Though he spent much of his life as a truck driver for the city, Shareef's true calling was cooking. But it wasn't until he resigned from his driving job that he took a leap of faith and opened his first restaurant. Shareef's business has since evolved from halal hot dogs and burgers cooked on a small grill at his first establishment to a full menu of Mediterranean-style wraps, sandwiches, and platters served at two namesake eateries. To anchor the menu, the grill's chefs pair tortillas, buns, and beds of lettuce with halal and kosher meats and vegetables sautéed in their own butter sauce and craft housemade desserts including sweet-potato-and-cheese pies from fresh ingredients. And regardless of what location you are dining at, Shareef and his staff aim to make their space inviting and their food consistent by making every order fresh.
And Shareef's diners aren't the only ones raving about the menu's healthy yet delicious Mediterranean cuisine. The mayor of Baltimore even took notice, presenting the eatery with a certificate of recognition for their "outstanding contributions and dedication to providing . . . families with nutritious, affordable food."
Instead of limiting themselves to one type of cuisine, S & J Crab Ranch has included two of their favorites—Maryland seafood and southern barbecue. Local flavors pile up at the raw bar, where diners can order gulf shrimp by the pound or plates of clams and seasoned mussels; however, as the restaurant’s name implies, crabs are the signature item. They can be steamed and served whole, as jumbo lump crab cakes, or in a creamy soup spiked with a bit of sherry.
Of course, the seafood seeps into the southern-inspired meals as well. A selection of classic southern sandwiches includes fried catfish with creole mustard. Regional cuisine builds out the rest of the menu, giving diners options such as slow-cooked Texas brisket, Carolina-style pulled pork, and st. louis ribs rubbed with secret spices. Even the classic American dishes take cues from S & J’s penchant for the ocean—fresh crab meat bulks up the mac ‘n’ cheese, and pulled pork and barbecue sauce enhance a pile of nachos.
Inspired by the seasons, executive chef Shawn McClure's menu features locally sourced dishes and changes weekly. Post up at the slate-blue oyster bar for an order of pan-seared scallops served with black seaweed salad and drizzled with carrot-ginger sauce ($11) or sushi-grade Ahi tuna tartare with a blood-orange glaze and jalapeno pesto ($11). Advance to the galley for dinner. The central seating area ushers in a faint breeze from the retractable street-level doors, inviting vibrant discussions and the freshest Burton Gilliam gossip. Try the restaurant's famed oysters (selection and availability varies daily), steamed mussels, clams, or shrimp with garlic-caper or roasted-tomato butter ($10–$18 per pound). Entrees include grilled salmon with leeks and roasted red-potato salad ($16), pan-sautéed crab cakes sided with sugar-snap peas and a tangy mustard-parsley sauce ($24), and fish and chips ($15).
As guests round the corner on their way to Captain James Landing, the first thing they see is the majestic prow of a ship looming over the street, as though ready to set sail across the pavement. This illusion dramatically heralds the maritime theme of the restaurant, where diners enjoy the fruits of the sea alongside the water. When the weather is warm, guests can dine on the waterside patio, crushing crabs and swigging cold beer in harmony with the soothing sounds of gently lapping waves and Aquaman's soft sobbing. Inside feels no less festive, with picnic-style benches lined up beneath a mounted marlin and lamps repurposed from wooden steering wheels.
As you finger-frolic down the menu, open with the succulent Maryland crab soup ($4 for a cup, $6 for a bowl). Crab guacamole ($9.25), much like synchronized swimming through a pool of salsa, puts a south-of-the-border spin on the delights of the sea. Shades along the sandwich spectrum include a beef medallion hoagie ($11.75), soft-shell crab delivered daily from Tilghman Island ($13.50), and a fresh char-broiled burger ($7). Bo's seafood club ($12) sets up crab cakes and shrimp salad on a blind date and uses the intoxicating effects of bacon to spark the chemistry between them, while the strawberry chicken club ($10) layers grilled chicken, avocado mayonnaise, and fresh, sweet strawberries on two sturdy slices of wheat bread. You can also visit Bo Brooks's outdoor Tiki Hut to dine on its menu and experience an open, airy environment makes for a nice backdrop to casual American cuisine and a drink from the fully stocked bar.