If you live in South Jersey and you love seafood, you probably have eaten at Crabby’s Suds & Seafood at one time or another.
One of the most acclaimed seafood houses in the area and consistent “Best of Press” winner, the most amazing thing about Crabby’s 27-year success story is that they are located in Belcoville, a tiny town in Weymouth Township that is hardly a mecca for anything really. It’s a quaint town probably best known because Crabby’s is there.
Proof that you don’t have to be located near the ocean to be a successful seafood restaurant, Crabby’s is not going to wow you with its decor. It’s a mainland sea shanty adorned with beer signs and menu boards with crab specials as well as some picnic tables for seating. It’s the kind of place where the staff makes you feel like you know them forever, giving you brown paper as placemats so you don’t make a mess when cracking all of those crabs.
In other words, Crabby’s is not a gourmet seafood place. It’s a place where you go to grab some beers — there are seven on tap (no crafts, sorry) — bust open some crabs and stare at the menu for about a half an hour to decide what you want.
If you’re a high-maintenance diner, this might not be the place for you. But if you love seafood prepared well with fresh ingredients, it’s a no-brainer.
We were surprised on a recent Sunday visit to find the place busy around 5 p.m., but it was. Big crab clusters and even escargot were passing by as we sat at the bar and ordered a couple of brews and perused the giant menu.
We decided on two apps, but it was a tough choice passing on the scampi trio ($11.99) with shrimp, clams and mussels and the escargot ($8.99), which had a garlic butter and spice sauce that permeated the room with its delicious odor every time it was ordered.
But we settled on one of the night’s specials — the crab dip ($11.99) — and the clams casino ($9.99). Both were quite good, but the crab dip really blew us away. A mixture of cheeses, spinach and fresh crabmeat was served hot and accompanied by above-average nacho chips. What really impressed us was the amount of crab. Not only was the crab mixed in the dip, but it was topped with a heap of fresh crabmeat to make life even better.
Not as good but certainly solid were the clams casino. Six littleneck clams were kept intact and topped with a flavorful topping of breadcrumbs, peppers, spices and lots of bacon. While I would probably pick something else next time around, let’s just say there were zero clams casino left by the time our entrees arrived.
Although I am a landlubber for the most part, we also decided on two seafood entrees. The combinations really seem to be the way to go and are a great value if you have a big appetite or want to share. We chose the Crabby Special ($27.99), which was a massive platter of seafood so big we literally finished less than half of it.
Crabby’s did not have the two blue crab claws that were supposed to come with the platter, but we were just as happy to receive more snow crabs, which were accompanied by six steamed u-peel shrimp and six steamed clams.
The crabs were, by far, the main attraction here. We enjoyed cracking them open and picking out the plump, sweet meat of each leg and dipping some of it in drawn butter. The crabs were so good that we barely touched the shrimp and topneck clams, which were both fine but couldn’t compete with the deliciousness of the crab.
We left with more than half of the platter in takeout containers since the portion was big — real big. In fact, we received more than the six shrimp and six clams that were supposed to come with the meal. Guess they were feeling generous.
We also had a crab cake sandwich ($11.99). Served with fries on a fresh, soft roll, the crab cake was obviously made in house, deep fried and served with quality fries. Interestingly enough, Crabby’s crab cake sandwich is served with American cheese on top, which was certainly not needed but was a nice variation. Loaded with crab meat and a decent amount of filler, it could use a little more flavor, but the tartar sauce helped. A good, but not stellar, crab cake.
Dessert was another tough choice from the seven options that included Crabby’s Strawberry Delight (fresh strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar) and Kentucky bourbon pie, but the servers suggested the Peanut Butter Blitz, and they couldn’t have been more right. A giant slice of pie made with chocolate cookie crumb crust filled with layers of peanut butter and Belgian ganache, peanut butter and chocolate mousse and drizzled with peanut butter and chocolate and topped with whipped cream was sinful perfection, even though it was not house-made.
Crabby’s slogan is a “taste of seafood heaven since 1985,” which shows you the pride its owners and staff take in their tiny seafood shack. But if you aren’t a seafood fan, you will find plenty of options including three steaks, burgers, hot dogs, chicken and a slew of non-seafood apps.
Not many restaurants survive for 27 years, especially in a remote town such as Belcoville, which is near Mays Landing. So for Crabby’s to not only still exist, but thrive, is testament to a devoted following that can only be accomplished by serving quality food.
Crabby’s is a local landmark, a restaurant institution that will probably be around for another 27 years. So roll up your sleeves, dig in, make a mess, have a beer and have some fun. This is rustic seafood at its best.