I can't exactly remember when I was first introduced to the exceptional pleasure of dining on fried soft shell crabs. I believe it was around eighteen years ago when we were living in Maryland.
I can still remember the first time I saw someone eat a soft shell crab. Having worked hard with a mallet to get at crab meat, the soft shell seemed like a great way to get delicious crab meat without a lot of work. The first chance I got, I tried it at a restaurant in Ellicott City, Maryland.
I was hooked and have been tracking down fried soft shell crabs ever since. I can remember eating them in the early nineties at Eb & Flo’s on Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina. Our young kids were horrified, but then they don't even like "chicken with bones."
I haven't let family disapproval stop me from eating soft shells. I can even remember eating soft shells on a family cross country trip when we stopped for our oldest daughter's birthday celebration at the Whaling Station in Monterey, Ca. Then there was an especially good soft shell crab sandwich at The Trawler Restaurant in Exmore, VA in the summer of 2004 as we wandering Virginia's Eastern Shore.
They were done perfectly, lightly battered and quickly fried. They were cooked about as perfectly as soft shells can be cooked. My wife thinks that I'm absolutely crazy, but that's fine, it just leaves more soft shells for those of us that love them.
Hunting for the best cooked soft shell crabs is almost as much fun as looking for the best barbecue.
I have even enjoyed fried soft shells here in Roanoke, Va., but they're definitely better at the coast. I think it is the salt in the air that adds something special to the taste, but maybe they just taste better when you're in sight of salt water and don't have to rush about on your daily duties.