OCEAN CITY – The Shrimp Boat is celebrating its 25th anniversary season, and while traditions remain alive, additions are in the works.
Owner Joe White bought the Shrimp Boat from his uncle, Joe Crocetti, a little over a year ago.
Crocetti started The Shrimp Boat in 1989 operating out of the back of a truck on the highway selling only fresh head-on shrimp, which The Shrimp Boat has become known for.
In 1990, Crocetti started operating out of a boat at the current location on Route 611. The current Shrimp Boat is the third incarnation that was custom built in 2011 with a built-in refrigerator box, four ice coolers, sinks and wireless Internet connection.
“When we first started, we were just shrimp,” White said. “He [Crocetti] went from shrimp to a couple other additional fresh products, such as clams and hand-picked crab meat. The next thing he added was live lobsters and live crabs and operated that way for the first 18 years.”
To meet customers’ desires for fresh seafood, The Shrimp Boat has expanded its fresh seafood selection to a variety during the season, including Maryland blue crabs, fresh sea scallops, live whole lobsters, stone crab claws, soft shell cabs, fresh crab meat, fresh fish daily and fresh produce.
In 2009, the first kitchen opened to allow customers to take home cooked seafood instead of only raw.
“We don’t steam our shrimp,” White said. “We actually boil them, and we have been teaching people how to do it for the last 25 years because we didn’t cook anything practically for the first 20 years.”
The first kitchen was quickly outgrown and a larger kitchen was added and operated out of for another two years. Eventually, The Shrimp Boat’s cooked menu received so much fanfare, Crocetti opened an adjacent Captain Joe’s Restaurant in 2012 that offers a full lunch and dinner menu.
In 2013, Crocetti turned over the operation to White who had been working at The Shrimp Boat since 1993 to put himself through college.
“He [Crocetti] is still here three to four days a week working the boat primarily. He likes to interact with the customers, and walk through the restaurant. He is our ambassador,” White said.
Since White took over, he has expanded and updated a pet-friendly outdoor seating area, as well as built an outdoor waiting bar adjacent to the restaurant that serves wine and draft beer featuring local brews. New this year will be frozen daiquiris, Pina Coladas and sangria as well as mimosas and Bloody Marys on the weekends.
Also new this year is a new seating arrangement in the restaurant, featuring bench and table seating to better open the space.
When The Shrimp Boat completed its new kitchen, the original kitchen became a state-of-the-art crab room fitted with three large custom built crab pots and a wall steamer that can steam up to seven bushels of crabs at a time.
“We have had the same crab supplier for 25 years. Almost every one of our crabs are local out of the Wye River but in early April they will come out of North Carolina,” White said. “Our crab room is pretty sophisticated … We fresh steam everything. We don’t steam anything ahead of time.”
White was happy to announce The Shrimp Boat’s gluten free menu that include boneless wings, French fries, and sweet potato fries.
“Our gluten free menu is unique,” he said. “Almost all seafood is gluten free unless it is breaded. Very few places have gluten free boneless wings and French fries.”
Not only does The Shrimp Boat source its own fresh seafood market but all ingredients also come from their fresh produce stand. A second produce stand will open this year on Route 50.
“We shop from our own fresh market and our fresh produce. So, everything we make here we make from scratch,” White said. “Our biggest secret is our spice. Nobody knows what our mixture is.”
Another new addition to The Shrimp Boat is catering and parties. Starting last season the restaurant hosts anywhere from a party of six to 70 to a variety of groups.
The Shrimp Boat is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on the weekdays and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the weekends during the summer. To see daily specials visit their Facebook page or their website at www.shrimpboatoc.com.