East Bay Crab & Grille, an indie success story for nearly 20 years in EHT.
Egg Harbor Township’s East Bay Crab and Grill stands as one of a very few independent restaurants surviving along a very busy commercial stretch of the Black Horse Pike.
Now largely the dominion of chain restaurants or fast food, real estate between the Shore and Hamilton malls once housed a great many upscale providers.
Most of them have since closed, with one regional standby even shutting down last week.
East Bay, celebrating a 19th anniversary this Memorial Day, continues to prove the exception to that rule, largely due to the efforts of general manager/partner Chuck Armstrong.
Arriving during what he candidly described as a very arduous first year for the eatery, Armstrong righted East Bay’s course and has been at the helm ever since.
Previously employed at two popular north Jersey restaurants — Hannah’s in Eatontown and Charley’s Uncle in East Brunswick — he has been in the restaurant business just under four decades.
When asked what surprises him most over the span of that lengthy career, he explains: “Some things used to be predictable, not anymore.”
He continues, adding that if market conditions don’t change “within 10 years, very few if any more independent restaurants [will survive].”
The formula Armstrong has created at East Bay appears to be a sort of business model designed to prevent that from occurring.
Sure, the framework is seafood, with interiors done up in wood-hued nautical fashion reflecting that fact.
But what seems to drive this place most is a certain carefully-planned structure.
Armstrong even allows that he has specific clientele at different times, including a very notable “Tuesday night bar crowd.”
The dining schedule here includes a $14.99 “Shrimpfest” every Tuesday, a $21.99 “Lobsterfest” Wednesdays and prime rib on Thursdays in either $16.99 (12 ounce) or $22.99 (22 ounce) cuts.
Twelve different entrees, available every day for $11.99, include the likes of Asian sea bass Rockefeller, crabby mac-n-cheese, chicken and ravioli Florentine and a beer-battered haddock fish and chips.
All are served with a choice of Caesar or the house’s signature Sarasota salad, a plate Armstrong considers to be his most popular item.
It’s a unique combination — an iceberg/romaine mix along with grated Swiss cheese, ham, tomatoes and sliced green olives — finished with proprietary oil and garlic dressing.
Armstrong’s also quick to point out a published recipe from a 2002 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, profiling the restaurant’s complimentary cilantro salsa, which arrives with every basket of bread served.
East Bay is also one of a very few restaurants we know of regionally continuing to serve the old-school gourmet French treat escargots.