Leo’s Seafood Restaurant

Leo’s Seafood Restaurant
139th Street
Ocean City, Md. 21842
410-250-1600 or 410-250-9936

Aug. 22, 2010

“Leo’s had bigger crabs” read the note from my older brother. In choosing Leo’s over another Ocean City crab joint, he said his decision was a “no brainer.”

My brother’s advice is usually pretty good, but would it hold up to my crab shack standards? More than a decade ago I know I went to Leo’s, but thinking back I couldn’t remember whether it was for crabs or breakfast or a sub. No memory.

While Leo’s has a bit of a split personality, offering breakfast omelets all day as well as subs and chicken, when you drive down Coastal Highway, you can’t miss Leo’s sign, “3 doz. crabs $40.” The only change over the years has been a $1 increase in price.

The first good sign that my Friday night foraging would be successful: The Fresh Catch seafood truck from Crisfield is delivering. I have no shame. I stick my head into the back of the crab guy’s truck and ask him how the crabs are running. His answer was short and sweet: “Great.” Yes, it’s the answer you’d expect, except when you know somebody’s scamming you, usually their eyes will tell the truth. This guy’s smile told me what I wanted to know – “great” probably meant “great.”

Leo’s is bustling. The restaurant has an all-you-can eat deal for $19.99 and people seem to be taking advantage of that. Of course, I prefer to get larger crabs, so I opt for a half-dozen large crabs for carry-out. I was eating alone, and at $46/dozen, I had to make sure it was the right decision. I ended up getting charged $24.50 for a half dozen. I didn’t quibble. It could be how Leo’s operates.

Making small talk with the woman at the counter turned out to be like talking to the waterman. Short answers, but sometimes that’s all it takes. I could have found it annoying, but for some reason didn’t. When she told me there’s never a bad crab season, “not when you know what you are doing.” I had to wonder exactly what she meant.

The half-dozen large really turned out to be large crabs. But by large, I mean they were heavy. Each turned out to be meaty. The meat came out of the crabs in large lumps. The seasoning didn’t quite seem like an off-the-shelf commercial product. Leo’s seasoned the crabs well, and about my third crab in, as my mouth was pleasantly burning and I’m looking up at the moonlit sky with the sound of the waves crashing in front of me, I thought, “Oh, that tastes a little like celery seed. And, could that be rock salt?”

While I picked my fourth crab, I kept thinking about the charge for the half-dozen. Should I be ticked? No, no. I’m on vacation. That’s when it dawned on me. I’ve eaten four crabs and there are still three more waiting to be eaten. Count them again. Yes, four open shells and three crabs that haven’t been cracked. My half dozen turned out to be seven. I can’t get ticked at that. The young man who handed me my crabs did tell me with a smile to “enjoy.” Now, I’m wondering whether he slipped me an extra, or if that’s just part of Leo’s “not when you know what you are doing” philosophy. Either way, it worked for me.

Curiosity about the seasoning led me to call Leo’s the next morning. The seasoning in fact is not just Old Bay. It’s Old Bay mixed with rock salt and “other spices.” Here’s the bottom line, for taste, I’d give these crabs a solid 4. For size and value, they get a 5. Since my “atmosphere” was my own, I can’t rate what it’s like to eat at Leo’s. For what it’s worth, while I waited for my crabs, the waitresses quickly cleared the tables and seemed to be getting the food out to the tables quickly.

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