Crabs from Louisiana take a pounding

September 13, 2001|By Robin Tunnicliff Reid | Robin Tunnicliff Reid,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

MUCH has been written of late in this paper about eating crabs. Depending on what you believe, there are fewer of Maryland's famous crustaceans on tables this summer because a) they've been over-harvested, b) watermen aren't being allowed to make a living or c) both of the above.

Whatever the truth may be, Bill Green is smart. Since he opened the Stoney Creek Inn six months ago, he's pinned his hopes on crabs south of here. Way south, as in Louisiana.

"I get 90 percent of our crabs from there for consistency, and because Maryland's industry is unstable," he said. "Louisiana crabs may have a little stronger taste, but we're getting some nice, big crabs."

Indeed he is. On a balmy Friday night, a friend and I introduced her two children to the art of picking crabs at Stoney Creek Inn, a comfy Formstone cottage that's been a restaurant or tavern overlooking the creek for years.

The crabs were a picture-perfect jumble of red claws and legs arrayed on brown paper. The coleslaw was the best I've ever had outside my mother's kitchen, the broiled crab cake a golden mound of lump meat held together with the barest trace of filler, and the iced tea freshly brewed (no liquor license here, so load up a cooler).

Ben, 5, and Susannah, 9, were not excited about trying crabs. But Ben brightened up when a home-baked boule of steaming crab dip was placed before him (and after we bribed him with a Pez dispenser).

At first, he ate only a tiny bit of the dip, but he liked it enough to try again, this time getting a sizable smear of the gooey combination of lump crab, Worcestershire sauce, cream and Cheddar cheese.

Susannah could not be bribed. Instead, she contented herself with two crispy white-meat chicken tenders, bits of Ben's basic garden salad and hush puppies dipped in powdered sugar. The latter got rave reviews all around.

Then came the crabs. More important, then came the crab mallets, veritable weapons when placed in the hands of a small boy. No claw or leg missed Ben, as he whacked at every thing in sight under the pretense of helping the grown-ups feed themselves. He would have taken a crack at the crab emblazoned on the banner over our table, if permitted.

With a dozen medium crabs, his mother and I had more than enough to withstand Ben's overly zealous attempts. And there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. We loved Green's almost spreadable crab seasonings (rock salt and J.O. Spice, which was less salty than the conventional Old Bay).

Our crab cake came with the requisite two packets of Saltines and a cup of tangy-sweet homemade tartar sauce. As for a side, nothing could have been better than Bill Green's celery-seed-studded coleslaw, a perfect balance of sweet and salty.

When the former baker has time, he makes chocolate cake and strawberry shortcake. We wished he had before our visit, because the un-carroty carrot cake and bland chocolate brownie pie bought from an outside vendor weren't great.

But we'd go back for the crabs any time. Just hide the mallets.

Stoney Creek Inn

8238 Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena

410-439-3123

Open: For lunch and dinner Wednesday through Monday; open for breakfast as well Saturdays and Sundays; closed Tuesday

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers $2.25 to $7.95; entrees $4.95 to $23.95

Food:***

Atmosphere: **

Service: **1/2

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