Crackin' Open Crabs
07 May 2018
There’s hardly an eatery in Charleston not offering fresh crab cuisine on the menu, but the list we’ve compiled features 18 of the area’s top dining locations for feasting on one of summer’s top crustaceans, whether it's a hearty pound of hot, steaming crab legs or a seafood dish that blends crab with a mix of other protein from the sea.
By JENNA-LEY JAMISON
Charleston Crab House
Whether waterside along James Island’s Wappoo River or peering out from the rooftop basking in the beauty of the city’s historic downtown, you’ll find either of the crab house’s locations provide the perfect ambiance for feasting on a “crab-a-tizer” like chilled crab dip or fried crab claws. Or maybe it’s a crab-stuffed mushroom you need to prep the taste buds, or a hearty filling of Alaskan snow crab, part of the gargantuan Carolina platter. No matter what you order, be sure to ask for a classic crab cake—just $9.99—to top off any entrée, even a salad! Other crab house specialties include the fried soft shell crab and seafood pasta with shrimp and crabmeat tossed in linguine with basil sauce. charlestoncrabhouse.com, 843-853-2900.
Coconut Joe’s Beach Grill
Listen to the relaxing sound of surf at this Isle of Palms hangout. Sit atop the rooftop bar for a romantic evening out or under the covered deck for a memorable meal with the kids. The sights, sounds and delicious crab plates will quickly reveal why the location is dubbed the “friendliest place on the beach.” Look no further than the “crab-stack sandwich”—a crab cake loaded with bacon, pimento cheese and spicy ranch—to remind you of your surrounding paradise. Or try the “very crabby crab cakes.” One of the kitchen favorites, it consists of three pan-fried cakes with a spicy cream sauce and side of Cole slaw and fries. But if it’s brunch you fancy, there’s even an island crab cake bowl. So while sipping a bloody Mary, fork up bites of crab cake layered with potatoes, eggs, cheese and a three-pepper cream sauce. coconutjoes.biz, 843-886-0046.
Finz Bar & Grill
Craft beer and seafood are a tantalizing combination you’ll find plenty of at this Mt. Pleasant joint. With daily food and drink specials, including wine, cocktails and shooters, and an atmosphere that caters to the casual, there’s little to dislike here—not to mention the crab plates. If it’s the six-legged crustacean you seek, pop by Mondays for a special market price pound of Alaskan snow crab paired with hushpuppies. Other top crab items on the menu include blue crab hash and the grilled fish of the day, mixed with scallions, tomatoes and tomato vinaigrette or starters like the Charleston blue crab dip and she-crab soup. Perhaps most unique to Finz is the chance for customers to reel in their own catch—be it crab or other creature! Sign up for a fishing charter and sail the sea; then return to the kitchen and get that fresh catch cooked. finzbar.com, 843-654-7296.
You’ll find this Lowcountry favorite nestled in between storefronts along busy Meeting Street—and most likely a long line of hungry patrons waiting to sit inside. That’s because the seafood hut is known for the freshest menu eats and award-winning Northern-style crab cake served with remoulade topping. Hyman’s also offers affordable dishes like the $5.95 crab and shrimp dip appetizer or a bowl of she-crab soup for less than $7. Also, load up your salad, hoagie roll or taco shells with crab cakes. The options are endless for how to eat the meat. You can also pair it with multiple other seafood types and a side for a bargain “signature platter” deal that can feed the whole family. They include the “shellfish symphony,” “Hyman’s classic” and staple Lowcountry boil or you can build your own platter. hymanseafood.com, 843-723-6000.
