Where to find Lowcountry crabs on menus, specials boards and tables
By Bill Davis
Sweet and slightly briny, local crab flavors burst forward in any preparation—a decidedly Southern she-crab soup, piled high atop a steak and take salad to a whole new level.
And the best thing with crab here in Charleston, you can get the freshest product right from the Lowcountry waterways, both blue crabs and stone crabs. All you need is a metal basket.
Let the pros in our vaunted local culinary scene tell you how it’s done. Better yet, book a table and let them serve it to you!
12 Anson Street, Charleston
Anson’s historic setting is a perfect place to enjoy a fine dinner of the Lowcountry’s iconic seafood. Chef Nick McBride serves she-crab soup, a crab salad and lump crab splashed with bearnaise atop a filet served in the dining room that harkens to Charleston drawing rooms of yore. But there are also worldly spins on local crab including a spring roll stuffed with blue crab on the menu. That said, manager Mike Pendleton is a traditionalist, saying you don’t have to do a lot with crab. Serve it with champagne or a chardonnay and you’re halfway there. Local, he adds, is best, as it’s fresher and usually at a better price.
Starz Rooftop and Grill Room
495 King St., Charleston
Situated along a popular strip of restaurants on King Street, Stars’ main room, with its wooden and leathered banquets, is tucked under paneling that reaching the ceiling in two sections. In the middle of the room toward the back are the stairs to the rooftop bar, whose 360-degree views gave the restaurant its name. Settle into a table and enjoy a chilled melon gazpacho spiked with local crab. Executive chef Ivan Agular usually pairs crab with cucumber but this year’s melons have been special. “My favorite aspect of local crab is the slight sweetness behind it,” he says. “The waters around here, to me at least, have a subtle and clean brine to them. The same goes for local crab – salty but with subtly sweet flavor that reminds me of sweet vegetables and fruits like cucumber and melon.” First, they prepare the crab by mixing salt, water, and ice into a briny, seawater mixture and gently dropping the crab into it for a few seconds, similar to the way chefs blanche vegetables in salty water. “This brings out the natural saltiness and sweetness of the crab without actually manipulating it,” says Agular. “It lets the wonderful quality of the local crab speak for itself. We finish the dish with a peppery olive oil from Georgia, and a sprinkling of chives, jalapeño and mint.”
544 King St., Charleston
“At FIG and The Ordinary, our connection to the ocean and its bounty is at the very core of our mission statement,” says Chef Mike Lata. “The freshness and the quality satisfies the most discerning palates.” The merroir of the crab is integral into creating the flavor profile Lata is seeking to serve in this American bistro in its standout converted bank setting. “The only local crab we feature are local stone crabs,” says Lata. “We have a great relationship with a local stone crabber, David Richardson from Miss Taylor Seafood.” You know the crab is going to be good when the chef knows the name the guy hoisting them out of the brine.” Relying on the excellence and freshness of the product, Lata serves it simply, cocktail style, with a Sauce bagnarotte – a cognac-laced double-cream sauce spike with tabasco.
1081 Morrison Drive, Charleston
Edmund’s Oast is at its best when it’s dancing on both sides of the line separating tradition and modernity. Case in point is how it features local crab on its menu, which changes regularly with the season. Instead of just crumbling it on a salad, or lumping it together as a cake, the crew at the Oast serves up a spicy crab and glass noodle salad. Manager Scott Shor says that the dish “is hearty in that it fills you up, but when you’re eating it has a refreshing quality, it doesn’t weigh you down.” Blue crab meat is combined with Asian glass noodles and studded with black garlic and other herbs and cucumber. You’ll have a tougher time figuring out what to quaff with this cold, vibrant dish, as there is literally a wall of beer taps to choose from. Check with your server what goes best with the salad, as their beer selection can change daily.
It should be no surprise that a pop-up restaurant (millennial for “moveable feast”) that splits times between several breweries and distilleries takes a decidedly forward approach to delivering crab dishes. Delaware-native chef Jeff Stoneberger, currently in residence at Proof (437 King Street) is driven to present Asian flavor profiles, and the main entrée he’s serving right now is a Brown Butter and Blue Crab Ramen. For it, he insists on sustainable local-only crab. “Fresh crab tastes of deep sweet ocean versus pasteurized, which like all pasteurized products loses its sweetness during commercial processing,” says Stoneberger “We have to support local crabbers and fishermen because Charleston is a city based on the water and we want local economies like fishing-oyster farming-crabbing to sustain and prosper – it’s what makes Charleston special.”
Crabs to go
Charleston-area seafood markets regularly have fresh blue crabs and stone crab claws available right from local crabbers that you can make at home. Throw some claws into a gumbo, or throw a bunch into a pot for a proper backyard crab pickin.’ Below are some local favorite spots.
4143 Rivers Ave., North Charleston
Open Monday-Saturday from 11 am – 8:30 pm; Sunday 1-7 pm.
Fresh local seafood, oysters, live crabs and hot seafood counter.
Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp Co.
2223 Folly Rd., Charleston (right at Folly Beach)
Open daily, 6 am – 7 pm
Unbeatable marsh views, fresh, local seafood and specialty items for cooking including crab boil, fish fry and more.
3832 Savannah Hwy., Johns Island
Open Monday-Saturday from 10:30 am – 7 pm
Fresh seafood market with fried fish and seafood plates for lunch and dinner. They will cook your purchase from the case for just $2 extra.
Ravenel Fresh Seafood
925 Savannah Hwy, Ravenel
Open Monday-Saturday from 10 am – 6:30 pm and Sunday from 12- 6 pm.
Crabs, fish, shrimp, oysters and clams plus a kitchen that serves signature garlic crabs for takeout.
4224 Dorchester Rd, North Charleston
Open Monday-Saturday 10 am – 7 pm
Fresh seafood, live crabs and cooked seafood options.