Higgins Continues To Evolve With New Deck Area; Addition Grows Crab House’s Capacity

Higgins Continues To Evolve With New Deck Area; Addition Grows Crab House’s Capacity
Pg. 77 B

(Editor’s Note: The latest installment in an ongoing series this spring documenting changes on the local business front.)

OCEAN CITY – Higgins Crab House South’s new upstairs deck and bar for this season ups the ante in providing the traditional Maryland crab experience with a new view.

Higgins Crab House South has been located on 31st Street for 26 years and has evolved over time. Higgins Crab House North on 128th Street was established in 1999.

Over the years, Higgins Crab House South has gone through at least four additions, growing its space along with the restaurant’s rising success.  The restaurant started out seating just over 100 guests to now being able to seat close to 500.

The most recent expansion is the addition of an upstairs deck and bar. General Manager John Oleksak has watched the restaurant grow as he has been working with Higgins year-round since 1999, starting off in the back of the house doing everything from washing dishes to dropping fries and working his way up to general manager today.

“It was an idea that we had started talking about at least 10 years ago,” Oleksak said of the upstairs deck and bar. “It is a draw for the customers and is something that the customers wanted. They want to sit outside and for an idea that has been floating around we felt this was the right time to do it.”

About a year ago, the plans for the upstairs deck started to be drawn up with the go-ahead granted last summer when Higgins received its permits. Mitrecic Builders came on board with construction starting immediately after Labor Day last year.

The upstairs deck had its soft opening a couple of weeks ago to beautiful weather over the weekend.

“We had a great response,” Oleksak said. “A lot of tables wanted to go up there.”

Prior to the upstairs deck opening, the only outdoor seating Higgins had available was on ground level with 16 picnic tables that were found to be filling up first in nice weather.

“The upstairs deck has partial ocean view,” Oleksak said. “We are going to get a pretty good gathering there.”

With Higgins located on the ocean side of Coastal Hwy., it also provides a birds nest view for spectators. For example, the upstairs deck tables were first to fill up last weekend with customers wanting to watch classic cars during Cruisin’ weekend.

The upstairs bar has 26 picnic tables with umbrellas, new restrooms and the restaurant’s second full service bar with 12 Adirondack style bar stools.

“It is very comfortable,” Oleksak said.  “We wanted to keep a beachy crab house look but give it a fresh face but kept it rustic with salt treated wood, a corrugated tin bar front and metal roof. We wanted to keep it casual.”

Higgins is a classic style Maryland crab house specializing in all-you-can-eat crab meals, crabs by the piece or dozen and by the bushels.

The menu includes many other options from soup, appetizers and light fare to platters, a children’s menu and desserts for dine-in and carry-out.

“We have something for everybody,” Oleksak said. “Once the Maryland season opens, we try to buy everything local depending on weather and water temperature. Once we get into the season, about 95 percent of what we are serving is local Maryland crabs. Since the owner is from the St. Michaels area, he would rather spend his money on a local product and local crabber to keep the money local.”

Higgins has become an Ocean City tradition for many, according to Oleksak.

“We have generations of customers. We have seen children grow, now bringing their own children in, and hopefully that will continue for generations to come,” Oleksak said. “We have great food, great service and a lot of smiling faces.”

Higgins Crab House is owned and operated by the Higgins family from St. Michaels. With over 50 years of experience in Ocean City, a vast knowledge has been gained with regard to locating and purchasing the best, freshest, and best value for customers.

“Higgins is continuously evolving. We don’t like to sit around and be stale. We like to try new things and keep things fresh. We want to grow with our customers, and if their demand goes in a certain direction that is the direction we want to go in also,” Oleksak said.