HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Are you making a specialty food? Get great advice

Soft Shell Crabs Yet?

scarlettb Apr 17, 2009 08:31 AM

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. b
    bmore_flavor Apr 17, 2009 11:32 AM

    Annabell Lee Tavern had a soft crab sandwich on their menu last week as a special.

    1. a
      abovethewaves Apr 17, 2009 11:42 AM

      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
        JRCann Apr 17, 2009 02:55 PM

        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
          LuLuBlaubugunder Apr 19, 2009 12:41 AM

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

        2. r
          ronandaim Apr 17, 2009 06:51 PM

          They are on the menu at Clementine!

          1. DanielK Apr 18, 2009 09:22 AM

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

            10 Replies
            1. re: DanielK
              deangold Apr 18, 2009 10:52 AM

              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
                Hal Laurent Apr 18, 2009 05:11 PM

                Virginia crabs are quite likely from the Chesapeake.

                1. re: Hal Laurent
                  deangold Apr 18, 2009 05:16 PM

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

                  1. re: deangold
                    Hal Laurent Apr 18, 2009 06:12 PM

                    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
                      MakingSense Apr 19, 2009 12:16 PM

                      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
                        Hal Laurent Apr 19, 2009 07:03 PM

                        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
                          MakingSense Apr 19, 2009 08:29 PM

                          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
                          FoiGras Apr 20, 2009 08:14 AM

                          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
                            MakingSense Apr 20, 2009 01:35 PM

                            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
                              Hal Laurent Jun 3, 2009 10:42 AM

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

              2. m
                maddogg280 Apr 20, 2009 06:07 AM

                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. s
                  SGI Apr 20, 2009 10:25 AM

                  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. m
                    mobtown999 Apr 21, 2009 08:23 PM

                    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
                      abovethewaves Jun 3, 2009 11:21 AM

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

                      1. re: abovethewaves
                        MakingSense Jun 3, 2009 11:45 AM

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

                        1. re: MakingSense
                          abovethewaves Jun 3, 2009 11:58 AM

                          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
                            MakingSense Jun 3, 2009 12:16 PM

                            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. crackers May 21, 2009 03:43 AM

                      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. b
                        bordeauxfan Jun 3, 2009 11:15 AM

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

                        1. f
                          FoiGras Jun 3, 2009 04:48 PM

                          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
                            Scargod Jun 3, 2009 06:43 PM

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

                            1. re: Scargod
                              placidothecat Jun 4, 2009 09:36 AM


                              Its where Gibby's used to be on Padonia Rd.

                              1. re: placidothecat
                                gregb Jun 4, 2009 09:38 AM

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

                                1. re: gregb
                                  placidothecat Jun 4, 2009 10:24 AM

                                  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. t
                            thecheeseisblue Jun 4, 2009 10:44 AM

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

                            Show Hidden Posts