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Cantler's is a superb experience for eating crabs in a truly atmospheric setting: I've been going there for several decades. But it is NOT Maryland's best crab house. That title, for me, rests with Waterman's in Rock Hall, which is about 45 minutes on the far side of the Bay Bridge, a looping drive that brings you back to an outdoor deck in sight of the Bridge. Hammering jumbos, slurping cream of crab with a side of sherry, lump crab cakes to rival Faidley's and the Narrows all while sitting on a picnic bench on a expansive deck perched over the Chesapeake with live Motown nonstop on sunny Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

It does get better than Cantler's. In Rock Hall at Waterman's.

And, Chesapeake Living Magazine agrees, having named it "Maryland's Best Crab House" virtually every year since the '90's.

http://www.chow.com/topics/171496?query=wa...%27s+crab+house

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Cantler's is a superb experience for eating crabs in a truly atmospheric setting: I've been going there for several decades. But it is NOT Maryland's best crab house. That title, for me, rests with Waterman's in Rock Hall, which is about 45 minutes on the far side of the Bay Bridge, a looping drive that brings you back to an outdoor deck in sight of the Bridge. Hammering jumbos, slurping cream of crab with a side of sherry, lump crab cakes to rival Faidley's and the Narrows all while sitting on a picnic bench on a expansive deck perched over the Chesapeake with live Motown nonstop on sunny Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

It does get better than Cantler's. In Rock Hall at Waterman's.

And, Chesapeake Living Magazine agrees, having named it "Maryland's Best Crab House" virtually every year since the '90's.

http://www.chow.com/topics/171496?query=wa...%27s+crab+house

Joe - I hate to disagree with someone who has infinitely better food experience/judgment than I (we actually make a point of trying places you recommend, and since you said that you'd schlepped all the way to Trenton for a pie at DeLorenzo's, I consider you a food deity), but this is an exception. We went to Waterman's in late March. We knew in advance that they didn't have hard shells, but we wanted to try it anyway. The crab soup was like crab-flavored dishwater. Barely any crab - a few wispy shreds in a thin, brownish broth with a few bits of what seemed like canned veggies, flavorless crabcakes made entirely of shreds and a noticeable amount of filler, and fries that they should have been embarrassed to serve. Clearly frozen fries from a bag, flavorless and limp and thoroughly unappetizing. Even though we were the only ones there, the service was abysmal. They acted as though we were inconveniencing them. We spent long intervals without seeing a single employee and when we wanted more iced tea or soda, we had to walk over to the kitchen to call out for someone.

Ellen

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Joe - I hate to disagree with someone who has infinitely better food experience/judgment than I (we actually make a point of trying places you recommend, and since you said that you'd schlepped all the way to Trenton for a pie at DeLorenzo's, I consider you a food deity), but this is an exception. We went to Waterman's in late March. We knew in advance that they didn't have hard shells, but we wanted to try it anyway. The crab soup was like crab-flavored dishwater. Barely any crab - a few wispy shreds in a thin, brownish broth with a few bits of what seemed like canned veggies, flavorless crabcakes made entirely of shreds and a noticeable amount of filler, and fries that they should have been embarrassed to serve. Clearly frozen fries from a bag, flavorless and limp and thoroughly unappetizing. Even though we were the only ones there, the service was abysmal. They acted as though we were inconveniencing them. We spent long intervals without seeing a single employee and when we wanted more iced tea or soda, we had to walk over to the kitchen to call out for someone.

Ellen

Wow, Ellen. I'm guessing that you ate inside which is a nondescript bunker of a roadhouse. We didn't have the red crab soup, rather cream of crab which had a number of lumps and thickened without the taste of flour. (I should note that conversely, as much as I love the Narrows which has excellent cream of crab soup, their red crab is awful, too!) But our crabcakes were good-Carol is obsessed with crabcakes and she orders them virtually everywhere. One of the reasons we prefer Waterman's over Cantler's are the sides-I don't like any of Cantler's at all. We've had very good luck at Waterman's. I wonder what kind of crab they used on your visit and if the time of the year matters in what they serve as well as the quality of employees they have. Still, your experience is no excuse. We love the place but if we had an experience like yours' we never would have returned.

