OCEAN CITY –The Shrimp Boat is celebrating its 25th Anniversary being a fixture located near Assateague Island, 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 Shrimp Boat’s current location on Rt. 611. The current Shrimp Boat is the third incarnation that was custom built in 2011 with a built in refrigerator box, 4 ice coolers, sinks, and wireless internet connections.
“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, as well as fresh produce.
In 2009, the first kitchen opened to allow customers to take home cooked seafood instead of only raw. Customers have been receiving cooking instructions since Crocetti over the years.
“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 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 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 a outdoor waiting bar adjacent to the restaurant that serves wine and draft beer featuring local brews. New this year is frozen daiquiris, Pina Coladas and sangrias, as well as mimosas and Bloody Marys on the weekends.
Also new this year is a new seating arrangement in the restaurant now with bench and table seating to better open the space.
When the Shrimp Boat received a 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 which 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 is 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.”
The remainder of the Shrimp Boat’s fresh seafood selection is delivered daily from North Carolina.
White pointed out several popular dishes on the menu. Besides the most popular choice of the shrimp, fan favorites include the fresh tuna tacos, shrimp sliders and cream of crab soup.
“We finished second in the Ocean City Crab Cook-off last year at the White Marlin Festival. We are not going to finish second this year,” he said.
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 out of its own fresh seafood market but all ingredients also come from their fresh produce stand. A second produce stand will open this year on Rt.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.
“We have done parties for fire departments, Ravens roosts, golf groups, and our goal is to be open for Christmas parties this year,” White said who is hoping to remain open on the weekends until New Year’s.
Family style, all-you-can-eat or special menu catering is provided.
“Our catering is a custom menu,” White said. “We sit and listen to what people want.”
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.