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Aug 29, 2003 08:27 PM

Stoney's Broomes Island: A Disappointment

  • j

I should have known. I should have known.

Having raved about Stoney's for three years on this board as Maryland's most atmospheric crab shack with among Maryland's best crab cakes and other exemplery sides...that it would not last.

The first warning was John B. saying that he and his wife were there last weekend and they had to send the crab cake back. Further John described their previously prodigiously delicious lump crab balls as merely "good" and several other sides as a step up or down from this.

My wife and I drove the 41 miles south from I 495 today to Stoney's, past countless new developments that simply weren't on route 4 a year and a half ago on our last visit. With the top down, three days of Labor Day holiday ahead of us and Creedance on the radio this was a seriously good start to a summer ending weekend. At 3:00PM we turned off of Broomes Island Road onto the short sideroad that leads into Stoney's gravelled parking lot. Along with two Mercedes ours was the only car.

Stoney's is bigger now. Two more dining areas, i.e. outdoor decks with clusters of six and eight four seater tables surrounded by Tiki torches directly on the river. There is still the floating deck with its eight or so tables. And the same compliment of ducks, birds and fish competing for table scraps that diners provide for them.

Stoney's has jumbos for $56. Expensive but most importantly, they have them. And this is a GREAT place (just like Cantler's only, perhaps, MORE atmospheric) to eat them in. They also have $16.00 crab cake sandwiches and similar but smaller crab balls sold by the market price.

In 1998 the Washington Post ranked Stoney's number one in the greater D. C. area for best crab cake. Phyllis Richman lumped it together with the Narrows on Kent Island with the best she'd had and my wife and I added Angelina's and Captain's Table in Crisfield to the list but Stoney's was certainly one of the four best.

Not anymore.

The 1/2 pound crab cake was at least half nondescript flavorless filler. Lump crab was still there but there was just little flavor to this. The tartar sauce that accompanied it was homemade but not much better than flavored mayonnaise. An incredible disappointment. Crab balls are smaller versions of their crab cakes. Broiled they were good. But like the crab cakes not the world class, best of class that we remembered and expected. Something has chnged at Stoney's. The waittress said that the owners were the same as 1998. Perhaps not the cooks. These crab cakes were different, simply not in league with our memories. Certainly no where near as good as the crab cakes at the Narrows in Kent Island where on successive recent weekends we hav egorged on what we now regard as the best crab cakes on the face of the earth. With all due respect to Angelina's, Captain's Galley, the Frog and the Redneck (Jimmy Sneed in Richmond) and a host of others today the title passed to the Narrows as World's Best Crab Cake. My wife said so!

I agree.

Stoney's vegetable crab soup is the best I have ever had. Anywhere. Even better than Harrison's exemplery tomato based crab soup on Tilghman Island. But the cream of crab was bland, the onion rings frozen and greasy and the cole slaw "OK" but no better.

Still, the best atmosphere of any Maryland crab house. Overall, even with this disappointment, better sides than Cantler's (whose sides are abominably bad!). But for crab cakes there is now one unchallenged champion in the state of Maryland: the Narrows in Kent Island. Curiously, the Narrows has abominably bad tomato based vegetable crab soup but exemplery, perhaps best of class cream of crab. It lacks the outdoor tiki toch ambience of Stone's (whch is a REAL plus) but does sit on the water. For anyone reading this and driving to O. C. this weekend stop at the Narrows, go intotheir bar and pick up a crab sandwich to go. Give it a try. If you really like it then break up the trip back from O. C. on Sunday with dinner at the Narrows. For those trekking to Calvert County please, don't hesitate to go Stoney's. But I would focus on the jumbo crabs, the vegetable crab soup and their desserts.

It will be a while before we go Stoney's. I sort of feel like I lost a friend. At least a friend who made great crab cakes in a setting the equal of any in Maryland.

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  1. Several members of the ancient and benevolent Friday Afternoon Club made a quasi-annual road trip to Stoney’s on Broome’s Island today, via Vera’s White Sands (for eye openers). We went with some hesitation after Joe H’s sad report regarding the decline in quality of the crab cakes. But not unlike the opportunity presented by a train wreck, we just wanted to see for ourselves. I have to say that no one in our group could detect any diminution in the amount of lump crabmeat, or increase in filler in the cakes from our last visit. And we enjoyed them every bit as much as last year. The tomato crab soup was also super. Of course, we went hoping to find that the crab cake sandwiches were still just as good, so it may have been self-fulfilling. We also may have been entranced by Vera’s beatific images and portraits around her Tiki Bar, or the fact that it was a splendid, mild, last-of-August day on the water in Broome’s Island. And oh, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s "Gate Swings" playing on the M3’s CD could have been a contributing factor.

    5 Replies
    1. re: FAC

      Add me to the chorus finding that Stoney's crabcakes have held up to the test of time (taste of time?). As has become a bit of a tradition, we stopped and had them ont he way to sailing out of Solomons. It could have been the anticipation of wonderful wind (which lived up to expectations), but Stoney's lived up to expectaions.

      I respect Joe H's tastes, so I am moved to hustle over towards Tha Narrows -- which must have raised the bar so high that Stoney's consistent CC's now taste to Joe below the prior high grade he gave them.

