Some believe that every type of restaurant that exists in the world can also be found somewhere in the five boroughs, if you’re willing to search long enough for it. Thus we have a real Texas barbecue in Red Hook, a Brazilian rodizio in Midtown, a Maine-style lobster pound in Mill Basin, and a Czech-German beer garden in Astoria. But what about a Maryland-style crab house, complete with steamed whole blue crabs seasoned with Old Bay, crab cakes, crab chowder, and plastic bibs to keep the spatters off your clothes?
Yes we do! Clemente’s Maryland Crab House on Sheepshead Bay is just such a place. Though the address says Emmons Avenue, the neighborhood’s main bayside drag, the place is located on a stretch orphaned on the wrong side of Shore Parkway. So bring your GPS. The crab house is situated on the body of water called Shellbank Creek, with a dark cool dining room, outdoor barroom reminiscent more of Florida than Maryland, and glorious outdoor deck — with sun or without — that affords splendid views of pleasure craft heading for the Atlantic, houses on stilts, and the occasional commercial fishing boat headed seaward in search of lobsters.
The most elemental meal is a bucket of steamed blue crabs thickly crusted with spicy seasonings and furnished with a wooden mallet, bib, claw crackers, and prying implement. Clad mainly in hot pants, the gracious staff will show you how to do it, but note that the mallet is intended mainly for claws and swimmerets. The main crabmeat is accessed with a delicate series of moves involving the prying up of the carapace from the bottom. You’ll get the hang of it fast.
Steamed crabs come with bad French fries and bad corn on the cob. You’ll eat them anyway. The crabs, by the way, are stupendous and incredibly fresh. You may also want to sample the crab cakes, crab chowder, and raw oyster and clam services. (Ask for extra horseradish.) Both oysters and clams are local, meaning from somewhere out on Long Island (location varies). And who wouldn’t want to wash such a glorious meal down with a mug of frothy draft beer, as the sun sets over Shellbank Creek? 3939 Emmons Ave, Brooklyn, (718) 646-7373
Robert Sietsema is Eater's senior critic. See his archives here.