PORT CITY FOODIES: Forks everyone! A winner is named in the Cape Fear Crab Cake Challenge


Wilmington's Wrightsville Grille is the winner of the Port City Foodies Cape Fear Crab Cake Challenge, but Oak Island's Pelican Seafood follows right behind.

Of the 66 votes cast in the Cape Fear Crab Cake Challenge, 14 went to Wrightsville Grille and 12 to Pelican Seafood.



Ballots were divided perhaps according to cooking styles.

Wrightsville Grilles inch-and-a-half-thick crab cake is a delectable sauted mass of jumbo lump blue crab chunks bound by tiny bits of crab meat. Bread binder is barely detectable, and a wee bit of bell pepper, Old Bay and some secret spices enhance rather than overpower the crabs delicate flavor.

The crab cake is served alongside mango remoulade, but the tangy sauce is unnecessary. This is a crab cake that holds its own even with the most finicky crab cake crowd.

We have many people who come down to visit from Maryland, and they ask, Whats the best thing on the menu, and I tell them crab cake. And they say, Oh, Im from Maryland. I cant have a crab cake,’” Wrightsville Grille partner Roger Reed says.

And Ive offered every time, I say, Look, you get the crab cake and you truly dont like it, Ill buy it. You wont have to eat it. And I havent had anyone take me up on the offer yet.

Wrightsville Grilles crab cake was developed by chef Bill Veraldi when the restaurant opened in 2005. Since then, chef Wendell Francis (a 2009 Wilmington Magazine Top Chef contender) has taken over the kitchen, but the crab cake remains the same.

And bonus: Inflation Fighter Specials include the crab cake with fries and slaw for just $10.99 on Monday nights at Wrightsville Grille.

Down in Oak Island, Pelican Seafood’s crab cake is a giant bite of pure blue crab. Owners Tony and Jeanne-Darc Wehbe hand-pick every stray shell from fresh, unpasteurized blue crab then pack the meat, no fillers, into an inch-thick, burger-size cake coated in panko and deep fried.

Under the direction of head chef Tony Wehbe, the crab cake becomes a delicious contrast of lacy, crisp, brown crust surrounding sweet, tender crab.

As Jeanne-Darc Wehbe says, “One hundred percent North Carolina, fresh crab meat, no filling. Every bite is a delight.”

Amazingly, the delectable Pelican Seafood  crab cake    sells for just $6.99, nearly half the price of other area crab cakes.


August 30th, 2009 5:45 pm 

Ive searched this area for a great crabcake, and was often disappointed. I finally found a great one at Pelican Seafood! They win hands down!

by N. McLaughlin

August 30th, 2009 10:05 pm 

Pelican by far!!! The absolute best around!!

by Jon W.

August 30th, 2009 10:07 pm 

Pelican is the choice for me! Nothing but crab, crab and more crab in the cakes! Great people!

by Jenni H.

August 30th, 2009 10:11 pm 

A crab cake as big as a quarter pounder! Tastes great and pure crab and nothing else! Pelican Seafood on Long Beach Rd in Oak Island!

by C. Cake

August 30th, 2009 10:12 pm 

Pelican has my vote for the best crab cakes around!

by Jon H.

August 29th, 2009 2:05 pm 

Pelican Seafood on Beach Rd., Southport/Oak Island have the best crabcakes ever. Great to eat at their restaurant or to buy in their market and cook at home!

by S. Marsh

August 29th, 2009 3:34 pm 

Pelican seafood has the best crabcakes
in the area. They put TLC in everything
they do!

by Peggy Groce

August 27th, 2009 11:36 am 

Loved the big crab cake from the pelicanit was the best!!!!

by K.morris

August 29th, 2009 9:21 pm 

Pelican Seafood has the best crab cakes in the world. If you havent tried it yet, Oh boy! you are missing out on some good crab cake. I highly recommend you go to Pelican Seafood on Long Beach Rd and try their 100% fresh NC lump crab cake.

by George Wehbe

August 27th, 2009 8:23 pm 

It is true I am 11 years old but I have experienced the best crab cake at Pelican Seafood.
You cut it in half and youll see nothing but lump crab meat. You try it once and you will be hooked.

by Nicole

August 28th, 2009 1:05 pm 

Cmon down to Southport and taste the crab cakes at Pelicans. They are the bestall crab.

by June Simpson

August 28th, 2009 3:20 pm 

Pelican seafood Southport!

by Keith Kendall

August 30th, 2009 1:06 pm 

Pelicans has all crab crab cakes. Wonderfully crunchy on the outside. Delicious. Friendly too. Great for the family.

by E & B

August 27th, 2009 11:20am

PORT CITY FOODIES: Tale of two crab cakes. Vote for your favorite by Aug. 30

by Liz Biro

The two crab cakes were like fraternal twins somewhat different, somewhat alike, one obviously the dominant sibling. Is either in the running for winner of the Cape Fear Crab Cake Challenge?

Have you voted yet? The deadline is Aug. 30.

Both of the crab cakes I sampled were panko-crusted and deep-fried. One, from a restaurant, was petite, perfectly shaped and perched atop a colorful something, all contrasting texture and delicate colors. The other, served at a dive, was lumpy, big as a quarter-pounder and crowned a scattering of dull iceberg lettuce shreds on a Styrofoam plate.

I wanted to love the former but ended up enamored with the latter. The deciding factor? The crab meat, of course.

The upmarket restaurant version contained bright white meat no specks of bell pepper or herbs, just crab, as crab cake aficionados say the cakes should be but the meat was tasteless, minus the flavor of the oil in which it was fried.

That on the Styrofoam plate was somewhere between white and ecru. I recognized the color from neighborhood blue crab picking sessions. My family and the one next door would spend late summer afternoons crabbing waters north of Wilmington. Back home, moms would steam the catch. We kids were tasked with picking the meat that the adult cooks would turn into deviled crabs for the freezer.

Of course, much of the meat went into our mouths. Ill never forget the rich, sweet flavor, which I experienced again with that lumpy crab cake on its Styrofoam throne.

Humble as it appeared, that crab cake is among those that have won your votes in the Cape Fear Crab Cake challenge. Cast your ballot now!

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