Written by Susan Elnicki Wade
July 2020

CHESAPEAKE BAY SUMMERS are almost unimaginable without picking a mountain of steamed crabs along the water. You can eat them on your boat or set up a seafood celebration at destinations that have picnic tables and outdoor areas with stellar seaside views. Be sure to pack wooden mallets for your hungry crew, paper towels and newspapers for the table, and a tin of Old Bay seasoning. A cooler of ice-cold beer is highly recommended.

The following represent a sampling of a dozen take-out places, ranging from the back of a waterman’s truck and rustic seafood shacks to iconic Chesapeake restaurants. All of them will accommodate your crabby cravings. Be sure to call in advance to place an order for the Bay’s favorite summer meal.

Crabs at Cappy's Crabs | Crabs | Marinalife
Crabs at Cappy’s Crabs

River Shack at The Wellwood
Charlestown, MD, 410-287-6666

The Wellwood offers a stunning view of the North East River from an elegant historic building that originally served as a hunting lodge for noteworthy guests such as Teddy Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge. Around back, crab hunters flock to the more casual River Shack, where wooden picnic tables rest on a sandy area and live bands play under the stars. An extensive take-out menu includes steamed crabs, crab cakes, drunken clams, fried chicken, local seafood and lots more. Curbside carryout platters create family meals with sides, beer and wine. Nearby Elk Neck State Park has acres of picnic areas to spread out your feast. (wellwoodrestaurant.com)

Mike’s Live Crabs
Havre de Grace, MD, 410-688-2761

For more than a decade, this local waterman has harvested crabs from the waters where the Susquehanna River meets the Chesapeake Bay. Home base for his seafood business is inland a few blocks from the waterfront, but if you call in advance to place an order and pull up at the city dock, Mike will deliver live crabs to your boat. After picking a couple dozen, walk around the delightful streets of Havre de Grace and explore its historic buildings, antique shops and lively pubs. (chinson2.wixsite.com/mikescrabs)

Norris Seafood
Essex, MD, 410-574-6759

This seafood market is a classic example of how hard watermen and their families work to build small businesses around the Bay. With cheerfully painted walls and crab bushels serving as planters for summer flowers, the modest building sports a homey, authentic vibe. Local crabs are available live or steamed, and seafood take-out options seem unlimited. From crabby deviled eggs and fried oyster appetizers to shrimp salad and crab fluff platters, everything is cooked to perfection and carefully tucked into Styrofoam containers. Be sure to call in advance to place your order and pull your boat up to the dock when you arrive. Just north of the market awaits Turkey Point Park with walking trails and scenic areas overlooking Middle River. (norrisseafood.com)

Jimmy Cantler’s Riverside Inn
Annapolis, MD, 410-757-1311

On Mill Creek between downtown Annapolis and the western foot of the Bay Bridge awaits a slice of crab-picking heaven. You know you’ve arrived when the irresistible aroma of their special crab seasoning reaches your boat. Every morning, watermen deliver their catch to kitchen staff who use recipes handed down over five generations to steam crabs and prepare Chesapeake seafood meals. The full menu, which is available for carryout, reflects the bounty of the season, so be sure to ask about daily specials. While you wait for your order, head down to the docks and watch softshell crabs scurry around shedding tanks. Sandy Point State Park is just a few miles west with picnic tables on the beach to enjoy a waterfront dining experience. (cantlers.com)

Stevensville Crab Shack
Stevensville, MD, 410-604-2722

This family-owned crab shack has stood near the eastern foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge since 1998, using generations-old recipes to cook regional seafood ranging from crabs and oysters to shrimp and rockfish. Homemade soups and sides are irresistible. This iconic take-out is conveniently located by the local airport, a grocery store, Bay Bridge Marina, Turner Yacht Services and other businesses that accommodate travel needs. Also within a stone’s throw are several places to stretch your legs on hiking trails, lay out a feast on picnic tables or relish the scenery: Island Dog Park, Terrapin Nature Area, Old Love Point Park, Children’s Memorial Playground, Mowbray Park and Matapeake State Park. (stevensvillecrabshack.com)

