The Best Blue Crab on Georgia’s Coast is hidden away in a secret place between Savannah and Jekyll Island.
Sunbury Crab Company, Sunbury, Georgia
Bring a hearty appetite, roll up your sleeves and head out to Sunbury Crab Company to experience the best blue crab on Georiga’s coast – some rustic, real crab crackin’. It’s been a family-owned restaurant for more than 20 years and is hands down the most unique dining experience in all of South Georgia. It’s staunchly no-frills, with a menu that couldn’t. be simpler; fried or steamed seafood year-round and fire-roasted oysters once the chill hits the salt marshes.
I happened to discover it while heading home from the Georgia Shrimp Festival on Jekyll Island. Located just south of Savannah, off the beaten path, it’s a waterfront culinary delight with one of the most spectacular views anywhere on Coastal Georgia. Go by boat, or car, as there is plenty of parking and dockage.
Arriving just as they opened, we were greeted by owners Elaine and Bernard Maley and seated at creekside. To say Bernie has a passion for seafood is like saying the SEC has some pretty good football teams. A native of South Georgia, he spent his early years traveling the coast to enjoy seafood at its finest. Then in the 1980s he purchased the land in Sunbury for his home and built the restaurant right next to it, where he’s been preaching the seafood gospel ever since.
Large males, called Jimmies by fishermen, have brilliant blue claws and legs. The mature females or “sooks” have bright orange tips on their claws.
Once cooked, they turn bright red and orange.
Freshness at its finest creates the Best Blue Crab on Georgia’s Coast
Once seated a waitress arrived with a big piece of parchment paper for a placemat. “Bring us a couple of buckets of steamed blue crab, please, and some iced tea.” Soon she returned with the two buckets and a mallet for each of us. You sure can’t beat ’em for freshness. Bernie prides himself on pulling his blue crabs right out of the surrounding waters and serving them that same day.
In fact, he ran out of crab where we were there and when we went to order another bucket, he said, “Wait a minute.” One of his boats was just pulling in with another load fresh from the briny waters out front. It took all of about 20 minutes from water to table. Now it doesn’t get any fresher than that.
Just as I finished eating, Bernie came back to our table to say he was going back out to empty some more traps. “Hey, why don’t you come along?” “Of course,” we replied and followed him down the dock.
The unspoiled beauty of St. Catherine’s Sound is unparalleled even at high-speed racing toward a crab pot. A white marker attached to the trap marked the spot. As Bernie pulled up the line he said, “Gotta lift with the current or you’ll be outta luck.”
That first trap was full of blue crab. He dumped all the blue crab into a black plastic bucket on board. Before we left he grabbed some Menhaden baitfish to refill it, then lowered the trap back into the blue waters.
Darkness was settling in as the tide ebbed, exposing miles of black sulfurous pluff mud along either side of the creek. Great blue herons took flight across the vast primitive vistas with nothing man-made in sight. I thought “this is our inheritance.” Here is a land reflecting the history and character of a community preserved by the generations of fishermen and their families who went before us. The more people learn about the Georgia coast, the more likely they will want to take care of it and continue to preserve it.
So next time you’re wondering where to eat on the Georgia coast grab a beer and hang out on the docks as the sun does down, and watch the boats chug along the dockside canal as dusk settles across the land. No other experience like it. No place. Nowhere.