Written by Susan Wade
July 2019
When summer shuffles into the Chesapeake Bay, everybody wants to get crab happy. This culinary bliss comes when you park yourself at a waterfront dock bar and receive a platter piled high with red, hot-steamed crabs. To initiate the ritual, raise a wooden mallet toward the heavens, take a slow sip of a cold brewski and start cracking! To visit restaurants where you can achieve this seasonal Bay nirvana, Marinalife has picked 10 newcomers that recently began serving crabs along with a cornucopia of shrimp, rockfish, oysters and other delectable local seafood.

Stan & Joe’s Riverside

Galesville, MD, 410-867-7200

A classic Bay dock bar, Stan & Joe’s rests on the pier formerly occupied by Thursday’s Crab House, where locals have enjoyed the surround sound of waves for generations. Its panoramic view of the water serves as a glorious backdrop for seafood feasts that showcase the region’s best oysters, mussels, shrimp, crabs and more. Steaks, burgers and chicken are a carnivore’s delight. Casual atmosphere; serious fun.

Donnelly’s Dockside Seafood Bar & Grill

Arnold, MD, 410-757-4045

Tucked away in a cozy marina just off the Magothy River is a sweet slice of Chesapeake paradise. New owners renovated with brighter colors and added a lively downstairs lounge, yet they retained the lazy summertime groove on the outdoor deck. The fresh new look matches the fresh seafood sourced from local waters. Crabs dominate the menu, but chefs also prepare sandwiches, salads and mixed grilled platters.

Latitude 38 Waterfront Dining

Annapolis, MD, 667-204-2282Latitude 38 | Crab Happy on the Bay: New Dock & Dines | Food | Marinalife

Opened in late 2018, this two-story seaside treat presents an unparalleled view of high-end vessels gliding into Ego Alley. Plans are underway for an oyster bar with skillful shuckers popping open briny bivalves. An extensive assortment of regional seafood is complemented by regular wine tastings and a belly-filling Sunday brunch.

98 Cannon Riverfront Grille

Chestertown, MD, 443-282-0055

Opened in May 2019, this eatery’s location represents a flawless union of Colonial charm and modern boating. On one side, cobblestone streets are lined with elegant 18th century homes, and on the other, newly renovated Chestertown Marina boasts 60 slips, new bulkheads, floating docks, a boat ramp and more. The elevated casual menu honors traditional Bay cuisine while adding new twists to seafood.

Wheelhouse Restaurant

Rock Hall, MD, 410-639-4235

If you can’t decide whether to eat or play, this bayside newcomer satisfies both whims. Surrounded by subtle nautical décor, tables in the main dining room are laden with organically grown specialties from the land and sea, including cast iron crab cakes and crispy battered soft shells. Out back is where things start hopping. The wooden deck is staged for fun, and a thatched roof covers a tiki bar with colorful chairs. Join animated games of cornhole and yard pong on the lawn. The fun is easy to find — just off Swan Creek near Gratitude Marina.

Reedville Market Waterfront Bar & Grill

Reedville, VA, 804-453-4666

On a street lined with exquisite Victorian homes built in the late 1800s by sea captains and fish processing plant owners awaits this mecca of scrumptious seafood and steaks. The house was a cannery in the early 1900s, a general store in the 1950s, and it received new owners in December 2018. The screened porch welcomes warm summer breezes while guests dine on crabs, oysters, rockfish and other aquatic life pulled from nearby waters. A wooden pier out back makes after-dinner strolls along the shoreline irresistible.

Hole in the Wall Waterfront Grill

Gwynn, VA, 804-505-1005Crab Platter Close Up | Crab Happy on the Bay: New Dock & Dines | Food | Marinalife

Perched above the water at this rustic crab shack, you can watch watermen unload their catch, boats pass under the bridge and waterfowl take flight. The location of the former Seabreeze Restaurant was recently renovated with reclaimed barn wood and transformed into a hidden gem in at the entrance to Gwynn Island. Bands play on Friday nights, and Williams Wharf Oyster Company delivers fresh bivalves to the chef. Savor a plump crab cake on the deck or pull up to the dock where staff delivers tasty take-out to your boat.

Decoys Seafood Restaurant

Suffolk, VA, 757-977-1081

The restaurant’s name and décor pay tribute to the region’s rich duck-hunting history, and the destination is a boater’s summer dream. Newly renovated Bennett’s Creek Marina accommodates vessels up to 80 feet and boasts 60 new slips and 1,800 square feet of floating docks. Route 17 Bridge stands in the background, while the menu overflows with fresh seafood, and bartenders pour craft beer and specialty cocktails. On the 14,000- square-foot deck is Blind Duck Tiki Bar with live bands and a swim-up pool bar. Well-behaved pets are welcome on the deck.

Stripers Waterside

Norfolk, VA, 757-837-4100

After an impressive, $41 million refurbishing of the Waterside District, Norfolk is inviting visitors to explore its new boutiques, hotels and eateries along the Elizabeth River. In the center of all the excitement awaits Stripers, which has a commanding 8,000 square feet of scenic waterfront. With 30 beers on tap, you’re sure to find a favorite. The expansive menu’s focal point is seafood, moving from casual bites such as crab cakes and flounder reubens to fancier feasts such as scallop risotto and citrus-bronzed salmon. Come for the fine food; stay for the amazing riverside show of Navy battleships, pleasure craft, paddlewheel ferries and more.

Longboards East Beach

Norfolk, VA, 757-399-4010

In another part of Norfolk, a new restaurant is blending dishes from Hawaiian surf shacks with traditional Chesapeake cuisine. Surrounded by scores of boats docked at East Beach Marina, this eatery sports a spectacular waterfront view and a cheerful nautical vibe. A tiki warrior on the menu grins toward house specialties such as creamy crab and bacon dip and Singapore shrimp with veggies. ml