Atmosphere: Casual neighborhood pub.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Sunday.
Price range: $5.95 to $14.95; children half price.
Special Facilities: Accessible to patrons in wheelchairs.
Reservations: Advisable on weekends for parties of five or more.
Credit Cards: Master Charge and Visa/Bank Americard.
Having called ahead to check when Imperial Crab in Silver Spring was open and whether there was a children's menu, I was heartened by the response. Not only were the answers the kind I wanted to hear - open when we wanted to go; children at half price - but the voice on the other end of the telephone sounded friendly and accommodating.
Imperial Crab is one block south of the Beltway. Coming off the Beltway we made a left turn onto a service road in front of the restaurant where there was a metered parking space. Parking is usually a problem but a public parking lot is being built a blockway.
Inside, Imperial Crab is more crab house than imperial grandeur. It's a casual, down to earth restaurant with model fish mounted on the paneled walls, fake Tiffany lamps over the tables and rolls of white paper acting as tablecloths.
Our party of three adults and two children couldn't fit into into one of the cozy booths along the side. Instead, we spread out at a table for eight in the middle of the back room.
The adults started with glasses of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] or mugs of beer, the better to study the long and involved menu. Imperial Crab has spiced hard shell crabs by the dozen or any number we wanted plus 25 other seafood dishes. There were softshell crabs and stuffed softshell crabs, whole baby flounder and stuffed baby flounder, seafood Norfolk and, for those who really hate seafood, filet mignon. There were also "Famous Indo Pak Dishes" also known as scallop curry, shrimp curry and steak curry.
It was a cold spring Sunday and everybody wanted hot soup. My husband, mother and son ordered New England clam chowder, $1.25, which was served in a brown crocks and was brimming with bits of clam and potato and milk. My daughter tried the Manhattan clam chowder, also served in a crock, but not nearly as good as the New England version. I ordered the crab soup, $1.50, which was very hot, both in temperature and seasoning. Once the soup cooled down enough to eat, it was good, but, again, not on a par with the New England version.
Our son 10, was the only one in the mood for hard shell crab. He ordered two plus French fries and cole slaw. The crabs were covered with the usual spices and peppers. The night we were there only small crabs at $10.95 a dozen were available. Between the soup, rolls, french fries, cole slaw and $1.70 worth of crabs, he had plenty to eat.
My husband thought he was very hungry and ordered a Lobster Special: $9.95 for part of a lobster and three spiced hot crabs plus french fries and cole slaw. The lobster tail appeared first, was juicy and meaty and quickly was demolished. The three spiced crabs that followed were also tasty and meaty but could not be finished.
My mother and daughter love fried shrimp and never had any doubts about what they would order. Our waitress told us that the adult portion $5.95, had large shrimp while the children's portion, $3, contained small shrimp. When the entress arrived it was hard to tell the adult from the kiddie portion, but as the waitress had said, the pieces were smaller on my daughter's plate. Both shrimp platters came with a choice of baked or French fried potatoes, cole slaw or string beans. The shrimp were delicious, but the large shrimp were tastier than the smaller ones.
A sign in the back of the restaurant announced a special of the day - rock-fish, $5.95. I ordered that and, on the waitress's recommendation, had it broiled rather than fried. It came with lots of butter and lemon and was superb. Even my son, who claims he hates fish, tasted and liked it.
There were desserts on the menu - cheesecake for $1.95, key lime pie for $1.25 and ice cream, 75 or 95 cents - but we had eaten too much seafood to try them. Our bill for five soups, five sinners, two glasses of wine one beer, two milks and a Coke came to $38.50.
As we were leaving, one of the owners came by to make sure we had enjoyed everything. He said that he usually had large and medium crabs on hand but that, at this time of year, he is dependent on fishermen in Louisiana, who didn't always send the big ones. He also promised the parking problem would be solved "within two weeks." He winked when wetold him we were taking the leftovers home for our cats.