Living in Annapolis, I don’t usually think of going to Gambrills* to get seafood, but when a friend told me about a place with great steamed crabs, I thought I’d check it out.
After a week straight of rain, we finally caught a break and went looking for Fat Boys Crab Shack. As soon as we arrived, I could see that we weren’t the only ones with this idea. Both parking lots were full.
The outside of the restaurant was whimsically decorated with a seascape scene and bright colors. The inside was pretty basic, which we soon found was how things worked at Fat Boys. The service style was is fast-casual — you order at the counter, and they bring it to you when it’s ready. At first I didn’t think we’d be able to find a table, but once we got past the small dining area and bar, there was a sprawling deck off the back, with picnic tables both on the deck and on the ground behind it.
We quickly grabbed a menu and a seat, and figured out what we wanted to order. The menu had a great selection of seafood and sandwiches, with some barbecue mixed in as well. The big seller definitely seemed to be the steamed crabs, as most of the tables were covered in brown butcher’s paper and emptied crab shells.
Wanting to try a little of everything, we started off with some appetizers: Crofton crab balls ($12), a crab pretzel ($11) and an order of fried clam strips ($8). The crab balls were like deep-fried mini crab cakes with filler. These were severed with Old Bay-seasoned chips, which tasted good but were kind of soft, as if they had been kept in a humid area. There was a similar issue with the crab pretzel, which was soft and rubbery. This also had very little crab dip on it, with lots of melted cheese. The clam strips were under-seasoned, but after some salt, pepper and lemon they were pretty good.
As his main course, my son, Calvin, chose the slow-cooked pulled pork sandwich ($10) with hush puppies. Unlike most pulled pork sandwiches today, this one had the barbecue sauce already on it. Calvin wasn’t a fan of this, but I thought it tasted pretty good. The hush puppies were fantastic — lightly fried, with a great corn flavor and a hint of sweetness. We all enjoyed them very much.
My wife, Chandra, decided to get Alaskan snow crab legs ($23.95 for a 1 ½ pounds). Having grown up on the shore, I never get these. The last time I had snow crab legs was on a seafood buffet years ago, and they were watery and tasteless. Since then, I’ve just thought that was how snow crabs were. Boy was I wrong! These were exceptionally tasty — the claws were even sweet. The snow crabs were a big hit.
I, of course, had the colossal lump crab cake ($15 for 5 ounces, or $21 for 8 ounces). This crab cake was made in the classic Maryland style and was simply excellent. It had almost no filler and lots of flavor. I had the Boardwalk french fries with these, which were acceptable. Again, I wonder how much the humidity played a factor.
In addition to this feast, I just had to get some steamed crabs. I ordered three mediums (market price that day: $5.66 each). While I found out that I do like snow crab, there is just no beating a properly steamed and seasoned blue crab in Maryland. Fat Boys steams them perfectly, and the crabs were nice and meaty.
Eating on the deck was a lot of fun, and a fantastic way to celebrate summer. While there were a couple of things that weren’t great, Fat Boys sells good food, and makes a lot of people happy. My suggestion is to order just about anything that has crab in the title, and you’ll be in for a real treat.
Fat boys crab shack
WHERE: 1581 Defense Highway, Gambrills
HOURS: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
PRICES: $9 to $13 for lunch, $13 to $36 for dinner
RESERVATIONS: Not accepted
CREDIT CARDS: All major cards
WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE: Yes
*Clarification: A previous version of this article identified the location of Fat Boys Crab Shack as Crofton. The Shack’s address is Gambrills. Another location, Fat Boys Crab House, is located in Crofton.