Have you seen the loud, bright Bahama Mamas boat that cruises along Ocean City’s coastline each day, honking its unmistakable horn? If you’ve seen this boat, then you’ve probably seen its captain, Ernie Emerson. Or, perhaps you recently heard Ernie on radio commercials or on Irie Radio 98.1 FM’s Rude Awakening morning show. And if you’re a longtime Ocean City local or visitor, you may remember the crazy television commercial, “The jumbos are coming!” starring DJ Batman.
Proud owner of Bahama Mamas’ three locations, Ernie Emerson is a one-of-a-kind character that you’ll never forget encountering. “I’m a certified, qualified, bona fide, petrified Crabologist,” he quipped to me and my dinner dates, as he stood before us in the 132nd Street location’s dining room wearing a stethoscope, oversized sunglasses, and a paint-splattered lab coat. “We’re all jumbo, no mumbo,” he says. “Crab eaters of OC voted my jumbo crabs the best in OC nine years in a row. By the way, I’m president of that group,” he jokes. Indeed, Ernie the Crabologist has been in the crab business for 25 years. He opened his first location in Baltimore 25 years ago, and 10 years later he relocated to Ocean City and opened a location at the beach.
You’ll immediately recognize Bahama Mamas on 132nd Street. Its neon paint and often-misspelled marquee draw attention from Coastal Highway, and distinguish Bahama Mamas from ordinary crab houses. Plenty of free parking and outdoor seating keep the lively outdoor area hopping, while the inside resembles popular establishments in Key West. Photos, signs, and funny quotes line the walls, as well as merchandise and fishing memorabilia. Bushel baskets shade the indoor lighting, and beer coozies serve as colorful lanterns over the bar.
“The Crabologist is on duty at all times,” Ernie says. “I’ll honor any competitor’s coupon.” During the week of the White Marlin Open, bring in this article from Coconut Times, and Ernie will present you with a free appetizer. All kidding aside, Bahama Mamas truly presents the biggest crabs I’ve ever seen. My dinner dates, Joey and Nevaeh Steward, agree. With a 100% commitment to quality, Ernie gets jumbo crabs from supplier “Chester River” Frank, who expertly selects each crab he delivers to Bahama Mamas. Crabs are measured by weight, not shell size, which guarantees nothing but jumbo.
The crabs aren’t the only jumbo feature at Bahama Mamas. The menu is jumbo too. You won’t believe how many seafood options are available. Ernie sat with us at a large round table and totally over served us. He started with the “Bahama Mamas Mother of All Mothers Eastern Shorebilly Steamer Pot.” You read that correctly. This unbelievable menu item is a mouthful to pronounce and an even bigger mouthful to eat. Perfect for large families and parties, it includes four Whole Lobster, eight Blue Crabs, four Snow Crab Clusters, one pound of Steamed Shrimp, two-dozen Clams, two pounds of Mussels, Corn on the Cob, and Red Potatoes. We also tried the Seafood Skins, which are fully loaded with Shrimp, Scallops, Crab, Bacon, and Cheddar Cheese. Ernie also served us Hush Puppies, a Crabby Pretzel, and Mushroom Caps stuffed with Crab Imperial. Everything is exceptionally delicious.
As if that isn’t enough food, Ernie also presented us with a tray of All-You-Can-Eat Jumbo Crabs. We’ve frequently indulged in steamed crabs this summer, and these crabs are absolutely 100% all jumbo, no mumbo. “These are the biggest crabs I’ve ever eaten,” remarked Joey. “I can’t stop laughing,” added 11-year-old Nevaeh.
If you’ve never picked crabs, Bahama Mamas is the ideal spot to begin. The Crabologist will give you a personal lesson, and each placemat includes instructions on how to pick like a pro. Ernie gave us some very helpful tips, despite the fact that we grew up picking Maryland crabs. We definitely learned some new techniques.
Other mouthwatering seafood on the menu at Bahama Mamas is Flounder, Rockfish, Tuna, Fried Oysters, Soft Crab, Steak & Cake, Clams Casino, Seafood Alfredo, Shrimp Salad, Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp, and Broiled Chicken Breast topped with Crab Imperial. “Land lubbers” enjoy Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Baby Back Ribs, NY Strip, and much more.
Bahama Mamas also boasts a Crab Shack and Seafood Outlet on Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island. Here, customers pay no sales tax, and can stop at the seafood outlet early on Sunday mornings—or any time—to pickup fresh seafood to take home. Travel packs include a free cooler, ice, and seasoning, and the Bahama Mama staff will load each pack directly into your car for you. Travel Packs are also excellent gifts.
Located on the bayfront of Wicomico Street, Bahama Mamas’ downtown location is the only waterfront crab house in Ocean City. The view is stunning, from bay to Assateague. From the outdoor deck or the air-conditioned indoor dining room, live music entertains customers seven nights per week.
Bahama Mamas on 132nd Street presents live music from 6:00 to 10:00 each Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Happy Hour is every day from 12:00 to 6:00 at Bahama Mamas’ downtown and uptown locations. Adult beverages are served in real coconut shells, sliced in half with a machete. “My goal is to keep the barstools full, so I offer half-pound steamed shrimp for $1.99, 25-cent wings, and many more food and drink specials,” says Ernie.
This winter, the 132nd Street Bahama Mamas will be open year round for the first time. The uptown establishment includes keno, flat screen televisions, and the NFL package.” I want to transform this place into a Shorebilly Man Cave,” says Ernie. During NFL games, the establishment will serve up a wild game feast with pit beef, turkey legs, big buck pool, crab races, and corn hole tournaments. “Of course, we want women to enjoy the Shorebilly Man Cave too, so Ladies Night is seven nights a week,” jokes Ernie.
For more information about any of Bahama Mamas’ three locations, call 410-524-8585 or visit www.bahamamamasocmd.com