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Waterman's was a regular spot for me in college in nearby Chestertown. It is undeniably a great place for crabs, preferably outside with beer, friends, and the musical accompaniment as Joe describes.

However, I wouldn't order much else there. Crabs, yes; steamers, yes; maybe rockfish. But that's it. Their soups rarely satisfied the Marylanders with whom I ate, although dad always got the oyster stew.

I'm not sure how much the indoor dining has changed since they remodeled a few years ago, post-hurricane destruction.

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We plotted a detour to Rock Hall on the way back from the Delaware beaches today, and settled into a booth to beat the humidity outside. Luckily the harbor still looks beautiful (and quiet compared to the Bay's western shore) from inside the tidy dining room.

The cream of crab soup was promising, with a great thick cream base and a bit of sherry on the side, but that promise went unfulfilled as the crab element was close to AWOL. Sparse bits of crabmeat, whose faint flavor was completely overwhelmed by the cream, not to mention the sherry. With a healthier dose of crab (and cooking the sherry into the cream) this could become a great soup.

On the other hand, the crab ball appetizers were exemplary. Ten bucks gets you six beautifully browned nuggets of mostly lump backfin, with just enough binder to barely hold it together for a light dip in the tartar sauce. We ordered a second plate of them later, and they were still fantastic.

Fried oysters (also $10) were delicious but not without caveats - hand-breaded, very juicy and piping hot out of the fryer, but I reckon the oil could have been hotter as they were still swimming in a slick of oil at the bottom of the basket, rendering the lower half of the light-blonde breading somewhat soggy.

No jumbos available today, so we picked a half-dozen large jimmies ($5 ea). Two ran moderately heavy, but the rest were squarely on the light side. Well-seasoned, although slightly overcooked. We'll probably hold off until later in the season before testing the hardshells again.

For dessert, you must have the apple dumpling...sliced apple filling folded under a square of pie crust, with caramel sauce and a generous dusting of cinnamon. Share one, it's handsomely sized. Skip the a la mode, as the ice cream is bland and nothing to write home about.

Service was very friendly and unusually attentive for a crabhouse. Everybody seemed to be keeping an eye out everytime they passed through the dining room. About the only error was a brief napkin gap - they do lay out the customary brown kraft paper when you order crabs, but not the roll of towels. I can't say that the food justified the hype or the extra 45 minute drive beyond Kent Narrows, but if you're already in the area, Waterman's is idyllic and charming.

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We plotted a detour to Rock Hall on the way back from the Delaware beaches today, and settled into a booth to beat the humidity outside.

Should have come outside and said hello. ;)

The cream of crab soup was promising, with a great thick cream base and a bit of sherry on the side, but that promise went unfulfilled as the crab element was close to AWOL. Sparse bits of crabmeat, whose faint flavor was completely overwhelmed by the cream, not to mention the sherry. With a healthier dose of crab (and cooking the sherry into the cream) this could become a great soup.

What little crab was there was just fine, seemingly fresh and perfectly cooked. But it was just a big bowl of thick, clotting, cream with an occasional lump to be found.

No jumbos available today, so we picked a half-dozen large jimmies ($5 ea). Two ran moderately heavy, but the rest were squarely on the light side. Well-seasoned, although slightly overcooked. We'll probably hold off until later in the season before testing the hardshells again.

They had mediums for $38 and larges for $60. We got a dozen larges for $60 which were, as you say, overcooked. I disagree about well-seasoned, but then I'm going to debunk the entire "tradition" of shoveling a kilogram of Old-Bay/Salt mixture onto twelve crabs. The 'delicate Chesapeake Bay blue crab?' Might as well be frozen crawfish from Louisiana when it's subjected to this treatment.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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They had mediums for $38 and larges for $60. We got a dozen larges for $60 which were, as you say, overcooked. I disagree about well-seasoned, but then I'm going to debunk the entire "tradition" of shoveling a kilogram of Old-Bay/Salt mixture onto twelve crabs. The 'delicate Chesapeake Bay blue crab?' Might as well be frozen crawfish from Louisiana when it's subjected to this treatment.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Rocks

Sorry for coming late to the party, but I wanted to second your comments about Old Bay. I think it's an abomination and should be banned from the earth. Best way to eat a crab IMHO is just like lobster; steam it or (gasp!) boil it, and dip the meat in nice melted butter with maybe the slightest hint of salt and/or Tabasco. Can't be beat for my money.

