It's not difficult to feel comfortable at the Fenwick Crab House; the tables are covered with brown paper and the wooden seats and tables and plants evoke a warm, homey feeling.
We were looking for something away from the beaten path in Ocean City and hadn't ventured too far before we found the Fenwick Crab House, just over the Delaware line on Coastal Highway. It may not have been as far off the beaten path as we had intended, but it proved to be an excellent dining diversion.
We started with an order of beer-battered onion rings ($3.50). They were delectable. The onion rings, along with the restaurant's complimentary basket of crackers and bar cheese, were more than adequate appetizers for the two adults and three kids at our table.
We were tempted by the crab dip, backfin crab meat in a cheese casserole ($6.95), but decided we needed to save room for dinner.
For "little crabbers," the kids that is, the Fenwick Crab House has a special menu. Fenwick's kids' menu is more seafood oriented than other restaurants, offering such dinners as fried clam strips, crab cakes, fried shrimp and flounder fingers, along with hot dogs, hamburgers and ravioli, ranging in price from $3.50 to $6.95. Like the adult entrees, children may order two vegetables with their meals. Drinks are extra.
The emphasis is clearly on seafood, and the menu offers everything from twin lobster tails (at market price) to Louisiana barbecued shrimp, to fish, to crabs, to seafood combinations.
My wife chose to step outside of her meat-and-potato Midwestern upbringing to order a seafood combination of crab cake and chicken ($12.50). It was her first crab and she found the deep-fried, breaded cake delicious. The kids swiped the chicken, fried in a spicy batter, from her and paid compliments to the chef.
I ordered the flounder Florentine ($12.95), a flounder fillet stuffed with spinach. The fish was tender and tasty but I found the spinach too much. Our waitress had said the entree included a cheese sauce, which may have balanced the spinach. Unfortunately, there was no cheese sauce.
We found our vegetable choices -- broccoli, coleslaw and tossed salad -- more than adequate.
Having heard the desserts were homemade at the Fenwick Crab House, we decided to indulge. Our choices were a Dutch apple pie a la mode ($3.50), pecan pie ($3.50) and a chocolate chip cookie (85 cents). The pies, we were told, were made by the owner's mother. And they were delicious, certainly cuts above the manufactured desserts in most restaurants these days.
The Fenwick Crab House maintains its homey atmosphere, even as throngs of people invade and make noisy conversation. Maybe that has to do with the staff, too, who were downright friendly; you're treated more like a guest than a customer by both the hostess and wait staff.
But it's obvious people come here for more than the service. The moderately priced menu and savory food can't be beat.
Fenwick Crab House
Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island, Del., (302) 539-2500.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Credit cards: V, MC, D, AE.
Non-smoking section? Yes.