All posts by Colleen

Elliott’s Seafood

Elliott’s Seafood
10922 Adkins Road
Berlin, MD 21811
410-641-5938
Facebook page: Elliott’s Seafood on Facebook
 
 
Aug. 22, 2016
 
 
After a kayaking trip down the Pocomoke River in Snow Hill, the desire for steamed crabs turned out to be a strong one, but they needed to come from somewhere different. Google and Facebook suggested Elliott’s Seafood in Berlin, close to Ocean Pines.
 
The long, red crab barn is located on Bill Elliott’s property, parallel to his home. There’s no question the crabs are local. The crab pots and bushel baskets are stacked up behind the long red barn that houses a freezer, steaming pots, office and customer service area.
 
Elliott catches the crabs himself south of Assateague and steams them up to order, seasoning them with J.O. Spice.
 
At this carry-out operation, a dozen mediums and larges cost $30 in late August. A half-bushel (four dozen, actually) cost $75.
 
The heavy half-bushel, packed in a vodka box, turns out to be just what he said it would be mediums and larges. Some are a little light. Some are extremely heavy. Seasoned well, these crabs made for several meals with some claws left over for soup.
 
Elliott’s makes the list of go-to places near Ocean City.

Grinder’s Seafood

Grinder’s Seafood
4665 Indian Head Hwy.
Indian Head, MD 20640
301-743-7344

Facebook page: Grinder’s on Facebook
 
 

July 30, 2016
 
 
After a nearly 16-mile bike ride in Southern Maryland, the four of opted to venture into Grinder’s Seafood, not knowing what to expect.
 
From the outside, it looks like a dive bar, just a red brick building across the highway from a Dollar Tree and a Super 8 motel.
 
Inside, it’s a small, bright, clean place decorated with a crab theme. Clearly, this is a locals joint. Small booths and tables are lined with brown paper awaiting hungry crab eaters. Crab eaters are given buckets for their shells and provided two types of vinegar. Off to one side of the restaurant is a party room that was set up for a birthday.
 
The afternoon we were there, Grinder’s had mediums for $40/dozen and larges for $60/dozen and deals on females. And, the restaurant was advertising snakehead bites as a local delicacy.
 
We opted for a dozen mediums. You order at the counter and the crabs are brought to your table. The odd thing the person taking the order didn’t do was to give us our drinks right away. They came with the meal, something I can’t say I’ve ever encountered before.
 
The crabs, caught in the nearby Potomac River, varied in weight. I’d love to tell you with what they were season, but our friendly, young server didn’t know and didn’t ask anyone. She thought Old Bay, but it tasted more like J.O. seasoning and had rock salt in it.
 
As we waited for our crabs to be cooked, our friend’s alligator sandwich, snakehead bites and fries came out, and so did our corn fritters. The gator sandwich wasn’t anything my friend would rave about, but of course, her brother catches alligators for fun. The snakehead bites were interesting, and the fries came with crab seasoning on them, catching the woman who ordered them off-guard.
 
Now, the corn fritters (and, I’m not a fritter fan) were excellent. I’m sorry we didn’t order more.
 
I found the crabs tasty and overall quite good. One of my companions, who may be more particular about his crabs than I am, thought they were overcooked. I saw no signs of the crabs being steamed for too long. Not a one was mushy. As for the price, it seemed about right for the time of the year.
 
Grinder’s gets high marks as a casual place to crack a few crabs with friends and for its clean bathroom, something that can never be under-rated.

The Crackpot Restaurant

The Crackpot Restaurant
8102 Loch Raven Blvd.
Towson, MD 21286
410-828-1095
Website: The Crackpot Restaurant
 
 
June 4, 2016
 
 
Sometimes you just have to go back to a place because you remember it as a kid.
 
The Crackpot qualifies as one of those places. Growing up not far from Loch Raven Boulevard, this was the place my mother and the neighbors would go for a fairly cheap dinner and drinks. Some nights it would be a dinner out there, or maybe a bingo game across the street in the shopping center near the county library. The bingo hall has long disappeared. The Crackpot has not.
 
Opening back in 1972, The Crackpot was probably the “happening place.”
 
I remember it as being fairly large and having a pretty big bar. The crabcakes, fish platters and fried shrimp platters were favorites in the 1970s, and if I remember correctly, the adults loved the beers and whiskey sours.
 
I remember it as the place with the chunky wood fisherman-type chairs you see in a lot of traditional seafood places.
 
Now, it seems much smaller but is more open. The big bar area that used to be walled off is now open to the dining room. A separate liquor store by the same name sits next door. Of course, it may seem smaller because I’m no longer the little kid tagging along.
 
The smells of seafood are still there, and the retro 1970s nautical feel remains, complete with large swordfish and sailfish on the walls and crab traps hanging above.
 