Harris Crab House
Grasonville, MD, 410-827-9500

In 1981, Captain Bill Harris and his wife opened the crab house on the front dock of his family’s seafood processing house overlooking Kent Narrows. Five generations have worked at this Eastern Shore gem, receiving fresh seafood from watermen and converting their catch into spectacular dishes. The carryout menu reads like a greatest hits of the Bay mingled with innovative twists on seafood. Steamed crabs are a staple, along with fried oysters and crab cakes, but the take-and-bake menu delivers pleasant surprises such as the oyster and duck pot pie and softshell crab po’ boy. Across the waterway is a secluded place for al fresco dining called Ferry Point Park. Accessible from the Chesapeake Heritage & Visitors Center, this 41-acre protected land offers picnic tables, a small beach, hiking trails and a menagerie of waterfowl and aquatic creatures as dining companions. (harriscrabhouse.com)

Crab Cakes and Fried Oysters at Solomons Pier | Crabs | Marinalife
Crab Cakes and Fried Oysters at Solomons Pier

Gay’s Seafood
Easton, MD, 410-822-5019

At this simple seafood market, you can acquire some of the region’s finest bounty from both the surf and the turf. Hard- and softshell crabs are pulled from Gay’s dock on the Tred Avon River, and shrimp and scallops come right off the boat from Ocean City. For a unique Eastern Shore experience, the market’s affiliates at Tidewater Guide Service will plan your hunting party for goose, duck and deer. After your feast, take time to explore lovely downtown Easton, where its centuries- old streets are lined with historic churches, theaters, taverns, galleries, shops and restaurants. (facebook.com/GaysSeafood)

T.L. Morris Seafood Crab Shack
Trappe, MD, 410-476-4811

You can’t miss this traditional crab shack standing at the base of the Choptank River Bridge, because its bright red paint glows the color of the steamed crabs inside. Owned by a local waterman, this place sells just-caught crabs, oysters and other seasonal seafood and shares recipes that capture the flavors of Eastern Shore cuisine. At nearby Bill Burton Fishing Piers State Park, you can drop a line from the pier, kick back on the small beach area or walk the shoreline to take in a magnificent view. To experience a charming town packed with historic buildings, terrific eateries and quaint shops, cruise across the river and explore downtown Cambridge. (tlmorrisseafood.net)

The Crab Place
Crisfield, MD, 877-328-2722

For almost a quarter century, this seafood mecca has provided carryout and delivery meals in a port often heralded as the Crab Capital of the World. Crisfield’s elegant Victorian homes harken back to its heyday in the 19th century and make it a charming destination for strolls around town. The Crab Place presents fresh from the dock dishes, including steamed crabs, shucked oysters, crab cakes, shrimp and other regional delicacies. For your convenience, crab mallets, oyster knives and brown paper for the table are available, and nearby you can pick up a multi-layered Smith Island Cake. Every summer, people eagerly await the Crab & Cruise party that begins with a crab feast, then takes guests on a three-hour cruise around the local waterways, peppered with DJ music and dancing. (crabplace.com)

Captain White’s Seafood, Maine Avenue Fish Market
Washington, DC, 202-484-2722

Established in 1805, this seafood paradise is the oldest continuously working fish market in the United States and part of The Wharf’s spectacular, new urban development along DC’s waterfront. Within walking distance of the Capitol Dome, the Jefferson Memorial and Smithsonian museums, fishmongers and watermen on floating barges display a cornucopia of delicacies from the Bay and Atlantic seaboard. Choose whatever your heart desires crabs, oysters, squid, rockfish and many more to eat on your boat at the marina or cruise downstream for a picnic on the Potomac River. (wharfdc.com/fish-market)

Smith Point Seafood
Reedville, VA, 804-453-6326

Giant red crabs painted on the exterior walls of modest cinder block buildings and working boats tied up at the dock are sure signs that fresh seafood awaits inside. Often called Cockrells Creek Seafood Deli by locals, this seafood haven steams crabs, fries oysters and whips up sandwiches and sides in traditional Chesapeake style. After they pack up your mouthwatering meal, head due east to visit a pair of historic islands that straddle the Virginia-Maryland state lines. Tangier Island to the south and Smith Island just a few nautical miles north represent centuries of the Bay’s working watermen lifestyle and give visitors a glimpse of communities deeply connected to the sea. (smithpointseafoodinc.com)

Dockside Seafood & Fishing Center
Virginia Beach, VA, 757-481-4545

Some folks come to this location for half-day fishing trips or sunset dolphin watch cruises, but if you’re on a quest for fresh, carryout seafood, this is the place for you. Chalkboards announce the daily catch, and glass cases display local fish, oysters and shrimp on beds of ice. Shelves filled with beer, wine and other sundries make this a one-stop shop for essential provisions. This lively strip near the mouth of the Bay is always bustling with summer visitors and locals packing coolers
for a day at the beaches nearby. (fishingvabeach.com)