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Drum Ribs, DelMarVa, and Exmore, VA

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  • John Salmon Aug 18, 2000 03:39 PM
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I was wondering if anyone out there can tell me anything about a fish called "drum", specifically drum ribs.

About 10 years ago I went with some friends to Exmore, VA, almost all the way down the DelMarVa peninsula on the Eastern Shore. We went to a seafood restaurant somewhere near there and were surprised that everyone was eating the special, which was a fish dish called "drum ribs". It was all you can eat for a pretty low price. So we all ordered drum ribs.

My memory isn't too clear on this, but I remember getting surprisingly large "racks" of deep-fried fish ribs, and that the meat was dense and firm, almost like chicken breast. I thought they were very good, and the price was certainly right.

Drum, we were told, are a very large fish that were currently on their annual "run" through the Chesapeake. Apparently it's quite a big deal around there when "the drum are running." We were also told that they got their name from the loud drumming noise they make when they swim.

Anyway, I've got a friend who's going down that way this weekend & I advised him to look for drum ribs. I tried searching the web for more info but surprisingly found very little.

Has anyone tried drum ribs? Is it a very local thing? Anyone know what time they run?

Thanks in advance for any info about this unusual fish/dish!

John

P.S. The Exmore Diner was GREAT and CHEAP (least it was 10 yrs ago -- got a feeling it hasn't changed much) if anyone's ever down that way. Like a trip back to Mayberry. There's a link to a pic below.

EXMORE DINER
MAIN ST
EXMORE, VA 23350
(804)442-2313

Link: http://thebestofusa.com/easternshore/

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  1. I haven't heard of drum ribs, but drum is closely related to the redfish that is so beloved in Louisiana. In fact, "redfish" may actually be a member of the drum family. Can anyone fill in the specifics?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bob W.

      Hey! So I'm like a year late on this, but in case anyone cares...

      My husband and I recently spent two years in a little town just N. of Exmore. Drum is very popular there, spring and early summer. There are black and red drum, and what you probably had was black. They're great big fish (80 lbs, sometimes) with big flat molars all over their mouths. I think they eat mostly molluscs and crustaceans, which gives them that nice meaty texture. You mostly find drum deep-fried on the Eastern Shore. I cooked in a place in Cape May called Louisa's which slathered it with a lemony barbeque sauce on the grill and occasionally served ribs.

      Shore folks are passionate about their drum, and even non-fish eaters will try it because of its resemblance to a fried pork chop!

      1. re: Meredith

        Thanks, Meredith...at least I now know I didn't dream the whole thing up!

        Best wishes,

        John

        Link: http://sugarinthegourd.com

    2. Wow I'm really several years late. I happen to be the manger/owner at the Exmore Diner and those were ribs from the black drum you were eating. Some folks prefer the ribs over the fillet. They claim it has better taste and much bang for there buck. Drum are seasonal fish mostly available late april, early may through early june and again in late sept, early october. If I can be of more help just ask.

      Sean Hart

      3 Replies
      1. re: Sean Hart

        Hey Sean......used to have lunch at your place when we stayed at the Gladstone House B&B every year on our way down to the Outer Banks....now that it is closed we didn't get to the Exmore, but hope to this September.

         
        1. re: Sean Hart

          Hi Sean,

          Thanks for posting. I am the original poster who started this thread 8 years ago! For some reason I did a Google search on "drum ribs" and this is the first hit! It's amazing that there's nothing on the Internet about this food -- I guess it's a very local thing.

          Thanks to all for letting me know I didn't imagine it -- I have told other people about eating giant, fried fish ribs and they look at me like I am crazy -- even people who claim to know the Eastern Shore.

          Best wishes,

          John

          P.S. I loved the Exmore diner! When I was there in 1991 or so, coffee was something like 45 cents and a big delicious breakfast was a just a couple bucks. Mmm...good food.

          1. re: Sean Hart

            What a great thread! I just caught a 70 lb. drum fish last weekend and have a about 30 lbs of meat in my freezer including the ribs. I'm looking for some recipes. I've heard the fish is good, but needs to be cooked in ways that you wouldn't expect. I've heard it compared to both pork and veal, so am a bit confused. If anyone could share their recipes, i'd be so grateful.