Timing is everything, and here in the Lowcountry, these spring months are the time to snag soft-shell crab when the blue crabs are molting. Another spring staple popping up at local fish markets is shad, a type of herring prized not for its flesh but for its eggs, a delicacy known as shad roe. Fortunately for Charlestonians, the timing is right and so is the city's seafood scene as local restaurants revamp their menus to welcome the spring specials.
The folks over at the Glass Onion on Savannah Highway are cold-smoking the tender soft-shell crabs, adding a touch of hickory to the crustaceans before deep-frying them with a panko breading. Two crabs are served with Anson Mills grits, local asparagus, and béarnaise sauce ($30). For a lunch option, try the soft shell crab Po' Boy polished off with Kurios Farms lettuce, tomatoes, and Duke's mayonnaise on New Orleans Leirdenheimer Po' Boy Bread ($15).
The Grocery on Cannon Street has two different soft-shell crab options, both equally mouth watering. The first, under the "taste" section of the menu, is a sautéed soft shell crab served with pancetta, a purée of English peas, pea shoots, and a lemon vinaigrette ($17). A "For the Table" platter of soft-shell crab features three of the crabs each prepared differently. The "old school" crab is pan sautéed with lemon and butter and capers, the "old world" crab is paired with a puttanesca sauce of roasted tomatoes, olives, garlic, and anchovies, and the "old South" crab is deep fried and served with a deviled egg sauce ($46). The Grocery is also featuring a shad roe dish, pairing the fish eggs with cornmeal and bacon dumplings in a spring onion sauce ($12).
A block from the Charleston Harbor on East Bay Street, Slightly North of Broad is also deep-frying their crabs, running a special as long as the soft shells are available. The crabs are breaded and dropped in hot oil before being served with a tomato coulis, green beans, and a pea shoot salad (one crab $18, two crabs $30).
Also close to the harbor on Pitt Street in Mt. Pleasant, the Old Village Post House is offering a 'crispy' soft shell crab accompanied by local pea tendrils, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and radish with a sherry honey vinaigrette and herb aioli ($19/double portion $27).
In lieu of the traditional fried soft shell, chef Mike Lata at FIG on Meeting Street sautés soft-shells and serves them with a Yukon gold puree, local asparagus, and crispy bacon lardons ($36).