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May 28, 2014 02:45 PM

Best Softshell Crab Sandwich in Monmouth County?

Being fairly new to the area, I was wondering where some of the local residents go for softshells. Also, when is the official start of the local season? I understand some places pass off crabs from down south as local. Thank you!

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  1. The season is said to be May-Aug (e.g. see attached scan from a pamphlet from the New Jersey State "Fish and Seafood Development Program"). But I usually don't see them regularly until into June.

    5 Replies
    1. re: drongo

      Thanks drongo. Is there anyone out there that actually catches soft shells? I would love to tag along if so. I could bring a cooler of beers for showing me the ropes!

      1. re: LifeGeek

        I've netted many over the years, but they're basically a bonus when setting out for hard shells. Crabs tend to molt in the Barnegat around the full moons of the summer. My best catches were in July, August, and September. The soft shells will be visible, swimming on the surface in the shallow lagoons. One simply scoops 'em in the net - not a great deal of sport, but, then again. neither is going to the grocery store. I've had 'em get caught in traps too, but I haven't set one out in many, many years.

        Last year's season was pretty lousy. The Hurricane certainly impacted the Bay, but it's naive to think that the overdevelopment of the western shores hadn't been polluting the water for many years already. Now, we will have to endure the consequences of the massive redevelopment on both sides. I'm not optimistic for the near future. (I'll omit the nostalgic lament for the days when a couple of nets, some cassette tapes, and a purloined six pack were all two guys needed to pluck a few meals worth out of the water).

        1. re: MGZ

          I've done my share of crabbing, but cassette tapes are new to me. Care 'splaining?

          Or am I just being dense and you listened to the music? :D

          1. re: TomT

            LPs don't play so great on a boat.

    2. Although I cannot vouch for it personally, I have heard the Soft Shell Crab sandwich at Circus Drive-In in Wall Township is decent.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Anthony A

        Went there yesterday and had one!

      2. I had a really good one at the Boondocks in Red Bank last year. So delicious!!

        1. Chinese restaurants serve it nice! Salt and peppered! Mmmmmm.

          4 Replies
          1. re: wench31

            I'd be careful of Chinese restaurants (as well as Japanese). I know a few that have softshells on the menu all year long. (softshell crab in black bean sauce) They tend to use frozen softshell brown crabs, from southeast Asia. I know most people are familiar with the 'spider roll' in sushi restaurants - available all year.

            1. re: Herm

              Good point Herm. This is why in some of my previous posts I was looking for truly Japanese places run by Japanese people. For whatever reason, most NJ "Japanese" restaurants are run by Chinese. What is being passed off as Japanese food is not even close to what is served in Japan. And the standards are quite a bit lower in many of these establishments as a result.

              1. re: Herm

                I could see a place like jing chuan do a great sautéed soft shell with Sichuan peppercorns. I've had some great dishes at this joint. I really wish they didn't feel the need to serve versions of Japanese food and Americanized Chinese. Their Sichuan cuisine is pretty damn good.

                1. re: Herm

                  Yes, I'm aware of Asian restaurants selling soft shell crabs year round. I only get them in the summer. Thanks for the heads up!

              2. I had a good soft shell sandwich recently at chowda house. Even tho it wasn't local, the owner knew the exact location of the crab and all his seafood. You could tell he took pride in sourcing his seafood. The owners are from Rhode Island and take their seafood seriously. I also really liked the lobster roll especially that you can opt for several different versions and aren't served one over saturated with mayo. Their fries were really good too. They were fresh cut with skins still on, but still crispy unlike the soggy mess that five guys serve up. It is a little pricey, but it is BYO and they have a really nice private garden that is perfect on a nice summer day.

                Things should get even better as more local fruits of the sea start to come available.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LifeGeek

                  The last lobster roll I had was real light on the meat. It was tasty though. I regularly hit them up for lobster rolls. I was kind of turned off by the last one but I will be back sooner or later.

                  1. re: corvette johnny

                    I've only been once and the amount of lobster was very generous. The only quibble that I had was the bun could have been a little more buttered and pan fried a little longer. The gold standard for the tri-state for me so far has been red hook lobster pound. I trekked over to red hook once a month when they first opened to buy their take home kit. They would sell you a lb of lobster claw and knuckles and throw in a pack of buns from Maine. It was a great way to make it through a tough work week knowing you could come home and make a few of those for dinner.