A Requiem For Ed’s Chicken & Crabs, A Dewey Beach Landmark That Made Dewey Beach Dewey Beach

The sands of time aren’t easy for restaurants. They come and go. Some have longer shelf lives than others. Some are treasured for many generations for meals enjoyed in warm company, some are instant ghost towns as soon as the dreaded “permanently closed” is slapped on their Yelp listing.

Ed’s Chicken & Crabs in Dewey Beach — simply known as Ed’s — is one of those culinary icons beloved by generations of Dewey Beach vacationers and revealers. It was a staple at Route 1 and Swedes Street for over 40 years. Sans the “Dewey Beach: A Way Of Life” sign, it’s the first thing you see when Route 1 turns into the Coastal Highway a block away from the beach. It’s the shack where you go for no-frills cheap crabs and Chesapeake-style fried chicken in Dewey, whether you’re there for family vacation or a drunken weekend of barhopping and Suicide Sundays with the squad.

Sadly, it’s gone now. Probably forever. Here’s how I found out this morning:

On Tuesday night, around 2AM, a speeding car jumped the median and crashed into the crab shack, igniting a massive fire when the vehicle slammed into an outdoor propane tank. Fire crews kept it from spreading to a neighboring gas station and other residences. While surveying the damage this morning, Ed Riggins, the 83-year-old founder who was frequently behind the screen doors steaming up shrimp and crabs himself, told the Delaware News-Journal that he’s probably done forever.

I’ve been going to Dewey since I was in utero almost every summer. As a kid, seeing Ed’s lit up in flood lights on Route 1 was a sign we made it to the beach after a five-hour drive from Central PA. That green-and-yellow plywood shack was always a symbol of great joy, most notably for the delicious Delmarva/Eastern Shore culinary staples served as simply as possible: Shrimp steamed by the dozen and crabs mounded on a picnic table with brown butcher paper rolls, caked in Old Bay. The menu was on a chalkboard. They didn’t serve beer, but Ed didn’t really care if you bring your own. He is chill like that.

The laid back diveyness of Ed’s is what made it great, especially compared to stuffy “upscale” beach seafood joints like Phillips Crab House in Ocean City or Jake’s in Rehoboth.

When I was no older than five, my grandfather found $10 in the sand by his car, presumably dropped by some college-age kid in a rush to get to a Bottle & Cork for Jam Session. Along with my younger brother, we “snuck” away from my family to walk down to Ed’s, where we feasted on as much peel-and-eat shrimp as $10 could buy in 1991. Our whereabouts was of great concern to my mother and grandmother, but we came back with guilty smiles like puppy dogs.

Every time I go back to Dewey in the summer, I always tried to sneak in a trip to Ed’s for more-or-less the same thing: Shrimp, crabs, a couple hushpuppies, and steamed corn-on-the-cob. Of the dozens of times I’ve been there, I almost always left with my face smeared in Old Bay and seafood innards. Fortunately Ed had a washtub off to the side of the dining area where you could clean up your face before whatever was next on your agenda.

Dewey Beach isn’t Dewey Beach without Ed’s. It’s like Sponge Bob not having the Krusty Krab. It was perfectly tight-cast as the ultimate beach town crab shack where you can put your elbows on the table on a summer night.

Here’s to hoping Ed’s doesn’t become just another soulless condo building. I’m bummed by the realization that it probably will.

Fingers-crossed the guys at The Starboard or Sam Calagione at Dogfishhead jumps on the opportunity to bring Ed’s back like a Delmarva phoenix for generations to come.

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Brandon Wenerd avatar
BroBible's publisher and a founding partner, circa 2009. Brandon is based in Los Angeles, where he oversees BroBible's partnership team and other business development activities. He still loves to write and create content, including subjects related to internet culture, food, live music, Phish, the Grateful Dead, Philly sports, and adventures of all kinds. Email: brandon@brobible.com