Crowd pleaser

When he was 14 years old, Tim Hailey worked his first job as a dishwasher in a local crab house. Hailey worked in the restaurant for eight years, helping run the kitchen, and eventually he assisted the owner with inventory and ordering supplies. During his time at that job, in the early- to mid-1980’s, he knew that he would one day own a crab house.

Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY: Cara Deldeo, Tim Hailey and Darby D’Orazio show off some of the crowd-pleasing items at the Blue Crab.Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY
Cara Deldeo, Tim Hailey and Darby D’Orazio show off some of the crowd-pleasing items at the Blue Crab.

Now, two decades later, he is entering his third summer as owner of the Blue Crab, one of the most renowned crab spots on the Delaware Coast. And he enjoys his summers, to say the least.

“I’m happy to be back,” said Hailey, who works as an event planner throughout the winter but runs the restaurant from the beginning of April through the end of October. “I love showing the customers a good time and serving them great food. It’s definitely a pleasure.”

After the slow spring to which most area business owners have become accustomed, Hailey said that the Memorial Day weekend kicked off Blue Crab’s summer with a bang. Hundreds visited the restaurant over the weekend, and an overwhelming number of them feasted on an array of foods in Hailey’s All-you-Can-Eat-Crabs menu item.

For $29.95, customers can order the all-you-can-eat meal, which includes crabs, “the best fried chicken you’ve ever tasted,” corn on the cob — which is steamed in the husk for maximum flavor, according to Hailey — and hush puppies.

Blue Crab patrons can also choose from the menu’s rockfish, tenderloin, ribeye, shrimp or crabcakes. Or they can delve into a dozen jumbo or large crabs for $89 or $59, respectively.

On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., resident Rebecca Sim enjoyed a dozen large crabs on Blue Crab’s deck.

“They’re good and they’re really meaty,” Sim said of the crabs. And, she added, “The service is great. I liked it.”

Those crabs — which were voted “Best in Delaware” in Delaware Today magazine — will likely be featured from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Market Place at Sea Colony during the 7th annual Taste of Coastal Delaware.

Blue Crab is one of 22 restaurants participating in the event, which is presented by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and is becoming a staple on the Delaware coastline, perennially attracting nearly 400 people.

Tickets are available in advance for $30 at selected locations, including the Chamber’s visitors’ center in Fenwick Island. Admission costs $35 on the day of the event and total capacity will be limited to about 400 people, according to Chamber Executive Director Karen McGrath.

Beverly Nimetz, a Silver Spring, Md., native who has spent the last six summers in the Bethany Beach area, likes the food the Blue Crab will feature on Sunday so much that she and her husband spent their 44th anniversary there earlier this week.

When asked about the food, she raved.

“It’s awesome,” she said of Hailey’s restaurant. “He’s got the best fried chicken. He’s got the best crabs in Delaware. He’s got the best food.”

And she recognized, and appreciated, the atmosphere Hailey has provided and strove to achieve with his much-anticipated restaurant.

“It’s like being in a hometown place where everyone knows you,” Nimetz said.