A good name is a treasure.
A little over four years ago at the West Street location where
an eatery bearing many names stood for decades, the restaurant
became the Crab Cake Factory, a name with swagger and grit. Just
six months ago, the operation evolved into a new partnership,
including Norman and Nancy Hatfield, son Lee Hatfield and executive
chef Danny Camus.
Hatfields are experienced caterers, and Camus is a skilled chef
of 25 years who trained at the Washington Culinary School and
L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda. The quartet decided they would
exceed their best expectations in a venture promising, "change,
creativity and excitement," but would keep the name.
Of course, blue crab is king and bestseller in a firmament where
seafood shines. For the first six months of the new regime, the
top menu choice was the crab cake. Just behind was the cream of
crab soup and after that, the seafood platters.
On our recent visit, our selection was a "special of the day,"
a platter of a large crab cake and an Angus beef New York strip.
The cake was large, well-formed and overwhelmed with back fin
lump crabmeat. Rather than mounded, it sported an even depth that
was explained to be key to cooking. The diner may choose broiled
or sautéed. A finely woven composition, it was the essence of
subtlety in seasoning and binding. When one thinks of a quality
Chesapeake Bay crab cake, this is top tier. The steak was cooked
to perfection and had a wonderful flavor enhanced by stealthy
We also opted for the cream of crab soup that brought a delightful
surprise. It was ethereal, light and airy. The slight touch of
sherry was like a catalyst rather than a bolt, actually almost
The featured platters included a pair of broiled jumbo lump crab
cakes; the Admiral's platter of jumbo lump crab cake, two fried
Gulf shrimp and two charcoal-grilled filet medallions; and the
Captain's platter of crab cake, crab-stuffed hush puppies, grilled
shrimp and fish of the day.
We also sampled the "special" shrimp dish, a ciappino of generous-sized
tender shrimp in a gentle sauce of tomato, garlic, onion and wine.
After eyeing the raw bar, we resolved to return to sample the
combo of two blue point oysters from Delaware, expected to be
briny and salty; two Malpeque oysters from cold waters off Prince
Edward Island, promoted as sweet; and two cherrystone clams with
a reputation for smoothness.
In the appetizer selection, we were intrigued with a promised
"surprise" in the fried hush puppies stuffed with crabmeat. Chef
Camus plans to make stuffed hush puppies a "featured" event in
the summer menu. It will also offer large coconut shrimp with
an orange marmalade sauce and a spinach salad with crabmeat and
strawberry vinaigrette dressing. Low-carb dishes will be tagged
with a mini-crab symbol while low-fat fare will show a mini shrimp.
Watch for signature dishes named by the owners, such as Shrimp
Lee or Let's Rock Imperial, Baby Blue Steak (with saga blue cheese)
and seafood pizza. Another innovation will be a lunchtime express
We perceived the restaurant's goal was to make this a neighborhood
spot comfortable and worth visiting often. Our server, was exceptionally
attentive and responsive. She really knew the food and made excellent
Another special touch was the tableside visit by Chef Camus. Lee
Hatfield also makes regular visits with diners. On Friday and
Saturday evenings he presents a cake, candle and free dinner to
a party of two to six diners.
Sous chef Davon McCoy makes a mean bread pudding-plump with Bailey's
Irish cream and vanilla ice cream. Or as one diner challenged,
"It couldn't be better than my grandmother's, but it was." We
also cheered the crème caramel, redolent with brandy and maple
In addition to the usual kid fare of chicken tenders and fries,
the small fry also seemed to enjoy fish and chips, mini crab balls
and tiny carrot cakes.
The restaurant seats about 100 guests in several dining spaces
and wears a smooth look with wood-framed window glass dividers
between rooms, marine artwork and white table linens. The main
bar features a happy hour and super-sized TV. For groups and parties,
the private room upstairs offers up to 140 seats, a small stage
and full bar.
One recent diner was heard exclaiming as she left the restaurant,
"Why didn't we come here before? That may be the best crab cake