One of my best childhood memories is going down to the docks in Tampa with my Dad and getting deviled crabs at Seabreeze Restaurant. They'd come out steaming hot and we'd load em up with hot sauce and eat em outside by the water... never mind the smell of the bay or the industrial nature of the area. I've had them since at Alessi and other spots, but they never seem to be quite as good at Seabreeze. (Maybe it's the moment in time.)
Today, I popped by my favorite Cuban place near my parents house (La Cubanita Cafe) for some cafe con leche. When I saw "Deviled Crabs" on their daily menu, I had to order one. I brought it home to split it with my Dad. Damned if it wasn't pretty close to what I remember. If you haven't had a Tampa-style deviled crab before, here's what you do:
1) Remove from the bag and breathe it in.
UPDATE: I just popped by La Cubanita again this morning for cafe con leche and Cuban toast and chatted with the owner about how good the deviled crabs were. Turns out there's good reason why his taste better than Alessi's. Alessi's uses frozen ones from the distributor. He used to also, but eight years ago, he got his shipment in and the crab meat was poor quality and they had ketchupy taste (ed note: and I think they come out soft instead of crisp when you bite into them). Then and there he decided La Cubanita would hand make their own deviled crabs in the shop. As he said, "Ingredients matter. I use quality crab meat to ensure a good filling and Japanese panko bread crumbs to get the crispy outside."
For the purported recipe of the famed Seabreeze Restaurant deviled crabs, click here. Maybe one day I'll attempt it. (Dear Santa, please bring me a Fry Baby)
In the mean time, who do you think has the best deviled crabs in Tampa?
La Cubanita is located at 3240 Lithia Pinecrest Road in Valrico, FL.