Written By Michael Vyskocil
Most Carroll Countians can tell you that nothing is as closely associated with Maryland life as sitting down to a feast of hard-shell blue crabs. It is a rather romantic, as well as a gastronomic attachment. After all, the Latin name for the indigenous crustaceans is Callinecetus sapidus, which translates as “savory beautiful swimmer.”
Although Carroll County does not border on the Chesapeake Bay, few people who live here would let a year pass without eating at least one steamed crab. Fortunately for local gourmands, Carroll County boasts several restaurants where these bay treasures can be enjoyed. Here are six:
Gary & Dell’s Crab House And Lounge
2820 Littlestown Pike; Westminster, MD 21158; 410-346-7652
At this establishment, the guests aren’t wearing their best clothes, and they aren’t worried about getting messy. They are reaching across the table, brandishing wooden mallets and talking all at once.
Such behavior is acceptable, even welcome, on such an occasion. This is not a formal dinner, after all. It is a steamed crab feast.
Gary & Dell’s Crab House, on Littlestown Pike north of Westminster, has been serving steamed crabs family style for many years. Patrons gather around paper-covered tables to partake in a fresh batch of steamed crabs. It is this down-home service that has brought many customers back for repeat visits.
Gary & Dell’s offers both eat-in and take-out service for their steamed crabs, which are available in small, medium, large and jumbo sizes (at market price).
In addition to the steamed crabs, the menu also features crab in its various forms, including crab cakes, soft shell crabs and Dungeness crab legs, available for $9.95 per pound.
PARKS LANDING SEAFOOD RESTAURANT AND CARRYOUT
333-140 Village Road; Westminster, MD 21157; 410-840-2240
Despite being tucked away behind the 140 Village Shopping Center, Parks Landing has established a reputation as one of the best places to go in Carroll County for steamed crabs. In addition to the restaurant, Parks Landing provides a full-service seafood market, carrying both live and steamed crabs by the dozen and by the bushel.
Beyond the steamed crabs, Parks Landing also offers a plethora of crab specialties, including crab cakes, homemade Maryland crab and cream of crab soup and hot crab dip.
The restaurant can seat up to 180 people (although reservations are strongly recommended on the weekends). Private parties up to 25 can be accommodated in the restaurant’s private dining room.
FRISCO FAMILY PUB
Carroll Plaza Shopping Center, Westminster, MD 21158; 410-876-3550
Although the name “family pub” may raise a few eyebrows among first-time customers, the title is apt.
The Frisco Family Pub has been family owned and operated since 1976. In fact, the restaurant was home to Westminster’s original pizzeria.
Frisco Family Pub has the feeling of a neighborhood tavern, with its dark wood-trimmed interior. The restaurant has plenty of seating in the dining room, plus a banquet room that can seat up to 40 for private parties.
Steamed crabs are available in several sizes, including small, medium, large and jumbo. The restaurant offers “all-you-can eat” steamed crab specials (call for current prices). Jumbo lump crab cakes are also a popular item.
CAPTAIN DAN’S CRABHOUSE AND SEAFOOD MARKET
2021 Liberty Road, Eldersburg, MD 21784; 410-549-2511
Dan Schuman, owner of Captain Dan’s Crabhouse in Eldersburg, has been around crustaceans long enough to appreciate the sweet and spicy flavor of a freshly steamed crab.
“That’s why every crab we serve here is steamed to order,” using a custom seasoning blend, he said. “They’re never reheated.”
Schuman has operated Captain’s Dan since 2003, when he bought it from the Reamer family, owners of Salerno’s Restaurant and Catering. Schuman is proud of the fact that he purchases only the best crabs and crabmeat from Chesapeake Bay fishermen. Crabs are available in six different sizes, ranging from small to colossal (at market price).
According to Schuman, Captain Dan’s hosts a significant number of parties at the crabhouse, but it is the “crab special” that packs the place. Currently, the crabhouse is offering “$1.50 crab special.” At the height of the summer season (after Memorial Day), Schuman said that will change to $1 per crab.
Captain’s Dan Crabhouse also offers shipping by the bushel, half bushel and dozen nationwide, with second-day delivery service available. (Contact the restaurant for rates, shipping and delivery information.)
SALERNO’S RESTAURANT AND CATERING
1043 Liberty Road, Eldersburg, MD 21784; 410-795-8400
In southern Carroll County, residents who have heard of Salerno’s think, not only of its taste-tempting pizzas and pasta dishes but of the bushels of steamed crabs that are served there.
The restaurant, owned by the Reamer family, offers a full lunch and dinner menu, as well as steamed crabs, currently available at the following sizes and prices: small $20, medium $35, large $45, extra-large $55, jumbo $65 and colossal $75.
Steamed crab carry-outs are also available at $169 a bushel and $85 a half-bushel for mixed sizes (small, medium and large) male crabs. Females range in price from $115 a bushel to $59 a half-bushel.
Salerno’s provides offsite catering services to many locations, including Carroll and Frederick counties, southern Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Alexandria, Fairfax and Loudon counties in northern Virginia. A full crab-feast menu includes steamed crabs, Salerno’s “Almost Famous Crab Dip,” hamburgers, hot dogs, side salads and desserts.
3165 Main Street, Manchester MD 21102; 410-374-0035
Jack and Maggie Randhawa, owners of Spargos in Manchester, realized early on the importance of having a local restaurant that served the Manchester community.
Randhawa is no stranger to the restaurant scene in Carroll County. After working in several positions at Maria’s in Westminster, Randhawa opened his own restaurant in downtown Manchester. He brought steamed crabs to Spargos in 1997 and remodeled the building to accommodate the steamers and other equipment.
“There was a need for it (steamed crabs),” said Randhawa. “It was an opportunity to respond to customers’ requests.”
Steamed crabs are available at Spargos each night of the week. Crabs are offered in sizes ranging from small to jumbo. Customers can either eat in, or they can order carryout by the dozen or half bushel. Randhawa said that “all-you-can-eat” specials have been popular in the past (inquire by calling Spargos).