Loggerhead’s Beach Grill
Enjoy live music and an ocean view while dining at this Folly Beach eatery, where the menu is dotted with favorite American fare like burgers and fries, along with a number of dishes to feed your crab craving. How about the chilled crab dip with a kick of Tabasco sauce to spice up your taste buds before a crab cake sandwich and beer? If your hunger pains are deep, you might opt for a larger portion of crab like the $35 crab leg feast—more than two pounds of steaming legs and a corncob side. There’s also a crab cake seafood dinner, which the kitchen creates using an old family recipe and comes pan-seared or fried with two sides. For just $30, split a dish with a loved one and order up two meats of your choosing—crab cakes with oysters, shrimp, flounder or scallops sound good? loggerheadsbg.com, 843-588-2365.
Does feasting on crab dishes in a Southern comfort environment appeal to you? Then round up a group of friends or romantic partner—private dining is available—and treat yourselves to locally-sourced fare for lunch, dinner or even brunch, where the she-crab soup and bistro benedict serves up the freshest of crab meat. The $16 benedict is a seafood twist on a traditional breakfast staple, with home fries and a biscuit to complete it. At lunchtime, start with an appetizer of Carolina crab cake for just $10; it’s served with a remoulade and green tomato chow-chow; or satisfy your palate with an indulgent seafood mac ’n cheese made with ham, caramelized onions, jumbo lump crab, herbed panko and lobster Mornay. In addition, not only is there a crab cake sandwich topped with a fried green tomato but also a similar but more decadent version dubbed the “Carolina crab melt,” which mixes in pimento cheese and crab velouté, all piled atop an English muffin. For dinner, the Carolina crab cake comes plated with two local staples: Charleston red rice and collard greens. lowcountrybistro.com, 843-302-0290.
Iron out that dress shirt and whisk your lady away to this historic downtown retreat, where upscale dining and memorable eats are the focus. Impress your date by starting out the evening with an order of piping hot blue crab bisque or Charleston crab cake—served with tomato butter and shrimp and butter bean succotash. While you let your first course settle over a glass of wine or champagne, ponder the succulent petite filet and crab entrée that awaits. Your dish will appear heavenly with a side of smashed fingerling potatoes, baby spinach and Portobello mushroom bordelaise. The Sunday brunch menu is also littered with crab—the Lowcountry benedict with blue crab remoulade and Charleston crab cake, a “Down South classic,” with risotto, tomato butter and okra and sweet corn fricassee. Is your mouth watering already? Make a reservation to see why this East Bay Street is a Holy City hotspot. magnoliascharleston.com, 843-577-7771.
Morgan Creek Grill
Here on the Isle of Palms Marina, find a respite where you can marvel over a panoramic landscape of the water, boats and colorful horizon and tap a foot to live music on certain days, whether you sip and dine in the main inside seating area, on the rooftop deck or near the creekside bar—where you’ll find a more casual menu. Your taste buds won’t mind where you sit as long as you start your mealtime savoring lump crake meat on flatbread. Follow up the $10 starter with a Caesar, wedge or house salad with a crab cake topper or go straight for the crab cake sandwich served with peach and tarragon jam. Find a fancier crab cake dish for the dining room menu. It’s also served with local stone ground grits and collards. Or maybe it’s the appetizing crab and orzo-stuffed flounder that has your salivary glands excited; a separate brunch menu is available as early as 10 a.m. on Sunday.
If you’re driving through North Charleston or downtown, stop by either location to fuel up on the area’s “best Southern-fried seafood”—including “crabby” grub to satisfy your empty belly. Sip she-crab bisque—scented with sherry—or several servings of hot shrimp and crab dip on crispy pita chips. But it’s the famous chilled crab dip from the Boals family—Wade Boals is co-owner—that the kitchen is also celebrated for. That’s because the recipe is a half-century old and a well-kept family secret, so no need to think twice about scooping a hearty heaping atop a cracker. Or maybe it’s the blue crab cakes and fried green tomato combination or delectable snow crab leg steam pots, each for under $30, that are calling your name for comfort meals big enough to share. For a classic dish, order the grilled crab cakes served over a blue crab hollandaise. There’s certainly many a reason why the Noisy Oyster has maintained local popularity for 25 years.
