Whether you like them fried or steamed, soft-shell or in cake form, blue crabs are a must-have when dining along the Chesapeake. Here are 10 of the best places to get your Chesapeake blue-crab fix (and pass the Old Bay).
Photo: Bubba's Seafood Restaurant & Crab House
This Virginia Beach mainstay is both a prime parking spot for sunset admirers and a go-to source for fresh and local seafood. In season, you can snag a dozen Old Bay-dusted jimmies (steamed male blue crabs) at a reasonable price. Year-round, try the she crab soup—a local favorite—or the meat-stuffed crab cake sandwich.
Photo: Cockrell's Creek Seafood & Deli
This no-frills seafood market in Reedville, Virginia, offers lunch-only dining with prime outdoor waterfront seating, where you can watch as crabbers unload the day’s catch onto the docks. Fried soft-shell and crab cakes are the specialties, though the deli also offers oysters, scallops, shrimp and local fish, mostly in fried form.
Photo: Fisherman's Crab Deck
Dining alfresco on the Fisherman’s Inn & Crab Deck in Grasonville, Maryland, is about as close as you can get to crackin’ crabs with friends in your backyard. Here, crabs are delivered by the tray full and dumped out onto paper-lined picnic tables, accompanied by wooden mallets and sides of warm, greasy butter.
Photo: Courtesy of Harris Crab House & Seafood Restaurant
A longtime family-owned outpost on Kent Island, Harris Crab House offers a casual spot to park at picnic tables and chow down on fresh-from-the-dock seafood in paper-lined baskets. Locals love the place for its imperial-stuffed, broiled soft-shells and all-you-can-eat crab feast (weekdays only), which comes with Old Bay-caked steamed crabs, corn-on-the-cob, and doughy hush puppies.
Photo: Courtesy of Cantler's Riverside Inn
You know a place is good when its list of loyal local customers is a mile long. That’s the case with Cantler’s, an Annapolis, Maryland, crab joint founded by a former Chesapeake Bay waterman. The restaurant serves jumbo steamed hard-shell crabs dusted liberally with J.O. Spice on their back deck, where the regulars pull up in boats and wait for tables while sipping from canned beers.
Photo: Courtesy of Kentmorr Restaurant
The scene at Kentmorr Restaurant in Stevensville, Maryland, is more tropical beach bar than it is salty crab shack—a tiki bar, pirate flag, and hammocks overlook the sandy beach just steps away. But the food is quintessential Chesapeake Bay. Maryland favorites such as crab imperial and cream of crab soup are on the menu, as are wild cards like their famous crab pretzel, a soft pretzel topped with homemade jumbo lump crab dip and cheddar cheese.
Photo: Dorchester County Tourism/Jay Fleming
What started as a third-generation-run crab processing plant has grown into a trendy community gathering spot complete with an open-air crab-and-beer garden (aka heaven on earth). Park at a picnic table and order craft beers in frosty mugs, a plate of local oysters (float-grown right down the street), and the Bay on a Bun, a whopper of a sandwich that overflows with fried fish, soft-shell crab, and oysters.
It might take a GPS to find this Arnold, Maryland, hangout, but the payoff is worth it. Indulge in five-star food (like sherry-spiked cream of crab soup or baked lump crab dip in a house-made brioche bread bowl) in a setting that feels open-air year-round, thanks to the surrounding retractable glass doors.
Photo: Courtesy of The Red Roost
The menu at the Red Roost—located in a former chicken house on the Delmarva Peninsula in Whitehaven, Maryland—is made for big appetites. Their unlikely trifecta of specialties—fried chicken, barbecue, and steamed crabs—can be ordered individually or all together in a customizable, monster of an all-you-can-eat package—served with each of the above along with fried shrimp, clam strips, French fries, hush puppies, and corn-on-the-cob.
Photo: Lindsay Long
The allure of this place is its simplicity. A combo seafood market-and-tackle shop in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, the market offers fresh-off-the-boat seafood, including seasoned steamed blue crabs by the dozen. There’s no seating, but with a location just steps from the beach, locals are known to tote their grub to the sand for an impromptu beachside picnic.