We are seafood lovers through and through here at ShoreBread, so when the month of May rolls around, there is one thing on our minds: soft shell crabs! Not everyone is a fan; after all, the thought of eating the entire crab – legs, body and all – can be a little daunting. But for others, seeing ‘soft shell crab’ appear on specials menus around town is like hitting the culinary jackpot. So what makes the soft shell crab so special? Well, for starters it’s the official state sandwich of Maryland! It’s also one of those foods that can’t be found year-round (making it all the more irresistible). Each year soft shells join the ranks of our seasonal visitors, arriving in May and leaving us in September.
There’s a number of ways to prepare soft shell crab – pan fried, deep fried, sauteed, baked, broiled – with more ways to coat, baste and dress the beloved crustacean. While there are a number of restaurants throughout Maryland and Delaware boasting soft shells on their menus right now, not everyone does soft shells right. Too much heat and the skins burns right up, too much batter and, well, all you taste is batter. We’ve come up with a sampling of some of the best soft shell crab dishes making their debut at the beach right now…
*Note: As soft shells are a seasonal, specialty item, expect them to appear on ‘specials’ menus at area restaurants only when available – i.e. they aren’t guaranteed ;)*
9301 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD
Liquid Assets keeps their menu chocked full with fresh, local offerings, and soft shell crabs are no exception. When the soft shell season rolls around, Liquid Assets is one of the first restaurants to post pictures of their beautiful soft shell creations to social media, which immediately gets our mouths watering. They’ve stayed true to form this year, posting an irresistible picture of soft shell crabs dusted with rice flour, flash fried and accompanied by fresh tomato gazpacho, charred local spring onion, arugula, heirloom cherry tomatoes and Old Bay popped sorghum.
12841 S. Harbor Road, West Ocean City, MD
We stopped in Harborside over the holiday weekend to get our fix on orange crushes and were thrilled to see soft shells on their specials menu. Tucking into a soft shell crab while taking in the views of the harbor and listening to local music makes for the perfect weekend reprieve. The Eastern Shore Combo took things up a notch, pairing a local Chincoteague Bay tempura fried soft crab with a tender six-ounce bistro filet and served with two side dishes. We’ve also enjoyed soft shell crab tacos at Harborside on more than one occasion, so don’t pass those beauties up either!
81st Street on the Bay, Ocean City, MD
The Hobbit boasts more than just stunning sunsets and sinfully delicious cocktails…although they do both of those things quite well. The food is equally as enchanting, especially when it comes to all things crab. We treated ourselves to a duo of crab cakes at the bayside hot spot recently, and when they say jumbo lump crab, they mean it. Soft shells weren’t on the menu when were there but we have it on good authority that they will be gracing the specials menu throughout the summer. Expect over-sized soft crabs panko-breaded and paired with oven roasted tomatoes, guacamole, bacon crumbles and drizzled with chipotle ranch sauce.
The Atlantic Hotel
2 N. Main Street, Berlin, MD
We were sad to say goodbye to sushi nights at the Hotel a few weeks ago, but we were quickly consoled by the fact that soft shell crabs would be gracing the menu once again at the Atlantic Hotel. It’s no secret that the porch at the hotel is a go-to happy hour spot for ShoreBread (who can say no to $5 martinis?!?) so rounding out happy hour with a soft shell crab sandwich is summertime sweetness at its finest.
3316 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD
When asked where the locals go, OC Wasabi is certainly one of the first names to roll off your tongue. Beyond the artfully rolled sushi is a friendly staff and an enticing selection of sakes and cocktails. We would be hard pressed to pick a favorite roll, but when we’re craving soft shells, we point our chopsticks toward the Spider Roll. Each piece is overstuffed with soft crab – it’s almost too much for one bite. For a bigger soft shell indulgence, opt for the Spider’s House, which includes two soft shell crabs, battered and fried, along with a colorful variety of vegetables. And if you think we haven’t noticed the recent opening of OC Wasabi Express on 15th Street…think again. We will be reporting back on this fantastic addition soon!
12933 Sunset Avenue, Ocean City, MD
As one of the restaurants that stays open year round for us locals, we patronize Sunset Grille pretty often in the colder months, but that doesn’t mean we stray in the summer. Warm weather simply means we can stop by Teasers for happy hour and live music, or sit outside for lunch and dinner. Lunch for us often includes digging into a soft shell crab sandwich(yes digging, as this behemoth requires a knife and fork). Anyone up for a lunch date next week??
The Shark on the Harbor
12924 Sunset Avenue, West Ocean City, MD
Our unabashed love affair with The Shark on the Harbor continues! We love that the menu is constantly changing and evolving here, giving us something new to look forward to each time we visit our friends on the harbor. Recently, soft shell crabs have rounded out the lineup of entrees, with fresh soft shells coming straight from Deal Island and served corn-encrusted with a spring pea puree, dressed micro salad, pimento cheese grits, and green tomato, Vidalia and radish chow chow.