The Crab Bag
130th St. & Coastal Hwy.
Ocean City, Maryland 21843
Ocean City, Md is the place where I, and I am sure a great many people, ate Blue Crabs for the first time. I also think it is fair to say that we consider ourselves the center of the crab eating universe. As such, every local and longtime visitor/vacationer invariably has their favorite crab joint that they will defend to the death and that is as it should be. I am also pretty sure that Ocean City has more Crab restaurants per capita than any other city in America and probably on earth. Now for all you info geeks out there who are going to Google this statement for accuracy don’t bother; I don’t care what you find, this is called “writers hyperbole” and purely used to make the point that “We love and know our crabs in Ocean City”. All that being said I want to write about the place I go to and where I bring my family and friends when we get the crab eating itch, The Crab Bag.
The Crab Bag is a rusted tin roofed two story building with big signs advertising its existence on Coastal Highway at 130th Street on the Bayside. The entrance to the main restaurant is around back and parking is many time difficult. The difficulty arises from the fact that The Crab Bag is always busy, whether in season or off. If you call to check on the wait it is always 1 ½ to 2 hrs but in actuality being seated is usually faster than that. There is a covered outside area which has recently been renovated with a fire place. The inside dining room is simple as any Crab joint would be and tightly packed. There are wide screen TV’s all around which are constantly playing either ESPN or a sporting event. The downstairs bar is long and inviting and if you are lucky enough to find an empty seat take it, they serve the full menu at the bar and it is first come first served. There is also an upstairs bar and dining area that can be accessed from the front and is an excellent Sports Bar, especially during Football Season. I mean, seriously, can you think of anything better that drinking a cold beer, eating hot crabs and watching your favorite football team? I know I am having a hard time coming up with something.
Now comes the point of this whole review, the food. Let me start off by saying that the menu is Huge! It has something for everyone, which is both good and bad. The good is that when you bring friends, those that don’t eat crabs (yes these people really exist) can find something else to eat pretty easily. The bad part is that with a menu this large, quality is not as high as it should be in many areas. But the point is that you don’t go to a crab house to eat a deli sandwich or a fajita or a pasta dish! You are there to eat crabs and if you made it to the Crab Bag you will not be disappointed. The crabs are hand sorted and steamed to order the Eastern Shore way, with plenty of Old Bay seasoning. They arrive to your brown paper covered table in a brown paper bag and they are heavy and hot. You can order your crabs in any manner of ways from individually to all you can eat Feasts and combination platters. Along with the (yes I am going to say it) best crabs I have eaten in an Ocean City Crab House, the corn on the cob comes still in its husk with clarified butter and is the perfect accompaniment to any Crab Feast. Another side of note is the Cole slaw, it is lightly dressed and crunchy and very cooling after the crabs and corn. As far as appetizers go the wings are well cooked and juicy with an interesting tomato based sauce that is slightly sweet along with the heat. I am also very partial to the Spiced Steamed Shrimp, they are large and meaty with just the right amount of spice and the house cocktail sauce has a very pleasant zip. For those soft-shell crab fans, such as me, the Soft Shell Po’Boy is an excellent choice. They come with two lightly battered and fried soft shell crabs in a crusty French roll with crisp lettuce, fresh tomato slices and tartar sauce.
The best deal in the house is the Festival Feast Platter and should be shared between two friends with hearty appetites. It comes with 2 12oz Lobster Tails, 12 Steamed Clams, 20 Large Spiced Shrimp, 4 Hot Steamed Crabs, 2 Corn on the Cobb and 2 Salads (the two salads always makes me laugh). At $89 it is maybe the best bargain in the place, I only wish they served the lobsters whole like the used too. Whole lobsters always cook better and taste much better that just the tails.
All in all The Crab Bag fits all my pre-requisites for a great Crab House: The Beer is Cold, The Crabs are Hot and Heavy and the People are Friendly. So go to your long time favorite Crab House when you come to town but also give The Crab Bag a try; who knows maybe you will have a new fave.
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