- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blue crab season has always brought a smile to my face. It is a reason to get together with family or friends and enjoy one of the Chesapeake Bay’s true culinary treasures.

Anne Arundel County boasts a number of “authentic” crab houses. Mike’s Crab House in Riva is one of them.

Its beautiful views of the South River (a Bay tributary) make the visit more than worthwhile. The menu, in addition to the always-delicious year-round steamed crabs, is pretty solid as well.

As the weather heats up, there is a good chance your party will have to wait at either the indoor or outdoor bar until seating is available (especially if you choose the outdoor riverside deck - the better option).

Because it is so early in the season, expect to pay a hefty price for the steamed crabs. On the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend, crabs were $65 a dozen for large males. The crabs served now are brought in from Texas, but Bay crabs will be available in time as well as an all-you-can-eat option that includes corn on the cob, salad and crab soup.

The crabs came to the table piping hot and nicely seasoned with Old Bay. They were all heavy, filled with sweet meat.

Plenty of dinner appetizers, sandwiches and entrees are available if you are not in the mood for hammering away at crabs.

A half-dozen raw Bay oysters ($4.25) were small but plump. They were fresh, but they didn’t have the flavor like some we have had recently from other areas.

The steamed seafood combo comes with a half-bucket of mussels, four oysters, four cherrystone clams and nine steamed shrimp.

Three soups available include Mike’s famous cream and vegetable crab soups and the kitchen’s take on New England clam chowder. Cream of crab ($5.50) doesn’t compete with that served in a high-end restaurant, but it was a satisfying starter. It had a nice texture and didn’t taste of flour, but it was a touch bland for our palates. It perked up nicely with the addition of a little Old Bay. More crab would have been appreciated.

A soft-shell crab sandwich ($11.50) is available sauteed or deep-fried. The crab was not the biggest we’ve seen, but it was a respectable size and was sweet and juicy. A slice of tomato that actually tasted like tomato was key to summertime flavor this early in the season.

The lump crab-cake sandwich ($12.95), available broiled or fried, was a healthy dose of crabmeat on a soft roll, accompanied by lettuce, tomato and tarter sauce. Fries rounded out this tasty plate.

Tuna ($17.95) was grilled with a lemon-garlic butter sauce. Often it seems that tuna comes two ways - raw or overcooked. This tuna was perfectly flaky yet wonderfully moist. The sauce provided a nice touch of flavor but wasn’t overpowering.

Land offerings include a 16-ounce cowboy steak (bone-in rib-eye), a 12-ounce New York strip, center-cut pork chops, barbecued baby-back ribs, honey-glazed fried chicken or an 8-ounce deluxe hamburger with fixings of your choice.

Crab imperial, another local favorite, is available as an entree, to top a steak or to stuff a fish.

RESTAURANT: Mike’s Bar and Crab House, 3030 Riva Road, Riva, Md., 410/956-2784; www.mikescrabhouse.com

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES: Soups $3.25 to $6.50; appetizers $5.50 to $16.95; sandwiches $7.50 to $14.95; entrees $10.95 to $30.95; crabs at market price

RESERVATIONS: First come, first served

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: On site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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