “It’s so hot out! Why would anyone eat creamy crab soup? But they do!”
The cooks at both restaurants coddle the colossal, lump crabmeat with sherry with heavy cream, butter, secret seasonings, roux, an agent to “thicken it up,” and asparagus. Tips only.
“The stalk can get chewy, and if we left the stalk in the soup would turn green,” says Sprague. “Which might be good for St. Patrick’s Day…”
At Boondocks, order by the cup for an appetizer, or in a sourdough bread bowl to share with a date, or eat by yourself as a meal. John’s mom serves in a crock with a lid.
“We have two different presentations. The creamy crab soup sells like it’s a glass of water. I had no idea who would eat this!”
But they can’t seem to make enough.
Even when the air is as steamy as the creamy crab and asparagus union.
Boondocks is open daily 365 days a year and even during small hurricanes from 11 am – 11 pm. The soup goes on the stove Monday thru Friday at 7:30 am! Every batch takes 5 hours to cook.
A side note: Ruth says she doesn’t have a miniature golf course at her Wrightsville, Pennsylvania establishment like the one on Ramrod Key, but is proud announce she has a new beer cooler!