- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Isabel did her damage, but that’s old news. The buzz around these parts is that Skipper’s Pier Restaurant is back in business, and local crabs are back as well.

Hidden in the quaint waterfront community of Deale, Md., Skipper’s offers outdoor dockside dining with beautiful views of Herring Bay and Rockhold and Tracy’s creeks. If the weather isn’t cooperating, a cozy indoor setting provides the same views.

Before we talk food, a little background is necessary.

On Sept. 18, 2003, Tropical Storm Isabel made her way up the Chesapeake Bay and delivered a major blow to many southern Anne Arundel County communities.

Deale and Skipper’s Pier were not spared.

The storm ripped through the waterfront establishment, destroying bulkheads and foundations and leaving 2 or more feet of water in the restaurant.

Owners John and Raye Price, who in 1996 turned a rundown bar into a top-notch family hideout, vowed not to let Isabel dampen their dreams and immediately planned a comeback.

After a lot of tears, frustration and hard work and more than $500,000 in renovations, Skipper’s Pier reopened last month to the delight of its staff and patrons.

Skipper’s is currently gearing up for Memorial Day weekend — the time of the year when crustacean lovers start to think about gathering at joints like this to get down and dirty with spicy steamed hard-shell crabs.

The true crab enthusiast will tell you that it is actually the end of the season (October) that is the best time for finding the sweetest and cheapest local crabs.

But still, the temptation is too much for many of us. I know a number of people who eat crabmeat in some form year-round — myself included.

If you visit Skipper’s, the appetizers are good but standard: hot crab dip, steamed clams, oysters, shrimp, chicken tenders, etc.

The soups and salads are very good. There’s both vegetable crab and cream of crab ($3.95 a cup, $5.25 a bowl). The cream of crab variety is not too thick and has a handsome amount of crabmeat.

A chicken or shrimp Caesar salad is made with romaine, parmesan cheese and croutons and tossed in a light Caesar dressing.

Slices of blackened New York strip with pesto over mixed greens, onion, tomato, sprouts and Parmesan is another salad option.

Skipper’s has five pasta offerings: cajun, scallop, pepper steak, linguine carbonara and vegetable primavera. All are served with a salad or coleslaw.

If you’re in the mood for a good sandwich or wrap, you won’t be disappointed.

Skipper’s offers more than 14 different varieties, including a “Jurassic” crab cake sandwich and an authentic soft-shell crab sandwich. A salmon BLT on white toast is also worth a try.

For land lovers, there’s a choice of six different 8-ounce burgers — from traditional to the new Chesapeake burger (sprinkled with Old Bay and topped with crabmeat).

The fajita wrap is thinly sliced roast beef, seared with onions and green peppers, then wrapped in a sun-dried tomato tortilla spread with a creamy horseradish sauce.

Local crabs are always on the menu. Medium males ($31.95 per dozen) were the only size available last week.

Those crabs were a little on “the light” side but were freshly steamed, with a generous amount of Old Bay sprinkled on top.

They were served with melted butter, vinegar and more spice, and plenty of napkins. Skipper’s offers “Jurassic”-size crabs (market price) later in the season.

A new entree, the Fisherman’s Stew ($14.95), contains shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and fish simmered in a hearty tomato and vegetable stock. It’s served in a large bowl with four triangles of garlic bread. High marks for flavor and presentation.

The price is quite a value. Only the shrimp was disappointing (maybe pan-sear or lightly grill them before putting atop the creation?). Three pan-fried soft-shell crabs ($19.95) were quite large and cooked to perfection. They were joined by fries and green beans.

A steak and a couple of chicken plates round out this menu, which is mostly made up of seafood platters (fried, broiled or grilled).

Desserts include a bourbon pecan creme brulee ($5.95), a rich creamy custard topped with caramelized pecan sugar. There’s also a homemade brownie served with a heaping scoop of ice cream and whipped cream.

Make sure to bring the children. Skipper’s Pier is a fun place for the whole family. A play area, complete with sandbox and a wooden ship, will keep the little ones busy.

RESTAURANT: Skipper’s Pier, 6158 Drum Point Road, Deale, Md.; 410/867-7110; www.skipperspier.com

HOURS: Tuesday through Thursday noon to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 9 p.m.; closed Mondays

PRICES: Soups and salads $2.95 to $12.95; appetizers $4.95 to $15.95; sandwiches and wraps $7.95 to $10.50; pastas $8.95 to $12.95; entrees $13.95 to $28.95; local crabs $31.95 per dozen; desserts $3.95 to $5.95; wines by the glass $4 to $7.50, by the bottle $18 to $28

RESERVATIONS: Priority seating

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On-site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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