I suspect the truth is the Old Bay thing got started as a way to disguise bad crab meat, as well as sell lots more beer. :blink:

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On 7/29/2016 at 11:53 PM, donk79 said:

To report, I presented the in-laws with options including Jake's, Sello's, and Waterman's.  They failed to surprise me and picked Waterman's.  The fare was neither bad nor great.  The hush puppies, which i could have easily enjoyed more of, were offset by the broiled flounder, which was rather dried out.  My mother-in-law's piece of flounder did look like it had fared better.  The crabcake was helped by the tarter sauce I requested, which was better than your standard mayo+relish.  Broiled shrimp matched the flounder.  Not as dry perhaps, but also somewhat less than remarkable.

There was a time when I thought Waterman's was the best that I could find in OC.  It is nice to believe that time has past!

Did you eat on the patio? I don't know of any view in the state of Maryland that's finer than this one, although I haven't been here in several years now, so I can't vouch for the crabs. I'm going to be looking for THE best crab house in early Summer 2017 - best view, best crabs, cost be damned. Shall I rule out Waterman's? Anyone else? That's very disappointing to me. Did you go to Rock Hall, or is there a second outlet?

Also, is there a "polite" way to ask them to "tone down the Old Bay?" I honestly think it's a cheap McCormick spice that dominates the tender, sweetness of the Chesapeake Blue crab which is one of our country's, no make that *world's* great culinary treasures.

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14 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Did you eat on the patio? I don't know of any view in the state of Maryland that's finer than this one, although I haven't been here in several years now, so I can't vouch for the crabs. I'm going to be looking for THE best crab house in early Summer 2017 - best view, best crabs, cost be damned. Shall I rule out Waterman's? Anyone else? That's very disappointing to me. Did you go to Rock Hall, or is there a second outlet?

Also, is there a "polite" way to ask them to "tone down the Old Bay?" I honestly think it's a cheap McCormick spice that dominates the tender, sweetness of the Chesapeake Blue crab which is one of our country's, no make that *world's* great culinary treasures.

Wrong Waterman's.  We went to Waterman's Seafood, which is in OC.  The view from Waterman's Crab House in Rock Hall looks quite nice from the pictures I have seen, but is a couple of hours from OC.  The view at Waterman's Seafood would consist primarily of traffic and trees, with an emphasis on traffic.

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And "AMEN!" about the Old Bay!.  I no longer live in Maryland so I can now safely say this.  It is a crime to drown crabs in pounds of this stuff, which seems to be the standard practice.  May be part of the reason that I rarely eat crabs that I have not prepared myself.

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32 minutes ago, donk79 said:

Wrong Waterman's.  We went to Waterman's Seafood, which is in OC.  The view from Waterman's Crab House in Rock Hall looks quite nice from the pictures I have seen, but is a couple of hours from OC.  The view at Waterman's Seafood would consist primarily of traffic and trees, with an emphasis on traffic.

[Yikes! Sorry! I moved your post back into the Dining in Ocean City thread.]

This is the view from the diner's perspective, and even this picture doesn't capture it - the soothing sounds of the seagulls, the endless expanse of water, the cooling breeze, the strangely appealing scent of Rock Hall Harbor air, the first sip of that ice-cold beer. I know it sounds crazy, but I think the total experience - even with dry crabs buried in Old Bay - is worth the four-hour round-trip drive.

our-wonderful-view-for.jpg

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My wife and I had our wedding rehearsal dinner there - 17 years ago!   We've been back a few times since, both in and out of season.

The uniqueness is, as Don's pointed out, the setting.   The DC area has very few opportunities to enjoy a sunset over an expanse of water.  And here, the restaurant is on a kind of point of land, affording a number of different views toward different angles.   Even the views back toward land are interesting. 

The food, as best I recall, was always steamed crabs and fried most everything else.  I don't think they are looking for the culinary crowd.  But a nice view, huge deck, live music, sunsets and AYCE crabs - that's just fine.  Making specific complaints about their food would be like complaining about Natty Boh.  It kind of misses the point. 

