Water Grill Spot Prawns in the Spotlight

April 5, 2024

We want Guests to feel at home when they dine with us. We also strive to be ambassadors of the ocean and impart product knowledge they can bring home with them.

Seattle-based foodie publication, Foodista, helped this season. In this article, we share some preparation tips for Wild Spot Prawns and the editors help fill in the remaining at-home steps.

Find the Foodista article here and try out the recipe for yourself. Don’t feel like cooking? Check out our menus and make a reservation to your nearest Water Grill here.

Want to learn more about these awesome Southern California delicacies? Check out our own story on Wild Santa Barbara Spot Prawns!

All About The Dungeness Crab

March 1, 2024

The waiting game hurts. But when Dungeness crab season opens each year, it’s worth it. Dungeness crab isn’t just a staple on our seafood plates, though. Here at Water Grill, they’re practically a fixture -- from our saltwater tanks to raw bar and seasonal preparations.

An Introduction to the Dungeness Crab

WHAT IS A DUNGENESS CRAB?

As renowned as they are for their flavor, few people know just how important Dungeness crab is to the West Coast. Of crabs in the Cancer genus, Dungeness (Metacarcinus magister) is the largest edible species (and one of the tastiest!)Dungeness crab has a mildly sweet flavor with a firm but delicate texture. Even though Dungeness is the most abundant crab in California, its availability is limited and regulated. And for good reason.

HOW IT STARTED

The first commercial harvest of Dungeness crab occurred in 1848 off the coasts of San Francisco and Washington. Its presence and cultural significance was felt long before that. The Dungeness fishery involves some of the great West Coast placenames in seafood. Crabs are caught in places like Bodega Bay, Port Townsend, Coos Bay, Astoria, Newport and Willapa Bay – just to name a few.

The Dungeness crab's relationship with communities of the West Coast has been traced back to coastal Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The Nuu-chah-nulth specifically would catch it and use it as an economic resource. It wasn’t until the late 1700s before European settlers first made it to the entrance of the Puget Sound, where the Spaniard Manuel Quimper found the spit, which became nicknamed the “Shipwreck Spit”. Ignoring the Spanish “discovery” of the spit, on April 30,1782, British explorer George Vancouver was reminded of a similar sandy projection on the Southeastern English shoreline and named this Puget Sound sandbar “New Dungeness”.

HOW DUNGENESS CRAB GOT ITS NAME

The Dungeness Spit, a jetting sandbar on the inlet to the Puget Sound that creates a shallow bay, is where these crustaceans take their name. Dungeness crab has historically been abundant in this preferred habitat: sandy- or soft-bottom areas around tidepools as deep as 300 feet. Some have been found as deep as 750 feet.

While they get their name from this area in the Pacific Northwest, Dungeness crab can be found all the way north near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands continuing down to Santa Barbara, Calif., with occasional sightings as far south as Magdalena Bay in Mexico. Although they’re caught both recreationally and commercially in Northern and Southern California, their population greatly decreases when you go south of Monterey Bay, Calif.

 

Dungeness Washington crab fishery viewed by Satellite
Dungeness, WA viewed by satellite

CRABBING SEASON

Dungeness crabbing season occurs along the West Coast, typically from late fall to the following summer. Each state has its own fisheries management, and the opening of the season often fluctuates due to conditions in their waters, including migratory whale patterns. When the season opens up, it will often be sequenced for recreational and commercial fishing.

 

HOW IT WAS CAUGHT THEN

The Coast Salish peoples, a group of ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest, would typically catch their Dungeness by hand (well, spear actually). Men would patrol shallow waters in canoes and use spears to pierce their carapaces and bring them up from the sand.

 

HOW DUNGENESS CRAB IS CAUGHT NOW

While using diving gear is more common when collecting these crabs by hand today, most fisheries will use crab pots or traps – which is the preferred method of catching before it's delivered to our restaurants via our exclusive seafood distribution company. Up until the1940s, a typical harvest was done using crab rings or hoop nets. Only mature male crabs may be harvested to allow the females to continue to reproduce. It takes about four years to reach the market size of 6.25 in. across its carapace(or shoulder-to-shoulder so to speak.) At Water Grill, the minimum size offered is 1.75 lbs.

 

Careful management

Beyond these specifications of careful harvesting, the Dungeness crab populations are hardly stable and need careful management by state agencies to determine when it is safe for the populations to be harvested.

Here’s the commercial Dungeness crab fishing season by state: 

 

Alaska:

Typically, May to December

California:

Typically, mid- to end-November through end-June/mid-July, though the start of the season has been delayed to December/January in recent years

Oregon:

Typically, December to August

Washington:

Typically, December through September

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: HOW TO TELL A DUNGENESS

 

There are a few markers that separate a Dungeness crab from its scuttling siblings. You’ll notice that the top of a Dungeness shell has a light reddish-brown color with hints of purple towards the back. Compared to other crabs, the underside of a Dungeness will be a lighter orangish-white color.

You can also spot a Dungeness by its claws and pincers. Where, typically, you’ll find that most crabs have black-tipped pincers, the Dungeness pincer tips are white and saw-toothed, like its carapace (the back/body of the crab).

WANT TO TRY IT YOURSELF?

Steamed Dungeness Crab at Water Grill

All this talk about this delicious crab pique your appetite? Come into Water Grill to experience what it’s like to eat this West Coast shellfish in an elevated way. Have it chilled or steamed – always served with crab butter, of course – or try it in a Cioppino. This fisherman-inspired stew features a range of seafood, including shrimp, clams, mussels and Dungeness in a way that heightens this homemade-style dish. Check out our daily menus and reserve a table now.

Dungeness Crab from Raw Bar Water Grill Seafood
Dungeness Crab from the Raw Bar