HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Soft Shell Crabs Yet?

I have seen soft shell crabs in a few fish markets (fresh from Florida) for the past two weekends. Are any restaurants serving them yet ?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Annabell Lee Tavern had a soft crab sandwich on their menu last week as a special.

    1. I had a wonderful entree of soft shells accompanied with sweet corn succotash and heirloom tomatoes at IXIA last week.

      2 Replies
      1. re: abovethewaves

        If you are thinking local fresh soft crabs... water temp is still about 50-52F -- another Full moon cycle and a bit higher temp and they will start appearing locally.

        1. re: abovethewaves

          Heirloom tomatoes? and corn? from where? certainly not local.

        2. They are on the menu at Clementine!

          1. They had the first ones of the season at The Narrows on Kent Island last weekend.

            10 Replies
            1. re: DanielK

              I had some pretty amazing whale size ones in for Mother's Day. I think they were from so Virginia or North Carolina. Very juicy. With the new conservation plan in place on the Chesapeake this year, the crab counts are up over 20% over last year so good news for crab lovers, but I would still steer clear of the Chesapeake crabs this year. One year of good news is not a trend.

              1. re: deangold

                Virginia crabs are quite likely from the Chesapeake.

                1. re: Hal Laurent

                  The Virginia source I use has been from the James and not the main bay.

                  1. re: deangold

                    Wow, I didn't know they harvested crabs from the James River. I have family in Newport News and am familiar with the area.

                    My father who lives in Newport News tells me that it's near impossible to get a proper Maryland-style crab cake there.

                    1. re: Hal Laurent

                      The James is tidal all the way to the fall line at Richmond. The lower James, where it enters the Bay, would be brackish enough for crabs to be very happy.
                      Same with the York and Tappahannock Rivers.
                      VA's annual crab harvest equals that of MD.
                      Their culinary traditions are different however. Can you get a decent Crabmeat Norfolk in Baltimore?

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        I knew Virginia had a big crab harvest, but I had apparently mistakenly thought that it was all from the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks for the enlightenment.

                        I'll have to look up Crabmeat Norfolk. I've forgotten what that is.

                        1. re: Hal Laurent

                          It is pretty much the Lower Bay. The State line is the southern shore of the Potomac River and then it cuts across the Bay south of Smith Island and Crisfield on the Eastern Shore. Chincoteague Nat. Wildlife Refuge is part of VA.
                          The crabbing down there is really good. Lots of small estuaries and marshland, similar to the areas around Cambridge and around the Choptank on MD's Eastern Shore.
                          They warm up sooner and stay warm longer than the main Bay does.

                          Crabmeat Norfolk is crabmeat with butter and herbs, often with country ham. Sometimes with a light seafood veloute.
                          Terrific dish.
                          I've never understood why it's not done more often, especially in the DC area and in upscale restaurants.
                          It's perfect for those who like their lump crabmeat unadorned and there is no drama about "binding" or "fillers," frying v. broiling, etc. It's served in a simple dish that you can run under the broiler or bake in the oven.

                        2. re: MakingSense

                          Don't know where to get Crabmeat Nofolk in Balto., but if I recall, the Williamsburg Inn (Whitemarsh area) serves Seafood Norfolk--shrimp, scallops, crab etc. It's quite delicious. FoiGras

                          1. re: FoiGras

                            Crabmeat Norfolk is a dish that deserves to be resurrected and broadly honored. It used to be a staple of VA Tidewater cuisine. What's wrong with you VA folks???? Bring it back!!!

                            So many people order crabcakes wanting nothing but those hunks of crabmeat that they really don't give a rat's ass about MD traditions or anything else. This would be the perfect solution to their desires.

                            So who has a good recipe? Please post it on Home Cooking.
                            MD commercial crabbing opened April 1, 2009.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              A few weeks ago when visiting my parents in Newport News, I saw Seafood Norfolk on a restaurant menu.

              2. We dined at Christopher Daniel last night in Timonium. They were offering soft shell crabs with preparation options. None of my party were takers, but it sounded delightful!

                1. I went to Catonsville Gourmet on Saturday, April 11 and my table was informed it was the restaurant's first day offering them. One diner at the table ordered them and said they were amazing. Go get 'em!

                  1. I saw soft shells at the fish stand in Cross Street Market a couple of days ago...sure sign of spring

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mobtown999

                      Cross Street Market's are so fresh that they're alive still.

                      1. re: abovethewaves

                        You shouldn't buy them if they're dead.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Yes you certainly can....as long as they look fresh, are cleaned, and kept on ice. They have a shelf life of about 5-6 days after they are caught and kept on ice.

                          You really think all these restaurants that serve them are getting them alive and keeping them that way....

                          1. re: abovethewaves

                            You should hope that they are. Once they're killed and cleaned, the quality deteriorates quickly. You should always buy them alive, keep them that way under damp towels, and kill/clean them just before cooking them. If you are going to use them within a few hours, you can ask the fish market to clean them.

                            And yes, the shedders ship them to brokers and wholesalers alive. They're alive in good fishmarkets for a reason.
                            The shedder up the road from me has about 20 refrigerators full of live crabs right now. It would make his life a lot easier if he didn't have to worry about keeping them alive.
                            Perishability is one of the reasons they're so expensive.

                    2. Definitely soft shell season now! A number of downtown Baltimore restaurants are (finally) getting smart and promoting "Soft Shell Week" with special offers on their menus. Check them out:


                      1. I had great soft-shell at Cinghiale last night: tempura batter, served with a "lettuce" sauce and fried capers.

                        1. I dined on delicious, wonderfully prepared soft shell crabs at the Rib'n Reef Grill this past Sundays. The crabs were filled abundantly with sweet, succulent meat and fried without a greasy layer.

                          I have repeatedly mentioned this restaurant as my hubby and I have enjoyed many wonderful meals at reasonable prices.

                          My hubby had the clams casino--he was actually "purring" as they were so plump, not chewy and wonderfully seasoned.

                          One of my utmost favorite features at this particular restaurant is the FRIED SPINACH. Not sauteed, albeit, they do offer that as a side item. But, fried spinach. Almost as good as potato chips. (Probably not any healthier, despite the fact that it is a vegetable- well, just like french fries). Trust me on this one--FRIED SPINACH. Thank goodness I don't have a deep fryer at home. So, I can only indulge in this wonderful side-dish when I dine at Rib'nReef Grill.

                          By-the-way, the restaurant has a wonderful, reasonably priced appetizer of three grilled lamb chops, served on that glorious fried spinach.

                          They also have very good crabcakes. I won't go into categorizing theirs as the best, but they are better then most that I have tried--including but not limited to G&M, etc. That's another thread to tread on. FoiGras

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: FoiGras

                            I Googled it; I can't find it. Crystal ball isn't working. Guess I'll have to go eat worms...

                              1. re: placidothecat

                                I'll put Gibby's crabcake against any I have had in the area! Any idea if the two are related?

                                1. re: gregb

                                  Gibby's still has a carryout place further up York Rd., but the restaurant closed a while back. I have no idea if the ...Reef... place is related in any way.

                          2. Purchased some live from the guys at the Fallsway Farmers Market on Sunday. Lightly floured, then sauteed in some butter...Mmmm