It took me three drive-by’s and lots of recommendations to finally take the proverbial stab at The Crab Shack on Tybee Island. With all of its endearingly cheesy fishing kitsch (complete with an alligator pond and a giant red crab at the entrance), it just smacked of one of my least favorite two words: tourist trap.
So, finally, on a crystal clear blue sky, perfect late summer afternoon, I took the scenic drive along Highway 80 East from downtown Savannah out to historic and beautiful Tybee Island. The tide was so high it hugged the road, just a sliver at times, so tightly it almost felt like I was steering a boat rather than a car.
Even though The Crab Shack bears the same name as a local Charleston restaurant chain, it actually has a lot more in common with celebrated Bowen’s Island. It’s near a funky beach community, its on a dirt road off the main highway, there is a large sign off the main road to let you know it’s there, there are magnificent water views, and the food is fabulous.
Like Bowen’s, The Crab Shack began as a fishing camp, though much more recently. It’s owned by former fisherman Captain Jack Flanigan. The entire place ambles along like an old, covered, pier and is decorated with lots of colorful love, from the upside down wooden crate lamps to whirring fans and mist machines. Food comes out on styrofoam plates and an ample supply of paper towels while seabreezes from water so close you can practically touch it with your toes seasons the space with salty air.
Lowcountry staples like a chunky Lowcountry boil with corn so sweet it tastes like its been basted with buttered sugar, and huge chunks of corn and sausage, snow crab, Alaskan king crab, blue crab, Dungeness crab and stone crab platters form the backbone of the sizeable menu. Surprisingly, The Crab Shack also turns out some amazing smoked in-house, barbecue ribs, chicken and pork platters. Plastic fork tender and steeped in flavor, all come as a surprise bonus at a seafood shack, in particular the ultra-tender, smoky chicken.
I was in a delicate appetite mood, so opted for the shrimp salad (pictured above). As you see, it was full of fat, absolutely local Wild Georgia shrimp, that was simultaneously sweet and briny in each bite. It was barely cloaked in mayonnaise and strongly seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning enhanced with the crunch of the occasional bite of celery. Truly delicious and reasonably priced ($12.99) it was enough to easily feed two hungry souls and offered definite proof in the authentically local seafood pudding.
The Crab Shack attracts a diverse crowd, from blue-colored workers to little old ladies and boisterious tots, that all share in the fun together. That’s what eating at The Crab Shack feels like – pure, unadulterated fun that grows on you with each delicious bite and each Jimmy Buffett tune that cranks from the sound system. Give the shack a crab crack or two!
While you’re in this part of town, you also want to be sure and check out:
The Sundae Cafe (lunch/dinner – dinner reservations recommended)
Ele Fine Fusion (dinner only – reservations recommended)
As always, bon appetit, Savannah style!