November 5, 2009
Martinsburg Journal – The Weekender

Hagerstown, MD – When it comes to seafood, freshness is key – and that’s something some landlocked seafood restaurants have a hard time replicating, especially this time of year.

Thankfully, those looking for delicious, quality seafood that tastes like it just arrived at market at an affordable price have to look no further than Schula’s Grill and Crab House.

Located at 11205 John F. Kennedy Drive in Hagerstown, MD., it may look unassuming from the outside. But the first thing you may notice upon walking into the restaurant is its spacious, clean atmosphere. The floors, as well as all of the table and chairs, are all beautiful hardwood. After a few minutes inside, it’s not hard to lose yourself in the atmosphere, imaging that just outside is the boardwalk complete with the soothing, rhythmic sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore instead of the parking lot alongside busy Robinwood Drive.

The other thing you will quickly notice is the service itself is exceptional. Within moments of sitting down at our table inside the packed dining room, our drink orders arrived promptly.
For appetizers, my guest and I ordered the cream of crab soup, while a second guest ordered the fried calamari.

Featured prominently on the restaurants’ menus is a promise from the Sciulla Family, the restaurant’s owners, that they are committed to bringing patrons the highest quality, freshest product available daily. That became clear by our first bite.

For starters, the cream of crab soup featured hearty chunks of real, quality crab meat-quite the opposite of many a restaurant crab soups that so often feature piecemeal, straight from the can, imitation crab chunks no bigger than a chick pea, or small, stingy strands of crab barely noticeable to the tastebuds.

It was also while quickly eating the deliciously creamy, seasoned soup that I noticed the first of the little authentic touches you’ll find while eating a t Schula’s. I’m told from New Englanders that partaking in any seafood-based cream soup, or “chowda” as it is often called, you must have oyster crackers. Saltines, I’m afraid, do not suffice. When I just so happened to notice the oyster crackers sitting next to my cup of soup, I knew instantly only good things would follow.

Now, on to the calamari. While squeamish, less adventurous eaters may not be able to overcome the idea of eating fried squid, it’s quite a tasty treat if prepared right.

Sampling a few piec es from my guest’s plate, I was pleasantly surprised. The problem with fried seafood too often is the batter itself is too heavy or thick, distracting from the overall taste of whatever the fried, battered shell is meant to contain. The calamari at Schula’s was quite the contrary, as the conservative use of a light batter let the full taste of scrumptious morsels shine through. Most importantly, the calamari was juicy and just tender enough to be chewy, but not rubbery.

Upon completing our appetizers, Schula’s prompt service again surprised, as no sooner had we finished than our main courses arrived.

Since I was in Maryland, I opted to try Schula’s Collossal Crab Cake, a half pound of jumbo lump crab meat prepared in a special blend of spices. It certainly lived up to its name, as did the onion rings that I ordered as a side that were as large as a hockey puck.

Schula’s commitment to freshness to my continued enjoyment again rang true as I took my first bite of my crab cake. There was not one speck of filler to be found in Schula’s crab cake, unlike pretend, so called crab cakes. You find at many a restaurant. I almost felt guilty as I quickly devoured the large chunks of crab meat found in the cake, itself more like a giant ball of pure seasoned crab meat that would take probably hours of tedious shell cracking to produce by hand.

One of my guests chose the lobster ravioli special that night as her main dish. While an appetizer, she found it as delicious and filling as a full meal itself, not to mention it was garnished with a jumbo shrimp the size of two big thumbs pressed together.

My other secret gourmet guest chose the deep fried haddock, which is served with fries and coleslaw. Sampling a rather generous hunk, the fish itself was marvelous. Juicy, it almost melts in your mouth on first bite. Again, one could tell the fish was fresh, since ill-prepared fried fish comes off as flaky and unappealingly dry.

The meals were so delicious that we joked with our server that we were in a race to see who could finish first. Unfortunately, we were too full to sample dessert, but the half- dollar sized peppermint patty chocolate covered mints provided with our check was one last special touch that topped off a night of amazing food. Schula’s is a dining experience that no true seafood lover should miss.

Schula’s features a dinner, as well as a lunch take-out menu in addition to in-house eating. All-you-can-eat-crabs are available to go by the dozen or the bushel.

A full menu is available at
Landlubbers need not fear, as the menu also includes salads, pasta, steaks and other meat cuts, as well as sandwiches and a kids’ menu.

Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Dinner hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 3 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Private parties are welcome