Claws is an upbeat, noisy restaurant. Of course, it is a beachy crab house with a busy bar and people hammering on innocent crustaceans, drinking beer and having fun. A lot of the noise, however, isn't necessarily from these fun-loving patrons. What I'm talking about is servers and runners throwing plates onto the tables, slamming dishes into busspans (it's a wonder they don't break) and talking loudly to one another from across the room as if they were in there alone. Looks like the servers and bartenders run the place.
I've been there six times since they opened for the season, and the feedback is evenly divided. Last night our server took a very long time making initial contact (no acknowledgement of that fact, by the way), and then apparently found it beneath him to clear our plates when we were finished. We sat and stared at our congealing leftovers for a good 10-15 minutes--and we were the only party in the room! On an earlier visit, the waitress was fun and made the meal delightful. Apparently at Claws it's the luck of the draw. Poor management? Poor training? Perhaps. I am a fan of Claws' sister restaurant, Fins, and every time I go into Claws I'm expecting the same sort of food and service. Sometimes it happens--sometimes it doesn't.
On an earlier visit we started with the Crabby Abby Crab Pretzel. Crabmeat and cheese on a warm pretzel: Now what can be wrong with that? Nothing--but beware: It's filling! It is best shared. Last night we had the Clams Casino. Not a "hoity-toity" preparation at all, it's basic and cheesy--just about what you would expect for the reasonable price. And I would order it again. The Maryland Crab Soup was unusual--almost a cross between the traditional preparation and French onion soup (without the cheese). If you like onions and lots of veggies, order this. On a couple of our earlier visits, the fried oysters were hot, crunchy and crispy (like they always are at Fins). Last night (and on one other visit) they arrived soggy and mushy and room temperature. Did they sit in the window for 10 minutes while our waiter did whatever, or did the kitchen send them out that way? Doesn't really matter: The person who ordered them as a main course was thoroughly disappointed.
On the other hand, I can't say enough good things about the Lobster Roll (lobster chunks in a light dressing with tiny bits of celery--worth every penny. Read more in my review of Fins). Last night one of our companions had the "Salad Sampler" (generous portions of that great lobster salad, nicely spiced shrimp salad and a (very) mild potato salad surrounded by field greens). Our off-handed waiter never offered her a choice of dressing, and the greens came out dry. Too bad. All he had to say was "What kind of dressing would you like with that?"
On two of our earlier visits, the fried flounder was delicious, hot and crispy. Several also enjoyed the crab cakes (get 'em fried...the crust adds to the mild taste). Others have gone several times for the lobster special and they speak very highly of it. I have to say that the hush puppies were a disappointment. I order them wherever I go, and these (for lack of a better word) were kind of "spongy" and a little sweet (more like a corn fritter). Unless they're meant them to be that way, I suspect they might have been undercooked, though the outside was appetizingly brown and firm.
I don't go into restaurants looking for bad things to write about. In fact, I'm often accused of saying "too many" nice things. But off-handed service can ruin the experience, and I consider "the experience" to be as important as any other factor. Claws is a hit 'n' miss place, and, I suspect, largely dependent on who ends up waiting on you. I want to try more things there, but I have to say my first choice will be Fins.
Claws is in downtown Rehoboth Beach at 167 Rehoboth Avenue, on the north side just east of the Post Office. They have limited hours in the off-season, so be sure to call 302-227-2529. Click here for the menu at Claws. (L. (in season), D., Bar) Price range: Moderate +.