The other thing that hasn’t changed is the friendly neighborhood vibe. Our server was friendly. The people at the next table were friendly. The guy coming in to get carry-out was friendly.
 
The crabs – a dozen large – were expensive at $85, something to be expected that time of the year. They were hefty and seasoned well, not a generic Old Bay blend, something a touch spicier.
 
No doubt I’ll be back – out of nostalgia and probably to try the huge crabcakes The Crackpot advertises.

Country Barn Seafood

Country Barn Seafood

10852 Cathell Rd.

Berlin, Md. 21811
410-641-5164

 

Aug. 30, 2013

 

The newspaper ad advertised “hard and fat” crabs, so I just had to find out what Country Barn Seafood had to offer.

 

The gruff voice on the phone rattled off Labor Day weekend prices between $30 a dozen and $66 a dozen, and the carry-out business would only take “cash or check.”

 

How are they running, I ask? I wanted to see what kind of an answer I’d get.

 

“It’s the way I grade the crabs. They’re all heavy,” says Charles “Speedy” Voss, co-owner of Country Barn Seafood.

 

He’s the only one there, so he’ll need some time to get the crabs ready.

 

Not a problem for me, since I’m in Ocean City and Country Barn is in Ocean Pines, down Cathell Road past the hardware store.

 

I order a dozen medium-large at $54.

 

“J.O. or spicy?” he asks.

 

At first I don’t realize he’s asking me how I want the crabs seasoned. I tell him to make them spicy, and then I tell him to make them like he likes them. He says he’ll go easy on the spicy.

 

Arriving at the Country Barn Seafood, Voss is sorting crabs into bushel baskets. But he’s not just measuring them for their size in length. He’s checking out each crab’s abdomen. Its color determines its fullness. He’s also checking out its back swimming leg is to determine what stage of molting the crab is in.

 

Lightly spiced, the local crabs from the Choptank and Wye rivers lived up to his “hard and fat” guarantee. Voss’ careful sorting pays off.

 

There wasn’t a light one in the batch. Each crab was full and sweet – how they are supposed to be.

 

While the business is no-frills inside, it does offer a nice touch – a stack of old newspapers so you have something to crack your crabs on.

 

Country Barn Seafood is a “keeper” if you’re looking for steamed crabs in Ocean Pines, just don’t expect a baker’s dozen.

 

 

 

Tim’s II at Fairview Beach

Tim’s II at Fairview Beach

5411 Pavilion Drive

King George, VA 22485

540-775-7500

 

June 29, 2013

 

Don’t go for the crabs. Go for the atmosphere. I had, I wouldn’t call it high hopes, just hope that the crabs at Tim’s II at Fairview Beach would be better than the original Tim’s.

 

Tim’s II gets a five out of five for atmosphere, but that’s about it. Sitting on the deck at Fairview, you are right on the river. It’s easy to get mesmerized by the scene – boats just anchored in the Potomac River and families enjoying themselves. On a sunny day it’s fantastic to soak up the rays and just kick back.

 

While it bills itself as a crabhouse, the first tipoff not to get the crabs should have been that nobody else was eating the crabs. They were drinking and eating sandwiches.

 

Tipoff two should have been that nobody knew from where the crabs came. One answer, the Chesapeake. Another answer, I don’t know. Third answer, I’m not sure. Virginia, maybe. The fourth answer, the Potomac. The last answer came after I asked the waitress to ask the people in the kitchen or the manager.  My best guess is the last answer was the most accurate, based on the small size and taste.  The crabs were small and very lightly seasoned.

 

Of course, the waitress, cute as she was, left me wondering whether she ever cracked a crab. When you have to ask for a mallet or something with which to open the crabs, and the waitress’ response is something to the effect of, “I’ll have to look around,” it really leaves you feeling the place is clueless.

 

Once the waitress offered up a dowel to crack the crabs, we basically never saw her again. It’s a good thing I didn’t order the all-you-can-eat, or I’d still be sitting there waiting for her to come back. No drink refills. No, is everything OK. If the place had been packed, I could have excused the lack of service, but it wasn’t.

 

If you go, enjoy the view but spend your money on something other than the crabs.

 

 

 

 

 

S & J Crab Ranch

 

S & J Crab Ranch

2 W. Pennsylvania Ave.

Towson, Md. 21204

 

June 22, 2013

 

Our plans for a Saturday afternoon in Baltimore County originally did not include a trip to S&J Crab Ranch. In fact, we really wanted to go to The Barn, and relive the nostalgia of having had our “crabs and beer” wedding reception there 20 years earlier. But The Barn didn’t open for crabs until 4:30 p.m., and we were there a couple of hours earlier, so we went off in search of other crab options.

