Atlantic Beach and the Crab’s Claw Restaurant

 

 

Atlantic Beach, North Carolina

When you live in New England a day spent at the beach in October is a rare thing; the weather is usually too cool.  But in Eastern North Carolina it is not at all unusual.  So that is what we did on a beautiful sunny day, when the temperature was in the mid -70’s.  Driving a short distance from where we were staying, we took the Minisotte Ferry ( a free ride) to Morehead City and on to Atlantic Beach.

This whole area of the coast is made up of creeks, salt-water inlets,  sounds, and various other bodies of water which require that you drive  around them to get to the next town down the line.  These are all beach-oriented communities that have summer visitors who rent the cottages lining the beach, but by fall most have left the area, and the communities become quiet with only the local full-time residents left.  Surprisingly there were quite a few stores, restaurants and other business still open, so we drove around enjoying the sights of pastel cottages, quaint streets and very friendly people.

Pretty, pastel-colored beach cottages line the shoreline.

Atlantic Beach is located over a cause-way from Morehead City, and is comprised  of one street running parallel to the beach, along which you find many very pretty cottages, interspersed with beachy-type shops and restaurants.  At the very end of this road is Fort Macon State Park.

We came to this narrow strip of land in search of a seafood restaurant in which to have lunch.  We were in luck to find the Crab’s Claw, an oceanfront Caribbean restaurant situated right on Atlantic Beach and featuring locally caught fish.  It was a warm, sunny day, so we chose to sit outside on one of two decks overlooking the sand and the water.  What a lovely spot!.  We relaxed and watched walkers and bikers on the boardwalk as well as a few folks out on the beach.

Looking up the boardwalk from where we had lunch.

A biker making use of the boardwalk.

Our waitress was knowledgable about the menu and the day’s special offerings.  Most lunch entrees were very moderately priced  ranging from $8.00 – 12.00.  The special offering for lunch was fresh sushi-grade tuna, lightly seared and then chunked for a tuna salad with added finely grated carrot, red onion, and a “bite” of chipotle. This was served “open-faced” with a melt of Swiss or American cheese   on the top, and accompanied by triangles of toasted flour tortillas.  Two of us chose this offering and we both loved it.  The tuna was cooked just right, tender and flavorful, not overwhelmed, but enhanced by the additional other ingredients.

Fresh Tuna Salad with Tortilla Points

My husband ordered the Cuban Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll.  This consisted of thinly sliced ham and pork with lettuce and tomato and melted cheese.  It was served with sweet potato fries.  He enjoyed his choice and said it was very good.

Cuban Sandwich on a Kaiser Roll with Sweet Potato Fries.

The other gentleman in our party ordered the Caribbean Barbecue Burger, also served with lettuce and tomato and french fries. He ordered his burger rare, which it was, and he really enjoyed it.  There were slices of hot peppers in amongst the lettuce and tomato, giving it that Caribbean kick.

Caribbean Barbecue Burger.

All of us were well-satisfied with our choices, and left this delightful place feeling that we had been well fed.

If I lived here I would be going to the Crab’s Claw frequently for lunch, so for anyone vacationing in this part of the country, be sure to make a visit.  Since the season is winding down, they will be closing on select days of the week, so call ahead to check about days they are open.

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Crab Imperial

Crab Imperial

With the remains of the crabmeat my husband brought home  I made this dish.  In a sense it was an experiment because  I had not made it before, but I had all the ingredients on hand so I gave it a try.

Before I get to the recipe I thought I would share with you some facts about crabmeat.  Fresh crab meat will keep in your refrigerator for about 3 days, but  crabmeat which has been pasteurized will keep for several months in the refrigerator.  One pound of crabmeat equals 3 cups.  Crabmeat is packaged as follows:

  • Backfin, or Lump:  Solid lumps of white meat from the body muscles of the crab—the best!  It contains very little shell or cartilage, and is preferable in special recipes such as Crab Imperial or Crabmeat Salad.
  • Regular:  Small pieces of savory white meat from the body.  Still considered excellent, but takes more picking over for cartilage and shell removal.  Great for crab cakes, casseroles, salad, dips, etc.
  • Special:  A mixture of backfin and regular; also fine for dishes listed above.
  • Claws:  Meat from claws has a brownish tint, and comes in thin pieces.  It’s mostly used where appearance isn’t important.

The crabmeat that I had came from two large crab legs, part of which I had already used for the crab cakes, and what was left weighed about half pound, so I made only half of the following recipe.  The full recipe makes 4-5 servings.

CRAB IMPERIAL

SERVINGS:  4-5

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound crabmeat, backfin or lump preferred
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 10-15 Ritz crackers, crushed

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a shallow baking dish or individual shell dishes.

2.  Remove any shell or cartilage  from crab meat.  Mix together all ingredients except crabmeat.  Gently stir in crabmeat.

3.  Put mixture in prepared baking dish(es).  Mix crushed crackers with the melted butter, then sprinkle on top of crab mixture.   Bake for 15-20  minutes.

My Evaluation:

Although we both liked the dish as prepared and presented here, I think if I make it again I would modify it in the following ways:  Add a few bay scallops and shrimp to the mixture for some variety in texture. Because the crab I used came from the legs, the pieces were small, and therefore there wasn’t enough “chew” factor.  The overall color of the dish was rather bland, so I would add some chopped green onion, maybe some roasted red pepper for color. Lastly I think it would be more enticing if it were served in a small pastry shell like phyllo cups.  These are just a few thoughts “in hind-sight” for anyone who decides to make it.  If you make it and have some good ideas to improve upon the recipe I would be interested to hear about it.

Crab Imperial

SOURCE:   Savory Shellfish Recipes of the Shore