The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

Tight Lines

July 20, 2012

Maryland-style blue crabs are a treat for the taste buds

TARBORO — I love to eat Maryland-style steamed blue crabs.  If it’s true you are what you eat, then I am one big, overweight, crabby guy.

 Blue crabs, even though they are more green than blue, don’t stay blue long in my presence.  A hand full of Old Bay seasoning, a little quality time in my oversize pressure cooker, and they become an edible, beautiful hue of red.  My Maryland roots start showing when I talk “crabs.”   Some youngsters in that Chesapeake Bay region learn to eat crabs before they can walk.  My children, Candace and Rich, are living proof. Crab meat might be the first solid food they gummed down as toddlers in the 70’s.

 When it comes to eating blue crabs in eastern North Carolina, you have several avenues to travel.  You can catch them yourself, buy live ones at a seafood market, purchase live or cooked crabs online, or visit a crab house restaurant. We will take a look at your crab-eating options.

 Plentiful along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the blue crab’s Latin name is Callinectes sapidus which means “savory, beautiful swimmer.”  Marylanders have a hard time understanding that blue crabs come from anyplace other than the Chesapeake Bay.   No doubt the Chesapeake Bay yields a lot of crabs, but they are not the only ones.  Eastern North Carolina supplies a fair share of these critters, too.  I was amused years ago when I saw a refrigerated truck loading up bushels of live crabs on the Morehead City waterfront with a freshly painted logo on the side panel that read, “Crisfield, Maryland, The Crab Capital of the World.”

 Catching your own crabs can be fun and easy.  It’s a nice, inexpensive family activity the kids will enjoy.  A net, a roll of string or twine, and a hunk of bait is all you need.  Crabs are not choosey eaters, but chicken parts seem to work best for hand liners. Your local sports store/bait shop has everything you need, including good advice, and a short list of rules and regulations you need to know.  Keepers are usually a minimum of five inches spike to spike.

 You can also buy crabs at a seafood market to bring home and cook yourself.  My favorite place to buy live crabs is from Tony Tripp at Washington Crab and Oyster Co. in Washington.  Sometimes crabs are a little scarce, so it’s probably a good idea to call ahead at (252) 946-5796 to check the status.  A pressure cooker, Old Bay seasoning, and some vinegar is all you need.  Cooking directions are simple and appear on the back of your Old Bay seasoning can.

 The computer age makes it easy and convenient to order crabs, live or steamed, to be delivered to your front door.  I can recommend with confidence The Crab Place.  They have a web site at, or you can call them at 1-877-EAT-CRAB.  I have ordered online from The Crab Place several times, and am duly impressed with their service and product quality.

 My favorite restaurant to eat crabs in eastern North Carolina is Backfins Crabhouse in Wake Forest.  The Jenkins brothers from Maryland are doing a very nice job supplying Maryland-style seasoned and spiced crabs for their customers.  These southern Maryland boys have been around the crab business all their lives, and they are the real deal.   For more info or directions, call them at (919) 562-8500.  

 Catching fish?  Tell us about it.  Better yet, send us a picture with all the details.  We love to hear from you at

 See you on the water, my friend!


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Tight Lines
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