The Shanty Grille has emerged as the enhanced version of the long time Ellicott City “Crab Shanty”. What’s different? The look of the place has clearly been spruced up both outside and inside. The story behind the transformation into the Shanty Grille is interesting with a history that goes back to 1963!
“Between 1978 and 2011, the Crab Shanty restaurant grew into a true Howard County institution. Then, in 2011 while contemplating the upcoming renovations, the Kings determined that it was also time to renovate the entire brand. With an energized staff, they undertook major menu changes, keeping the old favorites that built their reputation and dropping many of the more expensive, heavier entrees that made some guests view the Crab Shanty as a special occasion establishment. The Kings were responding to the needs of a younger, more health-conscious patronage that wanted smaller, less-expensive plates, and a fun place to meet with friends.
In 1963, husband and wife team, Bill and Rolande King, purchased a Catonsville gas station and transformed the property into Sea King Seafood Market, a thriving seafood carryout. This was the first of several carryouts to open over the years. The King family joined together forming a strong love of the restaurant business to establish Sea King carryouts – the finest in raw, cooked and prepared seafood in the Baltimore area. All spices, rubs and recipes are developed in-house and created to bring out the best of Maryland’s seafood.
In 1978, the King family opened The Crab Shanty in Ellicott City, a fast-growing area of Howard County. Many of our guests ask us why we used the name “shanty.” Shanties, by definition, are crudely built shelters made of various salvaged materials, usually occupied by seafaring folk. We know we’re not crudely built, but our décor is comprised of many antiques & architectural pieces from churches, Victorian homes and other projects from the Maryland/Pennsylvania area. For more details about where specific items in our décor are from, please visit our photo tour.”
In the large foyer (with sofas to sit on while waiting for a table), you’ll find a very large moose head plus some very large (four foot high!) fork and spoon as a decorative elements
The dining rooms have a mix of stained glass and paneling that is quite attractive.
While the dinner menu still has its share of expensive seafood items ranging up to $32 for two crab cakes, there’s been an effort to overhaul the menu providing more affordable, light fare options (e.g., grilled plank salmon ($16), Crispy fried lemon pepper catfish served with Old Bay grits ($14), Fisherman’s Stew with Clams, codfish, shrimp, mussels & catfish simmered in a tomato seafood broth ($21).
But the dinner menu includes even lighter, less expensive options like a half dozen entree salads ($12-$15), sandwiches including a Salmon BLT ($11), a Prime Rib Panini with horseradish mayo, fried onions & cheddar cheese ($12) or Shanty Cuban with smoked pork, ham, and Swiss cheese ($9). FYI – All sandwiches come with chips & pickle. And there’s 10 “small plate” including Shrimp Tacos or Coca-Cola Ribs (both $11)
It was tough but we finally made decisions for a light dinner! I decided on the Blackened Shrimp salad ($12), Tom opted for the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf ($10 from the small plate section and Paul ordered a California burger ($11 from the sandwich offerings).
The Blackened Shrimp salad quickly got a “Thumbs Up!” from me. The mix of fresh field greens tossed with ranch dressing was topped with bacon, tomato, crumbled bleu cheese and a surprising number of really tasty, good sized blackened shrimp.
Tom’s meatloaf with tomato molasses glaze and served with potatoes and asparagus made for a very surprisingly large looking entree for just $10.
Paul’s California Burger arrived looking mighty appetizing with a 1/2 pound burger layered with guacamole, red onion and melted pepperjack cheese on a brioche roll and accompanied by a small mountain of kettle chips. He was a happy camper (and he was so impressed by his meal that he keeps asking us to take him back to the Shanty Grille!).
Visiting the men’s room later, we stumbled across a detailed model of… Guess what? Shades of the past… A Crab Shanty!!!
The Shanty Grille surprised us by providing a variety of diner options under $15 served in an upscale, attractive space with young college age servers who came across as if the management had spent the right amount of effort to produce a client focused crew. Overall, we enjoyed our meal so much that it will be on our short list of places that we want to go back to eat at when we’re out in the Ellicott City area.
FACTS: Shanty Grille – Ellicott City – 3410 Plum Tree Drive; 410-465-9660; http://www.shantygrille.com ; Open 7 days a week serving lunch and dinner from 11:30 am to 9 pm; Vegetarian options; lots of adjacent off-street parking.