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What is soft-shell crab & where do I get some of the best? North Charleston?

Marvin’s Seafood
4224 Dorchester Rd, North Charleston, SC 29405
(843) 529-1764

By Scott Wink – Monday April 18th, 2011


If you are a fan of the delicious Southern cuisine Charleston has to
offer and never want to leave it behind then consider a move to Charleston with the help
of our friends at Keadle Real Estate.  After reading this article you will surely wish you lived here to enjoy our fresh seafood year round.

A reader gave me a tip that Marvin’s Seafood had live soft-shell crabs right now.  Being that it was only in North Charleston I felt obligated to go as soon as possible to check it out.  I had never been to Marvin’s.  In fact, I wasn’t sure if it was a restaurant or a grocery store.  I called first to try and figure it out.  I was told that they did fry your seafood but it was take out only.  I continued on. I pulled into the parking lot that was full of auxiliary sheds and lots of pick-up trucks at around noon on Monday.  There was a constant flow of locals…..all good signs.  As I opened the door I notice that there is not much standing room and about a dozen people are sitting in chairs and on window ledges patiently waiting for their number to be called.  If you want to act like you are a regular follow these rules:

   #1  The menu is hanging on the wall behind the cash register to the right.
   #2  Look at it to decide what you want to order and then order from the person behind the counter to the left….not at the cash register.  Make sure to include your drinks.
   #3  Once you put your order in they will give you a number.
   #4 Patiently wait for your number to be called and make sure you ask the others around you for their favorite menu items.
   #5  If you want to eat it fresh be prepared to dig in as soon as you get back to your car.

This was a soft-shelled crab mission. I have only ate good soft-shelled crabs in New Orleans. Everywhere else you get flattened (frozen) versions that look like pancakes.  Here you get them as fresh as humanly possible.  One of the sheds on the property houses the crab tank which they use to separate the crabs waiting to molt their shells from the ones post molted.  You only have about 2 days to eat the crab once it has molted before its new shell hardens.  Here is a picture of what a crab looks like just before molting. The guys at Marvin’s showed me that you can see the top shell separated and the darker new shell underneath.

Here is a side by side comparison they showed me. The thing on the left is an empty shell, not a crab. The claws are hollow and almost translucent. The one on the right is very alive and a day or two from molting.

They also showed me the inside of the empty shell. Empty except for the gills which it sheds too. 

Marvin’s pulls out the live freshly molted crabs from the back tanks and brings them inside, breads them and throws them in the fryer.  The end results is a plump, large, meaty juicy delight.

You can get them with bread and eat it like a sandwich ( my suggestion) and top it with the seafood condiment of your choice. Hot sauce or cocktail sauce is the most common.

If for some reason you are not into soft shelled crab there is plenty of other goodies to try. The locals I talked to were getting fried shark, scallops, and shrimp dinners complete with hushpuppies and sweet tea.  The price is really amazing for the quality and freshness.  If you are not normally a North Charleston person you need to suck it up and have an adventure out there on Dorchester Road. They are open from 10AM-6PM Monday-Saturday.