Pier 101 Restaurant & Bar
Looking for a tranquil environment far removed from the everyday chaos of the house or office? Well, it doesn’t get much more authentic than yards from the water, where patrons can step inside—with sand still stuck to their feet—and relax with fresh fare most likely from the same surf surrounding you. For the last year, this Folly Beach eatery has been an ideal destination for refreshment, especially if you’re in the mood for live music, friendly service and bites of crab meat sure to tempt some possible post-meal finger licking. Pier 101 has all the Lowcountry crab staples you crave: she-crab soup, the crab cake sandwich and warm blue crab dip with pimento cheese and pita. Whether it’s the hot midday sun forcing you inside for a quick app or a breezy spring evening begging you and your spouse to enjoy a romantic outdoor date, there’s a table here for you. pier101folly.com, 843-633-0246.
Red’s Ice House
A favored hangout for locals and tourists alike, Red’s is the perfect place to dig into an epic assortment of crab legs, with a cold beer at your fingertips and Mt. Pleasant’s historic Shem Creek the backdrop. Take an inside seat or grab a table on the patio before diving into a pound or half-pound of snow crab clusters straight from the steamer. If you can’t get enough of fresh crab legs then stop by Mondays and crack open all you can eat for just $34.95. Try a smaller portion of crab meat for only $8.95 with “Red’s Crazy Crab Cake”—dubbed “not your everyday crab cake” and served with key lime mustard sauce. Other finger foods you’ll love include the seafood queso dip, made with sweet crab and spicy shrimp, and “Red’s Rockin’ Crab Dip,” served hot or cool but always creamy! It consists of lump crab and cream cheese blended with scallions and pecans. Red’s also has a dig on Seabrook Island. redsicehouse.com, 843-388-0003.
You’ll hardly find a yummy seafood hangout more casual than this business by the sea, which started as a food truck operation before opening as a storefront in Folly Beach in 2014. A family-owned eatery that prides itself as a “no frills” place for eating “bam good” seafood, Roadside has the best she-crab soup in town, according to a Post and Courier newspaper review. But be sure to pop a few crab bites in your mouth as an app. Kitchen hands roll and deep fry the meat, made only more delectable with a dip in the menu’s popular “Roadie” remoulade sauce. For a meal, consider the “Mr. Crab” sandwich with two crab cakes and special “bam” sauce; nix the bun and you’ve got the crab cake basket—you choose grilled or fried. Can’t decide what you crave? Try it all. The menu is reasonably priced to keep hungry patrons returning. roadsideseafood.com, 843-754-5890.
Shem Creek Bar & Grill
Also dotting Shem Creek as a picturesque Lowcountry dining spot is this seafood house and oyster bar that’s a refreshing recess from life’s busyness. The plates are hearty and fresh no matter what meal you choose to experience—even brunch. Not in the mood for she-crab soup or crab dip—though each is on the menu—yet still seek some semblance of crab-ilicious flavor? Grab a stack of napkins and tear into the fried chicken “crab wings,” covered in Old Bay seasoning. Or stay the authentic route and go straight for the pound of snow crab legs. For multiple seafood flavors, opt for the stuffed flounder, which has a deviled egg and shrimp dressing, or the “Shem Creek Seafood Spectacular,” which offers a crab cake tossed in with other seafood. Of course there’s always the simple “Damn Good Crab Cakes,” which kitchen staff prepares like an art, handpicking the meat and grilling the patties before topping it with a special she-crab sauce—ready for devouring. shemcreekbarandgrill.com, 843-884-8102.
