Skip the slaw and fries at Ropewalk in Fenwick Island. Its McFaul crab cake is served with rice pilaf and the vegetable du jour.
The colossal baked crab cakes at Catch 54 in Fenwick Island are made in the true Maryland style..
Catch 54 | Fenwick Island
On the restaurant’s menu, “Baked Colossal Crab Cakes”: two 4-ouncers with sweet coleslaw and hand-cut fries dusted with Old Bay seasoning. Price tag, $38. What you also get for your money is a bright, airy, thoroughly contemporary dining room—one upstairs, one down—with peerless views of Little Assawoman Bay and the town of Fenwick Island beyond. The windows face east, so the sunset won’t blind you. The decor is similar to all of the Matt Haley beach-area restaurants—Northeast Seafood Kitchen, Bluecoast Seafood Grill, Matt’s Fish Camp and Fish On! So is the recipe for the crab cakes. Only the accompaniments are changed to ensure your dining pleasure. Madison Ave., Fenwick Island, 436-8600, catch54.com.
Charlie’s Bayside Restaurant | Fenwick Island
Charlie’s broiled cakes are a full 5 ounces of moist, subtly seasoned backfin. The $13.99 sandwich is served on a potato roll, with potato chips and bread-and-butter pickle slices on the side. For dinner, choose one cake or two ($16.96, $27.95). Your meal comes with a choice of two side dishes. The charming dining room, painted in a pastel green, offers a wall of windows on a finger of the Little Assawoman Bay (the white tablecloths are a lovely touch). When the weather cooperates, we prefer dining on the outdoor deck. 604 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-3526, charliesbayside.com.
David Twining’s Nantuckets Restaurant | Fenwick Island
Nantuckets may feel more New England than Mid-Atlantic, but it’s got local cuisine dialed in like no place else. The broiled crab-cake dinner ($28.89) comes with two 5-ounce mounds of sweet lumps. The same portion is served as a sandwich ($13.89). Dinner comes with red potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes or wild rice, and a vegetable. The sandwich is adorned with a thick slab of ripe red tomato. The menu says the sandwich is served with garlic aïoli, dinner with a caper rémoulade. The server assured us those are two names for the same zingy sauce. (Well, that’s confusing.) The meals are equally befitting of the elegant white linens in the two dining rooms and the eclectically decorated bar. 601 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2607, nantucketsrestaurant.com.
Harpoon Hanna’s | Fenwick Island
Both Harpoon Hanna’s and its crab cake recipe were born at the old Lighthouse Res-taurant in Fenwick more than 40 years ago, making these 5-ounce backfin beauties true beach classics. You can have them as an entrée of one ($18.99) or two ($26.99), including a salad and a choice of macaroni and cheese, french fries, coleslaw or applesauce. Or order a platter of one ($16.99) or two ($24.99) with the above sides but no salad. You can also add a crab cake to any entrée for $9.99. Dine in the large, high-ceilinged dining room or on one of the two waterfront decks—one under an awning, the other open to the sky. Bonus: You can boat in and tie up right out front. Del. 54, Fenwick Island, 539-3095, harpoonhannasrestaurant.com.
Just Hooked | Fenwick Island
The crab-cake dinner at Just Hooked is a deal—and a delicious one at that. Two 4-ounce cakes are served with bacon-roasted fingerling potatoes and a salad of pea shoots and pickled carrots for $25. The cakes are full of lightly seasoned lumps, allowing the flavor of the sweet meat to shine through. The accompanying rémoulade is delicious, too. Or try the crab-cake sandwich ($13), topped with arugula and a grilled tomato, on brioche. Don’t let the nondescript strip mall location fool you. The food is on par with the very best at the beach. And the contemporary dining room is decorated with large prints of local photographer Kevin Fleming’s seascapes and nature images. Enjoy the same great dish at sister restaurant Off the Hook. Just Hooked, 1500 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 581-0098, justhookedfi.com; Off the Hook, 69 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 829-1424, offthehookbethany.com.
Lobster Shanty | Fenwick Island
The Shanty is one of the most fun places to open in years. Every seat offers an expansive view of the Assawoman Bay from a lodge-style room of natural beadboard walls, German siding and plank floors. It’s decorated with a chandelier of elk antlers, a wooden canoe in the rafters and birdhouses everywhere. The delicious crab cakes are the same that you’ll find at David Twining’s Nantuckets Restaurant (see review above). No wonder. Shanty is owned by the same family. But there is a difference: The price is slightly lower and comes with a view of snowy egrets wading in the marsh. If you’re dining al fresco, park it at one of the picnic tables near the totem pole. 37310 Lighthouse Road, Fenwick Island, 436-2305, twiningshanty.com.
RopeWalk | Fenwick Island
Ropewalk has all the trappings of an old-time beach restaurant, but with touches of a Baltimore-style crab house. The lounge has a white-marble bar, tin ceiling, white honeycomb tiled floors and a couple of cigar-store Indians. The dining room has blond-wood walls, weathered wooden floors and fish trophies. There’s even a small beach out front with a ship for the kids to play on. The McFaul crab cake, named for the matriarch of the founding family, can approach 6 ounces. A sandwich costs $15, a one-cake dinner is $22 and the two-cake dinner rings up at $29. Have the patties broiled or fried. Both are spicy and good. Dinner comes with a chicken-based rice pilaf and vegetable. 700 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 581-0153, ropewalkfenwick.com.