Monday, September 17, 2007

It Might Possibly Be Worth Going to City Island for Soft-Shell Crabs

City Island lost its charm for me on my second or third visit, back in 1988 probably, when I realized that the lobstermen I was waiting around to interview were psychotic racists. That plus the fact that every time I went there, City Island seemed less like the "quaint New England fishing village" of my stereotype-loving editors' description than the kind of neighborhood I left Staten Island to avoid, only closer to the water. City Island readers, don't take this personally. I'm sure there are some nice people there and I'm sure it can occasionally be a pleasant place to live. But it's not my kind of place.

That said, my Google alert sent me a link to this post, in a blog called "At the Sign of the Pink Pig," about Johnny's Famous Reef Restaurant, on City Island. I like the description, although as is my wont I found a couple of things wrong with it -- the first being the assertion that the waters around City Island are too polluted for fishing (they're not), and the second being the opinion that, "It still looks like a little fishing village." (It doesn't. It looks like the Bronx waterfront.)

But here's what really caught my attention:

... the highlight for me is the soft-shells; even if they aren't straight out of the water, they come out of Johny's deep fry impeccably crisp, well-seasoned, and cooked just through. There a few things I dislike more than a deep-fried soft-shell with a cold, liquid center. At $11, usually six to the order.

Can it be true? A half-dozen delicious soft-shell crabs for $11? Soft-shell crabs are still available at my local market, for $5 a pop, and you have to cook them yourself. Given my prejudices, I'm not likely to head down to City Island any time soon. But if by chance I'm ever there at lunchtime, I know what I'll be ordering.

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Blogger wilfrid_pj said...

Just found your comments on my City Island piece. I'm glad it was of interest. As for the pollution issue, I have seen it stated the the NYC Department of Health has indeed banned consumption of seafood from the waters around City Island, although precisely which waters that means I can't say. If I'm wrong, I'll change it, but the statement wasn't made without research.

All the best, Wilfrid (

5:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

Thanks, Wilfrid. I think the ban refers to oysters and clams, because of the risk that people will eat them raw. Crabs of course have to be cooked, and there's no crabbing ban (although the state does enforce a size limit).

In any case, 6 for $11? Amazing

5:24 PM  
Blogger matthew houskeeper said...

I just found this post and my thoughts are very similar. I keep reading reviews of CITY ISLAND, the movie, that describe it as a quaint NE fishing village. Shipbuilding was always its claim to fame, and it looks about as NE as Waterbury CT.

9:29 AM  

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