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East Bay Crab & Grille, an indie success story for nearly 20 years in EHT.

By Frank Gabriel
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 20, 2013

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Shown is one of East Bay Crab & Grille's most popular dishes . . . The King Crab Legs Dinner consisting of a double stuffed potato and fresh veggies

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.

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