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Fall into this Trap

Relying on quality and consistency, and constantly catering to the whims of its vast clientele, has kept the Crab Trap in Somers Point doing business for decades.

By Frank Gabriel
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Sep. 25, 2013

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Wander in through the back door of Somers Point’s iconic Crab Trap seafood restaurant early in the morning and you might be in for a bit of a surprise.


At just a few minutes past 9am on an otherwise quiet late-September Monday, the place is already abuzz with activity. Prep cooks busy themselves cleaning shrimp, fish and vegetables while another staffer carefully ladles a béchamel topping over their popular crab au gratin. All told, close to a dozen personnel are already hard at work despite the early hour.


Opened by Jack Wallace in 1967, the location was formerly known as Maenner’s Café, a casual beer and sandwich eatery. Now in his late seventies, Wallace still remains active in the business to this day. His son is second-generation owner/operator Ken Wallace, who tell us “we ran it with the same footprint for about 10 years and then slowly started expanding and adding on.”


That growth has resulted in a huge, sprawling venture — the Crab Trap may accommodate up to 400 customers — with a spacious bar and lounge, multiple seating areas, and a seasonal bayfront deck bar named in honor of its founder called “Crabby Jack’s.”


Currently employing more than 100 people year-round, the Crab Trap has achieved a unique status among seafood restaurants at the southern Jersey shore, which did not happen by accident.


“I think that you have to be here,” Ken Wallace says. “It’s a hands-on business, seven days a week. You really have to devote yourself.”


Key personnel reflect that philosophy. Chef Rick Kern is a veteran of more than 30 years and general manager Dan Cericola over 25.


Consistency is another Crab Trap maxim. 


Every item gets measured, says Wallace, according to a specific recipe, ensuring identical results time after time.


During the busy summer season it is not uncommon for the Crab Trap to provide up to 2,000 “covers” — restaurant lingo for the number of plates delivered —between lunch and dinner. That sizeable volume allows price points to be kept reasonable, based on a combination of purchasing power and more than four decades of experience in the restaurant industry.


As an example, they will typically utilize between 200 and 300 pounds of lump crab meat in a couple of days, ensuring the freshness of that crucial ingredient at all times. So it makes sense when he tells us that among his favorite items are “anything with crab cakes” often accented by unique touches, like a southwestern version or another adding fresh lobster meat.


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1. Jack & Arline Gibson said... on Sep 25, 2013 at 06:13PM

“The Crab Trap is our favorite place to spend an evening, my husband loves the crab cakes, best anywhere, he says, I'm all for the scallops. No need to go anywhere else for seafood (that's why its so crowded - good sign of a great restaurant).”

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