 

Rather than hit any of the Baltimore-area crab joints I knew would be good, we went to S&J Crab Ranch in the heart of Towson, next door to the Elks.

 

This restaurant has the air of a sports bar. Near the front door, crabs are painted with university team logos and the state flag.

 

The place was virtually empty. OK, it was 3 p.m. on a sunny Saturday, so I guess I can understand it.

 

We sat in the bar area and had our choice of a booth or table for four. As the Orioles game played on one big screen TV and the Nationals on the other on one of bar’s brick walls, we took a table, and were greeted by one of the nicest waitresses I’ve encountered in a long time.

 

Yes, she knew the crabs were from North Carolina. Yes, she was very clear it would take at least 25 minutes to steam them to order. No, the restaurant didn’t serve pre-steamed crabs.

 

We ponied up the big bucks for the X-large crabs, $79 a dozen.

 

A half-hour after we ordered (and after some tasty, sweet potato fries), 13 crabs arrived along with Bud Light NFL buckets for the shells. We opted against the melted butter and vinegar that were offered and started cracking.

 

With country music blaring the latest hits and sports on the TVs, we spent a leisurely 2 ½ hours at S&J, eating and chatting occasionally with the young waitress who was working her way through college and grew up literally one street from where I did.

 

Seasoned lightly with what the waitress said was Old Bay with touch of mustard and rock salt, the crabs were decent but a touch inconsistent.

 

I loved that it was a baker’s dozen. Overall, the crabs scored as X-large crabs, but four were light and runny. Seven of the crabs qualified as heavy and two fared as average. I’m guessing whoever steamed the crabs knew there were a few light ones in there, and threw in No. 13 to compensate.

 

Overall, on a slow Saturday afternoon S&J Crab Ranch was a pleasant experience, although a touch pricey. If you go, get Courtney to wait on you and leave her a big tip.

 

Beachy’s Seafood

NO LONGER IN BUSINESS

142nd St. & Coastal Hwy.

14107 Coastal Hwy.

Ocean City, Maryland 21842

410-664-5990

 

 

Nestled between a dry cleaner and a convenience store, you might miss Beachy’s Seafood in Ocean City. For the last couple of years, the joint has been shut up tight. But no longer.

 

This little red gem on Coastal Highway at 142nd Street behind the Exxon is under new management and it clearly shows.

 

Beth Pruitt and Shawn Parks spent several weeks scrubbing down the carry-out and sprucing it up before opening the doors.

 

Clean and bright, the inside of the shop is decorated with an authentic waterman’s theme – oyster tongs, crab netting, crab traps and other boating paraphernalia.

 

Parks is a waterman, originally from Tangier Island, Va., a community known for its ties to the crabbing industry. He and Pruitt are very friendly. They don’t hesitate to talk with customers, and they answer questions without hesitation. They seem to love what they’re doing.

 

The crabs, fish and oysters are all local. Everything is fresh and cooked to order.

 

Unlike other Ocean City crab joints, the crabs are not pre-steamed. Parks says he won’t do it. You’ll have to wait the half-hour it takes to steam them.

 

On Memorial Day, the half hour was worth the wait for the Maryland crabs. A dozen mediums cost $30. They ranged in size from plump, 5-inchers to lighter, 6-inchers and came in a baker’s dozen.

 

Seasoned heavily with J.O. #2, these tasty crabs made for a great end to a long holiday weekend.

 

Next time, the game plan will be to try the flounder or maybe go for what Beachy’s bills as “Homemade Tangier Island Crabcakes.”

 

beachyshot_crabssign_inside menu_customerssign_outside beth_pruitt shawn_parks crabs2 claws seasonings inside_crab lump

Steamers Crab & Seafood Co.

Steamers Crab & Seafood Co.

Route 26

Millville, Delaware

302-539-6700

 

 

 

August 28, 2012

 

The big red building reminds you of a barn, and the crabs inside are definitely farmed fresh out of the Chesapeake and its tributaries. Steamers, located just outside of Bethany Beach in Millville, is hustling and bustling carryout, even on a weekday.

 

The crabs, delivered daily, are sorted by size. At Steamers’ seafood counter, a pleasant young woman tips us off that the medium/large are heavy, so we opt for a dozen of the 5 ½-inch to 6-inch crabs and wait patiently on the parking lot since each order is cooked to order.

 

About 20 to 25 minutes later, the counter woman yells out our name. The bag’s weight tells me the tip and our $37 pay off.

 

Back in Ocean City, we pop a couple of adult beverages and start cracking. The crabs are very full and well seasoned. Many of these 6-inch crabs clocked in closer to 6 ½. The count is a baker’s dozen.  (Don’t you love crab shacks that do that? I do.)

