Ode to “The Rah Bar” and its Low Country Boil

Return to Jekyll Island

My wife and I actually have something in common with J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, Astors, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Macys, Goodyears and other absurdly wealthy money barons of the early twentieth century: we’ve all spent time on Jekyll Island, Georgia, the “jewel in the crown” of its Golden Isles. Of course those guys did it by building “cottages” (small mansions) around a grand central clubhouse in the center of the island, and lingering there during the winter months. We did it more on the cheap, opting for weekends at the Beachview Club, a moderately priced older motel with a hot tub and heated pool on the ocean side of the island.

Beachview BeachBefore the storm: Jekyll Island beach in front of the Beachview Motel. Because the island is a Georgia State Park, every inch of sand is open to the public. (my photo)

When the one-percenters of yore eventually moved on, they left their enormous clubhouse behind, which became, in time, the grandly sprawling Jekyll Island Club Hotel anchoring the island’s central Historic District. We’ve never stayed there (it’s pricey!), but if you want a small taste of that Indulgent Era of Olde, you’re welcome to give it a go.

valentines544Happy couple at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, strolling by ancient live oaks with Spanish moss (hotel photo).

Two truckers, elbow patches, and near hysteria at The “Rah” Bar.

We went to Jekyll Island at least ten times (I really have lost count) and it didn’t take us long to settle on our favorite eatery, The “Rah” Bar, sitting at the end of a long dock on the Intracoastal Waterway, directly opposite the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. It’s all “al fresco,” and the simple menu of seafood and sandwiches is served up in cardboard containers and on paper plates. It’s super casual and congenial – an alternative to the adjoining and more upscale Latitude 31. Another bonus is that the entire island is never very crowded, and you can almost always find an empty table at The “Rah” Bar.

RahBarOur favorite place on Jekyll: The “Rah” Bar on the Intracoastal, just after a rain shower. The “Rah” makes the place feel kind of collegial. (my photo)

On one occasion, when we were dining sloppily on their famous Low Country Boil, we struck up a conversation with a couple of guys at the next table. They were truckers on their way from the Florida Keys up to New Jersey somewhere, and decided to spend the night on the island. We had fun with those two guys – they were friendly and outgoing, quick-witted and pretty well loosened up and jolly after a few beers.

dockThe long dock heading to The “Rah” Bar (under the cupola, straight ahead) and Latitude 31 (enclosed restaurant on the right). (Latitude 31 website photo)

Well, soon enough, we spotted a couple of nattily dressed guys heading toward us down the long dock. Sandals, Bermuda shorts, sweaters, every hair in place… I figured they were hotel guests headed for Latitude 31.

And here’s what followed:

“Hey,” said one trucker guy to us, eyeing the men, “check it out.”

We did.

“Check the sweaters.”

We did. The two men wore sweaters with leather elbow patches.

“They got elbow patches,” said the other trucker.

I said, “Yep, they do.”

“Elbow patches on sweaters! Those sweaters are brand new!”

The two men with elbow patches got closer to the dock, almost within earshot. The truckers were starting to giggle with glee. And the giggles started to deepen into full-throated belly laughs.

“Elbow patches!” Har har hawr!

Their laughter was contagious, so we succumbed and started laughing, too.

Why?? So they can crawl home at night?” Har HAR HAWR! Those guys were on fire.

The two men strolled into Latitude 31 without hearing them. Har har hawr “elbow patches!!” they roared, “to crawl home at night – too drunk to walk but, hey, I got ELBOW PATCHES, no problem!!”  HAR HAR HAR!!

This went on for several minutes and I thought, “this could get out of control” as the two guys all but fell out of their chairs to pound the dock with their fists. Eventually, it calmed down a bit, the “HAR HARS” reduced to titters, but if there was ever a single theme to mark an evening at the “Rah” Bar it was “elbow patches.”

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On a personal note, I’ve never worn elbow patches (or knee patches, for that matter) on anything, and am certain I never will. I’m not sure I see any advantage to them.

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The “Rah” Bar’s famous Low Country Boil

big3Low Country Boil at the “Rah” Bar. (their website photo)

I’ve had Low Country Boil at other places, but this is by far my favorite – and a lot of it has to do with the sausage and the spices in the broth. The Boil is a big, sloppy, outdoor eating celebration for several people, combining small red potatoes, corn on the cob, crawdaddies, shrimp, dungeness crab legs, andouille sausage and melted butter, and it’s popular all over the Deep South- especially along the coast.

To serve 4, you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs. extra large peel ‘n’ eat shrimp
  • 2 lbs. small red potatoes
  • 2 lbs. crawdaddies (crawfish)
  • 2 lbs. dungeness crab legs
  • 3-4 ears of corn, cut in half
  • 2 lbs. Swaggerty’s fresh (raw) sausage links, cut into 1″ long chunks
  • J.O. No. 1 Seafood Seasoning – about 1/2 cup or to taste
  • about 6 oz. melted butter, seasoned with the above, to taste
  • an outdoor cooker, or large lobster pot for stovetop

Both Swaggerty’s amazing sausage links and J.O. Spices aren’t available here (as far as I know) but can be ordered online. Of course you can substitute as you want – choose snow crab legs instead of dungeness, go with Old Bay instead of J.O., Aidell’s andouille sausage or kielbasa instead of Swaggerty’s – but it won’t be the same.

Here’s what you do:

  • Fill the pot with about 4 gallons of water, add the seasoning and bring to a rolling boil.
  • Add the potatoes, return to boil, and cook 5 minutes.
  • Add the sausage, return to boil, and cook another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
  • Add the corn, shrimp, crawdads, and crab legs, return to a boil, and cook another 3-4 minutes.
  • melt the butter and season as you wish. Serve it in small cups.
  • drain everything through a colander, serve on beer trays, or lay out newspaper on a picnic table and spread the food over the paper. Serve the butter in cups or drizzle over everything. Have lobster crackers and seafood picking doohickeys laid out and wear a bib or clothes you don’t care about. Forks and knives optional.

Outrageously delicious! And the wonderful thing is, it’s long and leisurely and incredibly messy. Hose down afterwards.

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Big thanks to Jenna Guess, manager of both The “Rah” Bar and Latitude 31, for helping me with this recipe. And a huge hello to Eddie Pickett, guitarist and singer for the Wharfratz (and solo), terrific tennis player and a great guy who became a friend over those ten years of visiting. He’s a frequent performer at The “Rah” Bar.

There you have it.

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Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, humorist, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.