In my entire life I have never stood in a line at 3:45 in the afternoon to have dinner. Not even a late lunch let alone dinner! But this afternoon (Saturday) my wife and I drove back from Reston to the Seabrook area on Lanham-Severn Road in Prince Georges County to stand in line to await the restaurant's 4:00PM opening. We weren't the first in line. In fact there were already about 15 ahead of us and when the restaurant opened at 4:00 the 90 seats were totally full at 4:14 PM. By 4:30 I looked outside and there were already 40 or 50 people in line for when the first group would start to leave.
Jerry's has been open for 23 years and is considered by many to be the best restaurant in Prince Georges County. For some it is also considered to be the only good restaurant in Prince Georges County. This probably contributes to its incredible popularity because there are not many alternatives for "better" restaurants.
Jerry's is very plain, rather nondescript in a strip shopping center. When you enter there is a small alcove with about 15 or 20 press clippings in frames on the wall. It has not been discovered by the national media and, frankly, ignored by the Post and Washingtonian for many years other than an occasional mention. Through the door you enter the dining room and an actual row boat on a platform behind the hostess stand where an oyster shucker stands (all night) popping open their shells and placing them on a bed of ice in the boat. They are joined by shelled spiced shrimp and garnishes.
The room is really what passed as a neighborhood seafood restaurant in the 70's in the D. C. There is absolutely nothing special about its ambience with about 20 four seater tables and 4 or 5 two seater tables spread around the room. In the back is a service bar without any seats. If you part the curtains on a window you will not see the Chesapeake Bay or a cabin cruiser. Rather you'll see a parking lot and a gas station or two. Jerry's is not on a major road nor does it advertise and, as mentioned above, it has not been promoted by any Washington paper, tv or radio station.
In short, it draws the most incredible lines in the D. C. area because of only one reason: it's food.
Jerry's crab bomb is $31.00 and ten ounces of lump eastern crab. It is literally the size of a Rawlings baseball, perhaps slightly bigger. It is not that there is a small amount of "binder" or "filler." Essentially there is none. The crab bomb is a fist sized mound of large crab lumps bound together with a wisp of moisture for binding and either baked or broiled. It IS, at the least, the equal of Baltimore's Angelina's and perhaps because of its overall size preferred by me. Jerry's also has crab cakes serving two of them for $29.00 which is more than a fair price (as was their price for the bomb) considering the amount of lump crab meat they use. We did not try their crab cakes but they looked (and smelled) awesome. This restaurant may have the best aroma of any in the D. C. area.
They have several different soups including cream of crab and crab bisque both of which are served in a cup with probably two or three ounces of large lumps of crab meat on top. The crab bisque was made with sherry, heavy whipping cream, butter, a bit of flour and, perhaps, worcestershire. Simply it is the best cream of crab or cream of lobster or cream of anything soup that I have ever had anywhere. Crab Bisque. The cream of crab was also extraordinarily rich but not quite as flavorful. Still excellent.
Crab imperial was again all large lumps of crab with the unusual touch of capers. It was baked and sold for $26.00 al a carte, without vegetables. It was very good but not in league with Angelina's and others that I have had. Lump crab stuffed shrimp looked wonderful. Diners appeared to be moaning with their first bites. The spiced shrimp I mentioned above were also excellent.
Cole slaw was extraordinary. Chopped in house with home made dressing, cream, flavorful, just outstanding. Among the best that I have ever had.
Stewed tomatoes were also wonderful, sweeter than most but delicious.
Jerry's makes their own layer cakes in house. Don't leave without trying their coconut whose layers are butter logged, heavy, dense, moist and probably the best slice of cake itself that I have had in the D. C. area. The frosting was light with canned coconut but the overall slice of cake is just fabulous.
If you go to Jerry's make sure you get the crab bomb, the cole slaw, crab bisque and coconut cake. When you leave you'll know that you have eaten at Maryland's best seafood restaurant.
Note: I find it amazing that this restaurant has been essentially ignored by Washington media. Perhaps they visited over 20 years ago but there is a whole generation of Washingtonians who have never heard of it. Other than myself I don't think I've ever seen it mentioned on this board. Probably because most people in D. C. and northern Virginia have never heard of it. Although I would dread to think the difficulty of getting in with the publicity it would receive I do feel that the Post has an obligation to inform its readers that a real treasure like this exists. In its own way (i.e. Maryland seafood) this is every bit as good as Kinkead's.