My most recent restaurant in Maryland was just down the street from a popular crab house and general-all-around seafood joint called Bethesda Crabhouse. Members of that original family have taken over the old Curley’s BBQ spot just north of the Nassau Bridge in Lewes and opened The Surfing Crab. They’re steamin’, fryin’ and broilin’ themselves into their very own niche here at the beach.
In spite of the general increase in crab prices, their price on Blue Crabs is still rather reasonable. I know that crab prices vary almost hour to hour, but on our last visit, they were equal to or even a bit less than comparable crab joints in the area. Again…these could go up and down at any moment, but were quite fair for in-season prices.
We started with Dawn’s Deviled Eggs. They were quite good, albeit mild. If mom made them for you when you were a tiny Foodlette, they were probably like this. On our last visit, the four of us plowed through 12 halves in about 3 minutes. It reminded me of the roast-in-a-rope scene in Jaws, except without the music. Several of us ordered the Maryland Crab Soup. This is not the Maryland Crab Soup that many Baltimoreans and Marylanders have come to expect. It is very mildly spiced, with a fairly thin, almost transparent broth. The tomatoes are in big chunks. Though a generous portion of crabmeat is presented in the center, the soup was just OK. We have had better. The Fried Oyster starter at The Surfing Crab is expertly fried to a golden crunchiness, and not at all greasy. The oysters are pretty small, but it’s a big portion. You get your money’s worth. I did find a piece of shell in one of them, so be careful!
The steamed clams are also quite good. I believe that steamed clams were put on this Earth as a way to somehow get warm, drawn butter into your mouth. The Grilled Shrimp appetizer comes with fairly large shrimp (eight of the little gems) and, of course, that all-important drawn butter.
More about the crabs: Crab sizes, meatiness and price can vary from moment to moment. But on all our visits, especially the most recent, the crabs were exceptionally good. Even the mediums were heavy. Based on our experience so far, this is one of the good places to get Hard Shell Blue Crabs. They are encrusted with a spicy and salty Old Bay mixture. Mallets and knives are supplied. Do not wear your good clothes. Stuff flies everywhere. It’s the beach–that’s why you go.
A big sleeper on the menu is the crab cakes. I’ve had them every time, and they are quite good. I prefer them fried, because I like the little crust that holds everything together. A generous portion of lump crabmeat (actual lump, not “menu lump”) is bound with a minimum of filler, but what they do use is tasty. I think crab needs some sort of flavoring to bring out the sweetness in the meat, and these people have figured that out. It’s also available as a sandwich. BTW, if you like cole slaw, get their cole slaw. Unless I’m way off my game (that does not happen often) these people make it right there on the premises. It is crunchy, with substantial strips of crackly cabbage, carrots and lots of other goodies. Next time I smoke brisket and pork shoulder in my back yard, I’m buying a quart of this stuff to top my sandwiches.
Feelin' Crabby?1/4 the softshell2/4 The MD crab soup. Unusual and quite good.3/4 The sleeper: Get the crab cake.4/4
Another sleeper is the fried Soft Shell Crab. It is served as both a platter (you get two for market price) and as a sandwich. The crabs are comparable to the medium hard shells, and are perfectly fried. A thin, not-at-all-bready crust crackles as you bite into the fortunate little crustacean. If you don’t feel like picking crabs, I recommend the fried crab cakes and soft shells.
They have an interesting “All You Can Eat Crabs” deal that comes with a list of rules, all of which make sense: you have to eat all the meat, including the claws, you can’t share, and you get 2 hours to stuff yourself with as many hard shells as you can. Needless to say, there is no price on the menu, as availability varies.
These people obviously know how to do crabs, even down to the big stainless steel hand-washing sink on the wall in the main dining area. Crabs are messy, and why tie up a perfectly good bathroom when you can hose yourself down in front of everybody? Lots of grease-cutting soap and paper towels are provided. I don’t remember seeing something like this since the old Crisfield’s Seafood in Silver Spring, Md and Pope’s Creek (Cap’n Drinks) on the Potomac in Southern Maryland. It doesn’t get any crabbier than that!
The Surfing Crab is officially located at 16723 Coastal Highway in Lewes. But you can’t miss it. It’s about 10 seconds after you go over the Nassau Bridge, on the right, just past Tyndall’s Furniture, The Lighthouse and Meineke Muffler.
Call for their hours. They are closed in the middle of the winter, but open weekends in the fall and spring. (302) 644-4448. Click here for a look at their crab menu.
(L. (in-season), D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.