 

While Steamers is only a carryout, it scores well for efficiency and friendliness. Offering a variety of seafood, including oysters, scallops and homemade Maryland crab soup, it definitely made the list of beach crab joints to try again.

Rippons Seafood

Rippons Seafood

120th St. & Coastal Hwy
1911 Coastal Hwy.
Ocean City, Maryland 21842

410-723-0056

June 22, 2012

 

The drive to the beach turned out to be long – 4 hours – and through crazy downpours. As I got to Ocean City, I kept having an internal debate: Should I get crabs? I found myself then debating whether I should try Rippons? Years ago, the crabs there didn’t agree with me. But my gut told me to try again.

 

Before I realized it, I had driven to Rippons, a stand-alone brick building on 120th Street bayside, next to the Ocean City Square Shopping Center. It’s been there since 1985.

 

The friendly guy behind the counter spelled out the options for me and recommended the local crabs, calling them “decent.” The choice would be $25 a dozen for mediums (5- to 5 ½ inches), $35 a dozen for medium-large (5 ½- to 6-inch) or $60 a dozen for large (6- to 6 ½-inch). The medium-larges, he told me, would be full, but the selling point – the fact the crabs came out of Chesapeake Bay waters, some from Crisfield and some from near Hooper’s Island – sold me. OK, I also wasn’t willing to shell out (pun intended) $60 for North Carolina crabs.

 

I managed to get to Rippons just before the early Friday dinner crowd, and as I waited, the popularity of the place became obvious.  At least a half dozen people ordered as I waited for my crabs. One regular who came for shrimp joked that he wanted to sit in front of the fresh seafood counter so he could “drool on the food.”

 

I must admit the fresh seafood, Maryland-packed Wind Mizz crab meat and homemade crab soup looked tempting. Everything looked tempting. I was hungry. Rather than add more food to my order, I did kick in an extra $6.99 for a 1-pound container of seasoning. The counter worker told me seasoning was the same type used to steam the crabs, a mix of the commercial brand JO2 and other spices Rippons used.

 

The heavy bag of crabs I was handed told me I’d made a good choice. I cracked it open the bag in the car and let the steam rise up, fogging up my glasses as my finger swiped a taste of the seasoning.

 

With the Coastal Fisherman newspaper laid out on the table, I poured out the crabs. I picked out one of the bigger crabs, a completely full one. I let my tongue enjoy the first claw, holding it in my mouth to really taste it. My reaction: I hope the rest taste as sweet. My mouth was on fire, and I couldn’t stop licking my fingers. For me, that’s always a good sign.

 

A quick count revealed I received 13 crabs. The crabs all met the minimum size requirement. A couple actually measured 6 ½ inches. Some were right on the verge of being the next size, and I’d call three light. With it being early in the season, I couldn’t argue with a few being light. But two, sadly, qualified as mushy, a bit overcooked.

 

As I worked my way through the baker’s dozen, another internal debate started, only this time it was the good wife/bad wife dilemma. Should I eat all of them? Should I save the biggest of them for my husband?  The answer: The good wife saved him three. The bad wife just couldn’t hold out. She ate the biggest one.

The Masthead at Pier Street Marina

The Masthead at Pier Street Marina

104 West Pier Street
Oxford, MD 21654
410-226-5171

 

August 13, 2011

 

For a nice afternoon, try the crabs at The Masthead at Pier Street Marina in Oxford, Md. There’s no question you’ll love the outdoor deck where the water at high tide might lap up and gently wet your feet.

 

The crabs are without question from Chesapeake Bay. On an August Saturday afternoon, we had the option of all-you-can-eat for $25 or the same crabs for $30 a dozen. This decision was an easy one since we were part of a large group getting together for an annual reunion – all-you-can-eat.

 

The crabs were mediums but decently full and well-seasoned, scoring a 3 on a scale of 5 for taste and a 4 for size. On a cloudy day, as we chatted with old friends and watched the 80th annual Oxford Regatta in the Tred Avon River, the atmosphere couldn’t have been better, a 5.

 

But, and there’s always a but, the one thing that always (and we go every year and it happens every time we’re there) that brings The Masthead down is its lousy service. How lousy, you ask? If you don’t get your drink order and crab order in right away, you never see your waitress again. One guy in our group never got his crabs, and when he asked about it, he was told to have some crabs off everybody else’s platters. When he sought out the waitress, we were able to get more crabs, but really, should you have to ask for more crabs when it’s all-you-can-eat? I could be more forgiving, but place wasn’t busy when we were there, and it definitely wasn’t understaffed.

 

If you go, don’t expect good service but do expect to have a good time with old friends at a lovely location. Because of the substandard service, The Masthead only gets a 3 for its overall rating.