      1. re: Bonz

        Bonz, I've been to Stoney's at least once a year since Phyllis Richman first wrote about it in '98 and this is the first time that was disappointing. In the past I've actually gone out of my way to go to Stoney's, Angelina's in Baltimore and Jerry's Seafood in Lanham within a 7 day period and felt that all things considered Stoney's was our first choice. Great pie, really good pina coladas, there was just a lot going for it. And, of course, the incredible ambience. But yesterday really was different. It's really encouraging that you also had a good experience. My wife and I WILL try it again within the next month or so. It's such a great find I'd hate to think that inconsistency has set in or they've hired a cook who doesn't know what he/she is doing.
        By the way it was only two weeks ago that I absolutely raved about Stoney's on the South board. The link to my post is below. I have a real vested interest (i.e. credibility) in our experience being an exception.


        1. re: Joe H.

          Afterthought to the link: the cream of crab soup was only good; it was the tomato based crab soup that was superb. Conversely the Narrows' tomato based crab soup is actually terrible (not bad-terrible!). However their cream based soups and chowders are very good. I really think that the Narrows is better than Stoney's at my memory's best. The ambience is nice-it's on the water. But it's NOT outdoors, it's not a crab house. Like Cantler's the ambience at Stoney's just puts it way over the top.

      2. re: FAC

        You need to try the Narrows' crab cakes in Kent Narrows, about 15 miles east of the Bay Bridge. It lacks Stoney's incredible ambience but the crab cakes really are far superior. Yesterday at Stoney's there was a lot of lump crab meat but the overall taste was just rather bland. It was a real disapointment especially since I've raved about Stoney's for years on these boards. It's encouraging that yours' were excellent. Interestingly John B. told me that last week they were disappointed in the first crab cake they got yet when these were replaced they were much better. (I'm certain he'll have an opinion on this, too.) The tomato based crab soup is, simply, the best I've had anywhere. I brought home two pints of it.
        As for the drive, the ambience, well this really is as good as it gets I think.

        1. re: Joe H.


          I was very interested to see the comments on Stoney's by you and others here. All I can say is what Janet and I experienced. No question about the ambiance and the drive down being everything any sane person could want. As to the crab cakes, as I related before, the first one was definitely a bit off. The second one was clearly much much better, tho I will comment that the crab in it appeared to have a higher proportion of claw, or some other non-lump meat than the first--but the taste was good. I noted this (the meat) to the waiter, and he said yes it varies by who makes up any given batch (he had gotten the second one from the other kitchen, the main one). At least it was a tacit admission that the percentage of lump meat can actually vary.

          Perhaps the most important single tidbit to pass on (which I neglected to mention before) was that, since I was pretty full by that point, I took most of that second cake home in its original foil wrapper and put it in the fridge. I reheated it slowly at about 250 the next night, foil partially unwrapped, and it was even better than it had been at the restaurant.

          Next time I'm down in Calvert I'll definitely give Stoney's another shot. But for our next trip it's the Narrows for sure.

      3. I'm am so sorry to hear this. I was born and raised in Wash. D.C.. In 1975 I moved to Calvert County and discovered Stoney's. The crab balls were to die for. Then they opened a Stoney's in Prince Frederick, which was much closer for me (I lived in Dunkirk, North Beach and Rose Haven), and there crab balls were to die for. I now live in Missouri (for 12yrs.) and they have no idea what seafood is. I long for Blue Claw crabs and Stoney's crab balls. I am coming home the beginning of Oct. to visit my family and believe it or not going to what used to be my home away from home, O.C..Not only will I visit Stoney's in P.F. but I will visit Narrows to check out things. Thanks for the info.

        1. The Broomes Island location still has not changed. Their crabcakes are just a bad as Joe says. It tastes like crabmeat rolled in bread then broiled that's it. Prince Frederick on the other hand still has great crab cakes. Whatever you do, don't waste your gas going to Broomes Island!

          3 Replies
          1. re: rudolphmx

            But if you're down there, head across to Clarke's Landing.

            1. re: Dennis S

              I actually live in Southern Maryland and my husband and I go to Clarke's Landing often. My favorite is the crab impearial stuffed rockfish when it is a special. It's rich and very filling.

              1. re: rudolphmx

                I too live in Southern MD. The crab cakes at Stoney's on the pier at Solomon's and at Stoney's Kingfisher have been excellent over the summer -- we've had them at least six times. Have not been to Broomes Island this year, but last year it was fine.

                As for Clarke's Landing -- We went last year after hearing rave reviews about it. What a dump. The place looked horrible, smelled like mold, and the food was awful. My husband had stuffed rockfish. They forgot the stuffing, took it back, stuffed it, and then baked the whole thing again. The fish was dried out completely. The stuffing was oozing with maynonnaise. In addition, we had to change seats twice as water was dripping from an overhead pipe (we had to bring this to the attention of the server).

                Decided to give it another chance this year just because we were in the area. No better. The place smelled like mold. The club sandwich had very little bacon and cheap deli sliced turkey. Crab cakes tasted like they had been cooked 3 days ago. We won't be back. (Although I will say the view is nice.)