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Belly Up

Shell Shock

For a Place With a Logo, Crabby Dick's Turns Out to be Pretty Good

Crabby Dick's

This location is closed

By Susan Fradkin | Posted 11/7/2001

We have picked an inauspicious moment to dine in Fells Point. It's a Wednesday night, police are investigating a murder that occurred outside a club just down the street, and today the city has received a supposedly credible anthrax threat. The scene down here is a bit eerie. No panhandlers, lots of parking, empty sidewalks and streets.

On the plus side, C.C. and I have our pick of tables at Crabby Dick's (606 S. Broadway, [410] 327-7900). We also have the nearly undivided attention of four servers who, their services not demanded by other patrons, stroll over at too-frequent intervals to see if we need anything, if we like everything, and, I suspect, just to snatch a bit of normalcy. They're all young men, they're a little unsettled, they keep insisting they feel perfectly safe. I want to say, "Relax. No one feels safe. It's all right."

Instead, I order us a couple of brews (domestics are half-price tonight), the I Want It All appetizer sampler ($9.95), and a cup of cream-of-crab soup ($3.95), which comes, the menu says, with some sherry on the side. This civilized touch surprises me in this setting, which I can only describe as nautical tailgate party. It's a young person's place: part bar (there are two of them), part crab house, part T-shirt emporium. I'm wondering how much attention is being paid to the food.

The crab soup is a winner, laced with sherry, seasoned with parsley, and containing big hunks of sweet meat. It isn't one of those too-thick concoctions that give cream soups a bad name. It arrives sans the side of sherry, but one of our servers soon supplies it, in a small plastic cup. The soup tastes fine before the addition of extra alcohol, but it's sublime afterward.

The appetizer sampler evinces a kitchen with multiple personalities, one of which is an expert at frying and another that couldn't do it to save its life. The hush puppies are perfect, sweet balls of lightly fried dough. The clams, on the other hand, are a disaster, a large portion fried to petrifaction. (Howard Johnson must be spinning in his grave.) And there's something in the taste of the crab balls I don't like, although C.C. enjoys them. Onion rings and jalapeño poppers are standard-issue; the buffalo wings are meaty and atomically hot. The assorted dipping sauces are a mixed bag too: a watery, tasteless cocktail sauce (which appears to have been frozen), a sweeter-than-average tartar, and a creamy horseradish sauce we like.

The entrées come with house salads featuring fresh romaine, ripe Roma tomatoes, red onions, and shaved Parmesan. The "Seize-Her" salad dressing is good, though I like a dollop of anchovy paste in the dressing if the little fishes themselves are absent--as they are here--from the salad itself.

Our main courses arrive impressively arranged. C.C.'s fried hard crab ($16.95) perches menacingly, claws outstretched, on a bed of shredded lettuce. A pair of crab balls sit atop the claws, near the body of the crab, looking like flexed biceps. Beneath the batter lies a large crab cake that is much better than the crab balls--light on filler, heavy on crab, nicely spiced with Old Bay. The platter comes with a lot of curly fries (mashed potatoes and pasta salad are other side options) and a good-sized serving of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.

It's hard to find a dish heavier than a fried hard crab, but I manage. Seafood kebabs ($18.95) feature skewers of shrimp (four large ones) and scallops (ditto) laid across a bed of fettuccini topped with "crab sauce"--actually Alfredo with a hint of Old Bay. The white sauce, with bits of tomato, red onion, and green pepper, is heavy with crab, which means you get a lot of seafood in each heart-stopping bite, and it's all quite good: Nothing is overdone, everything tastes fresh.

Dessert finds us pretty full, as usual, but we forge ahead with a treat sized to share. Seymore's Root-Beer Float ($4.95) arrives in a 9-inch-tall glass mug. It tastes like junior high. The mug, festooned with a picture of the irritated crustacean, Crabby Dick, contains several scoops of good vanilla ice cream in quality root beer, all topped by a cloud of whipped cream. One of our servers has suspended a pair of cherries from a patriotic display of red, white, and blue straws. It's romantic, sharing a root beer float with the one you love. Our servers bid us warm goodbyes. Outside Crabby Dick's, the pace is picking up. Young people hurry by, but a few are strolling, taking back this Fells Point night.

Open noon-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.

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