If you’re catching rays at Sullivan’s Island and need a break from the sand and surf, this family-owned seafood restaurant lacks stiff prices and pretention, while still offering memorable eats. For a mealtime warm-up start with crab dip or crab-stuffed mushrooms, then go for the full-pound of crab legs or other steamed favorite, the “Fort Moultrie Steamer,” which combines crab legs with shrimp, sausage and a corncob. If it’s fried food you fancy, then try the pan-fried crab cakes or deviled crab dish for only $10.95. Or have it all! There’s several seafood dishes that combine crab with other fish: the “Captain’s Platter” is complete with deviled crab, shrimp, flounder, oysters and scallops; the baked seafood casserole includes fresh crabmeat stuffing topped with cheese sauce; and the kitchen’s notable 7-layered seafood creation pairs crab with sautéed shrimp, scallops and fettuccini in a creamy Mornay sauce. Add bacon and cheese on top and bake to perfection. 843-883-3222.
Every day but Monday, you can pop by this family-friendly venue on Ashley River Road and find a bright, “flowery” nook with classic, cheerful vibes that’ll energize you the rest of the day. The Charleston joint is affordable and full of fare that won’t disappoint—how about a warm cup or bowl of crab chowder for less than $5? It’s one house special the café prides itself on. For breakfast you can’t miss out on the creamy crab benedict with fried green tomatoes topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. How about a crab omelet? It comes seasoned with fresh basil and filled with oven-dried tomatoes and ricotta cheese. Lunch is no less delicious. Sink your teeth into a classic crab cake sandwich on a toasted croissant—don’t’ forget the homemade remoulade sauce. Toss the bread and you get the crab cake appetizer with remoulade for just $8.95. sunflowercafecharleston.com, 843-571-1773.
The Crab Shacks
Named by Southern Living Magazine as one of the Palmetto State’s top 10 places to find fresh, local seafood, the shack is hard to resist—especially with three nearby locations: West Ashley, Coosaw Creek and Folly Beach. Satisfy your crab-craving first with a tasty appetizer, such as the crab-stuffed mushrooms, hot crab and artichoke dip or crab balls with remoulade. Next, warm up with a bowl of she-crab soup; or watch the waistline with the Shack’s signature crab and avocado salad. For heartier fare, opt for the shrimp and crab casserole—a pie stuffed also with cheese and tomatoes—the crab-stuffed flounder or crab duo, which is a crab cake surrounded with a cluster of snow crab legs. (The crab legs also dot the raw bar.) Feeding a party or small army? Load up on crab clusters with three dozen oysters, potatoes and corn and peel and shuck away. crabshacks.com
The Rusty Rudder
The Lowcountry has no shortage of outdoor dining spots, and this Mt. Pleasant locale is one of the best for unwinding around a shaded table in a neighborhood environment. Fill up on crab cuisine while taking turns competing with friends over cornhole. The food is just one of many features continually drawing in customers. The outdoor patio is also complete with a tiki bar, oyster pit, fireplace, lounge seating and TVs. So you’ll feel right at home while spooning up baked crab dip or slicing through a crab cake atop a roasted beet salad. But most divine is the seafood mac ’n cheese loaded with crab, sautéed shrimp and Tabasco aioli. It’s actually one of six twists the kitchen offers on the classic, Southern side. For dinner, be sure to try the generous Lowcountry crab cake ($26) topped with fried tobacco onions and served over pimento cheese grits and collards. rustyruddermtp.com, 843-388-3177.
What better place to slough off the stress of life, survey the beauty of the surrounding coastal town and share a smile with a loved one or stranger? Come on down to Mt. Pleasant’s Shem Creek food hub—there’s also a full bar—and dunk a pan-seared crab cake into a Cajun remoulade sauce for a snack, or if opting for a healthier dish, fork up bites of lump crabmeat covering a plate of fresh veggies and salad greens. Slide those crab cakes, fried, between a warm bun and you a complete lunch, served with a side of your choice. For just $1 more, top that crab cake with some bacon or a fried egg. For a heartier plate, ask for the seared crab cake entrée with Cajun remoulade, sweet corn salsa, and marinated tomatoes. Or pair crab meat with other succulent seafood in the “Lowcountry sauté,” which mixes crab and crawfish tails in a bourbon butter, all loaded over creamy grits and fried oysters. vickerys.com, 843-884-4440.