Every year, the surrounding beach resort communities of Sussex County see more than their fair share of restaurants come and go. While not every establishment has the same reasons for eventually closing its doors, the good ones tend to stick around — and the really good ones tend to continue to open up new locations.
The Crabcake Factory USA has seen that kind of growth, most recently opening up its third location — its first location in Delaware — right off Route 54 west of Fenwick Island, on the bayside, next to Captain Mac’s.
The location offers striking bay views. After completely renovating the property, and with more than 18 years of popularity just down the road in Ocean City, Md., the Crabcake Factory management team has no doubts that their newest location is right where they’re supposed to be.
“We’ve got a good local following up here,” said Crabcake Factory Bayside General Manager (and former general manager of the original Crabcake Factory on 120th Street in Ocean City) Eric Morris. “We wanted to grow into Fenwick. A lot of our existing 120th street client base lives up here. We just felt like it was a real need in this corridor to have a nice quality, casual atmosphere.”
The Delaware location opened less than two months ago, but Morris knows that even with the location’s initial success, the big challenge for the restaurant is on the horizon: the summer crowds are on the way. He already has a plan in place to be able to accommodate more people. Not only is the parking lot being redone to allow for more spaces, but the location will soon feature its own shuttle service for employees and patrons.
“We’re going to have a shuttle. It’ll bar-hop into town,” he explained.
To utilize the scenic view of the Ocean City skyline over the bay, Morris said that they’re also in the process of expanding their outdoor seating section, which will include a beach bar and stage area for live music in the summer.
“The difference here would obviously be the view,” Morris said, comparing the Crabcake Factory locations. “Entertainment’s been approved, so we’re working on getting our lineup. We’re going to do it outside when we do a downstairs bar and an outside sand bar and put a stage out there.”
Those plans are in place for the upcoming summer, but eventually Morris has a much more elaborate vision for the unique location, recently seeking approval from DNREC for a pier extending out into the channel that would span about 150 feet.
“We can’t go out that far,” he explained of why their original idea was rejected. “What they said we could do was put a gazebo out in the middle of this pond and we could have water seating, and we’ll probably put a bar out there.”
That idea is a bit further down the road, but in the meantime, the restaurant will rely on their award-winning recipes and competitive deals to draw in the crowds. Recently, the 120th Street location won several “Best of” awards from OceanCity.com, including Best Overall Bar, Best Happy Hour, Best Breakfast, Best Seafood and, of course, Best Crab Cake.
“We won six out of six [categories] this year that we were in,” said Morris before going on to explain what sets their crabcake apart. “Obviously it’s the colossal lump that we use. It’s the jumbo lump — very little filler, excellent flavor. We’ve sold over 2 million, so we’re doing something right.”
Another signature feature of the establishment would have to be “The Triple Threat Bloody Mary,” made with house-made Bloody Mary mix, choice vodka, five sugar-cane-skewed shrimp and four pieces of bacon, and topped off with a half-pound of jumbo lump crab meat.
Like the Ocean City locations, Crabcake Factory Bayside will also offer a wide variety of deals throughout the week, such as $2 dollar fish tacos all day and night on Wednesdays and a happy hour with deals including $5 half-pound shrimp and mussels, $7 half-pound burgers and fries, crabcake sliders, and $1.75 domestic bottles and $2 wine.
Aside from offering award-winning food, live music, a remarkable view and competitive pricing, Crabcake Factory Bayside could also become the site for a new Fenwick Island summer tradition.
Following up on the restaurant group’s consistent charity advocacy, which has benefitted groups including the Surfrider Foundation and the Ocean City Beach Patrol, Morris expressed a great deal of interest in capitalizing on the location with a possible charity event similar to that of the BJ’s Canoe Races.
“It’s a concept right now,” Morris explained of the possibility of a similar charity race but instead using stand-up paddleboards. “We’re trying to come up with something unique that’s trending that we can raise money with. It would go to Surfrider or maybe split between Surfrider and the beach patrols around here. We’re working on doing something else for Surfrider here shortly. We’re big supporters of the O.C. Beach Patrol, and now we’ll be big supporters of the Fenwick Beach Patrol.”
Despite all the new developments at Crabcake Factory Bayside, the restaurant group has somehow also had time to continue expanding their 25th Street Ocean City location, which opened up last summer. According to Morris, that location just received approval for 32 beer taps and will be installing an elevator, which will allow for more seating on both the first and second floors.
“It’s going to provide a lot more outdoor seating,” he noted. “They approved us for 32 taps — it’s going to be like a Crabcake Factory South brewhouse.”
From a restaurant that started out simply serving breakfast at a single location, with no liquor license or bar more than 18 years ago, it seems that a stand-out crabcake recipe and commitment to catering to their community in any way that they could has propelled them to tremendous success, with three locations and millions of crabcakes sold.
According to Morris, this is just the start of even more expansion to even more locations, with cities including Nags Head, N.C., and Annapolis, Md., being discussed as future possibilities for restaurant locations. Much like the original Crabcake Factory took off once the community got a taste of their first ever crabcake special, the franchise could very well take off in a similar way.
To stay on top of Crabcake Factory deals at any of their locations, order crabcakes online, or simply find out more information about the restaurants visit www.crabcakefactoryusa.com or the check out the Crabcake Factory Bayside Facebook page at www.facebook.com/crabcakefactorybayside.