The Crab Shack: Sneaking Past Gators to Snag Seafood

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Restaurant Sign Tybee Island

The Crab Shack is a visual stunning restaurant near Savannah.

My brother and I rented a car to drive from Atlanta to Charleston. We planned our route to maximize the number of interesting eating opportunities, timing our voyage to arrive in Savannah for lunch. We warmed up with a 20-item Southern buffet at Lady & Sons. For Lunch #2, despite numerous in-town eating options, we opted to drive the extra 40 miles to eat at The Crab Shack in Tybee Island, “Where the elite eat in their bare feet.”

In 1983, Jack and Belinda Flanigan purchased this Tybee fish camp and marina after reading an ad in the Atlanta newspaper. After earning Captain’s licenses, they discovered Chimney Creek’s blue crabs, which they promptly cooked for hungry boaters. In 1987, the Flanigans earned their first liquor license and built a standing structure with six tables, The Crab Shack, with help from some locals. The restaurant’s facilities and menu choices have continued to expand ever since.

Before we even arrived at The Crab Shack’s front door, my brother and I encountered a manmade lagoon, home to 78 live baby alligators.

Alligators Tybee Island

Baby gators lounged onshore and at the base of a miniature lighthouse.

Through the magic of taxidermy, or was it artistry, an enormous gator stood to greet us.

There was a massive patio, but with a chill in the air, everybody was eating indoors. The covered porch kept the cold out, but it didn’t bar further wackiness.

Crab Tybee Island

A gargantuan Alaskan King Crab shell hung framed above the bar.

Shark Tybee Island

A sawed-in-half fake hammerhead shark had a plastic crab dangling from its mouth.

Restaurant Sign Tybee Island

A skull-bearing sign warned “Unattended Kids Will Be Sold As Bait.”

Creek Tybee Island

From our seats, we could see the seagrass-lined Chimney Creek, with boats tied to floating docks.

Pelican Tybee Island

Pelicans perched on jutting logs.

Sure the oddities were entertaining, but I wouldn’t be writing about The Crab Shack if the seafood wasn’t first rate. Most tables featured racks holding “The Crab Shack Sampler”: snow crab, Jonah crab, rock shrimp, steamed shrimp, crawfish, mussels, sausage, potato, and corn. Since we’d already eaten lunch, and it looked like the Sampler could feed the starting lineup of the Atlanta Braves, my brother and I settled for a few small plates.

Each table featured a hole in the middle, to shove spent crustacean shells into a garbage can within.

Crab Tybee Island

We began our meal with Deviled crab: succulent pulled blue crab meat with peppers and spices, broiled and served on a fake plastic crab shell.

Seafood Tybee Island

We paired a bowl of steamed shrimp with a small bowl of blue crab stew, blue crab being the only local crab fresh and available. Shell-on shrimp were delicious, dusted with Old Bay, but the creamy “stew” was thick enough to spackle a wall.

Lowcountry Boil Tybee Island

Our best dish was “low-country boil,” a huge plate of luscious shrimp, grilled sausage, potatoes, and sweet corn, all dusted with Old Bay.

My brother and I passed up plenty of viable dining options in Savannah, but after eating at The Crab Shack, we had no regrets. We may have found food just as good somewhere else, but there’s no way we would have had as much fun.

Manatee Sign Tybee Island

Since I have a running joke with my friend Brad, a South Florida resident who’s had more than one encounter with “sea cows,” I had to include this manatee-themed parking lot warning.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

This venue appears to be fantastic, and I will surely visit! Tybee Islands is my favorite beach in the entire country. Every time I go there, I feel very calm! These restaurant recommendations are fantastic, and I’ll be checking them out if they’re mentioned on popular websites like and other blogs! Thank you for contributing!

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