Don, I look forward to the results of your quest.  You'll have to decide ahead of time - am I judging the crabs only?  The ambiance?   the service?   the experience? 

Lastly, it might be worth asking - Waterman's might use JO Spice, not Old Bay.   I prefer JO Spice, but too much of either is too much ;)

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On ‎7‎/‎31‎/‎2016 at 1:50 AM, DonRocks said:

I'm going to be looking for THE best crab house in early Summer 2017 - best view, best crabs, cost be damned. Shall I rule out Waterman's? Anyone else?

To answer my own question:  I'd love to see you do a weekly Olympics style approach - where you judge each place on the quality of the crabs (1-10), the atmosphere (1-10), service (1-10) etc.   Heck, turn it into something you do with some of your friends here on the site, where you all eat together, post your scores, toss out the lowest and highest, then post the results and standings each week here on the site. 

Like this: 

Watermans:   Averages:  8.6 - 7.9 - 9.1 - 9.4 - 7.8 - 8.7 = total score, 51.5 - currently in 3rd place

Then show how each judge scored Waterman's - and how the other (already visited) places scored in a summary ranking.   Like an olympic diving competition.   

Possible scoring categories: 

Drinks - Other Food - Crabs - Ambiance - Service - Location

Location is things like a water view, proximity to boats, distance from DC, the overall property.  Ambiance is the effort to make the place 'crabby' and comfortable, to include any music, decorations, lighting, etc.   Note that 1/2 of the categories are edible, the other not - IMHO, crabs are as much an experience, in a time and place with friends, as they are something to eat.    Maybe a 7th category for price, but...does that really matter?   

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59 minutes ago, jayandstacey said:

The uniqueness is, as Don's pointed out, the setting.   The DC area has very few opportunities to enjoy a sunset over an expanse of water.  And here, the restaurant is on a kind of point of land, affording a number of different views toward different angles.   Even the views back toward land are interesting. 

That's right, I forgot to even mention that it's a westward-facing dock, with views extending southerwardly (how's *that* word?) to infinity, so sunsets here are stunning.

Also, as long as I have peoples' attention, I first went to Schultz's Crab House in the 1980s, and have been back a couple of times. It's somewhat unique in that it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood - the last thing you'd expect to see - but there it is, and it was just fabulous the few times I went (but I haven't been in probably fifteen years). I think it should be considered for an "America's Classics" James Beard Award, but it won't be.

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A quick sail to Rockhall to celebrate our 35th anniversary landed us at Watermans for dinner Monday night.  Watermans was the only restaurant open on a Monday night and a storm meant we were not walking  far even with foul weather gear.

The food was mediocre at best.  We had crab cakes and they were just OK.  Like I said we had no food on the boat, just wine, so we needed to eat.  Fries were better then the crab cakes.  

Storm provided great views though no sunset, just lightening.

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On 8/1/2016 at 2:22 PM, DonRocks said:

Also, as long as I have peoples' attention, I first went to Schultz's Crab House in the 1980s, and have been back a couple of times. It's somewhat unique in that it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood - the last thing you'd expect to see - but there it is, and it was just fabulous the few times I went (but I haven't been in probably fifteen years). I think it should be considered for an "America's Classics" James Beard Award, but it won't be.

Schultz’s is an absolute treasure, cherished by several generations of the Bawlmor side of my family 🦀🦀🦀🦀

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On 8/1/2016 at 3:22 PM, DonRocks said:

That's right, I forgot to even mention that it's a westward-facing dock, with views extending southerwardly (how's *that* word?) to infinity, so sunsets here are stunning.

Also, as long as I have peoples' attention, I first went to Schultz's Crab House in the 1980s, and have been back a couple of times. It's somewhat unique in that it's in the middle of a residential neighborhood - the last thing you'd expect to see - but there it is, and it was just fabulous the few times I went (but I haven't been in probably fifteen years). I think it should be considered for an "America's Classics" James Beard Award, but it won't be.

12 minutes ago, frogprince said:

Schultz’s is an absolute treasure, cherished by several generations of the Bawlmor side of my family 🦀🦀🦀🦀

Aren't I prescient. 😉

https://www.jamesbeard.org/blog/2017-americas-classic-schultzs-crab-house

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