Spring has sprung on the Outer Banks! It's not the blooming flowers, growing dune grass, or the pollen falling like snow that marks the beginning of spring for us. When the warmer water starts churning the blue crabs decide it's time for a major transition; new, shiny shell. But it's the small window of opportunity during the old-to-new shell transformation that we're after. Our career crabbers and fishermen know to keep their eye on the pots as early as mid-April because once the molting begins, it's on!
We consider soft-shell crabs to be a true coastal delicacy due to the challenge they provide. The "golden hour" of catching blue crabs is to get them during the shedding process. Crabbers will catch them right when the molting begins, hold them in a saltwater tank, and will then monitor them with a close eye. To ensure the soft-shell, the crab must be removed from the water immediately after shedding the old exoskeleton. A new shell can harden within hours!
There are some local restaurants who take soft-shell crabs very seriously. So seriously, in fact, they have their own "shedder" installed. When the crabbers bring in the haul, they go straight to the shedder and the restaurant will monitor them, pull them, clean them, and cook them completely on-site! One local restaurant that treats soft-shells like a holiday is Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe on the causeway in Nags Head. You can have soft-shell benedict for breakfast, a soft-shell sandwich for lunch, and a soft-shell entree with all the fixin's for dinner!
A few area restaurants who are serving up fresh, local soft-shells are listed below! Be sure to follow their social media for new menu items and specials:
- North Banks Raw Bar and Grill, Corolla
- Blue Point, Duck
- Aqua Restaurant and Spa, Duck
- Basnight's Lone Cedar Cafe, Nags Head
- Blue Moon Beach Grill, Nags Head