After nearly a decade of hosting Maryland-style Crabfests at its Hollywood location, the Hungry Cat is finally bringing the fest to Santa Barbara on August 24. “What David [Lentz, the Maryland-born Hungry Cat chef] wanted to emulate was the Maryland blue crab party,” said general manager Bob van der Veer, “a laid-back vibe with the steamed crabs spread on newspaper on the table.”

But those steamed crabs — served in the special Old Bay variation of spices that Lentz and his father found scouting Baltimore, also used for the finger-licking-good, peel ’n’ eat shrimp — are just the center of a four-course meal. Things kick off with a crab soup, continue with a soft-shell-crab po’ boy, then come the steamed crabs with grilled, lime-chili corn and a watermelon and tomato salad, followed by a dessert of coconut panna cotta, dulce de leche, and cashew brittle.

There’s also the chance to sip on the Hungry Cat’s classic cocktails, including the Pimlico, named after Baltimore’s horse track that’s the site of the second leg of the Triple Crown, and there’s beer, too, a more traditional way to wash down crabs. “We’re trying to get some National Bohemian, a little Natty Boh, for the event,” van der Veer said. “It’s fun to see the response to it. It’s a nostalgic beer for a lot of people. I think everyone understands it’s not the nicest beer out there, but ….”

Also a fan of Dungeness crab, van der Veer admitted, “The Maryland blue crab is more of an endeavor to get out of its shell; it’s worth it.” Plus, how often do you get to play with mallets at dinner?

Hungry Cat’s Crabfest is Sunday, August 24, 1-9 p.m., at 1134 Chapala Street. Tickets are $75 (food only). Call 884-4701.


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