Thanks to Cassie, Johnb, Rosco and Pam's Friend Meg for the tips between DC and PAX NAS.
On the way down, I saw Randy's BBQ. They were still open as I went past around 7:30 and looked like my kind of place. However, I wasn't fully in the mood for BBQ, especially in light of good seafood possibilities, so I cruised on. Ended up seeing all of Rosco's recs, but I was most intrigued by Thompson's, as I wanted to get something and then get to the hotel, rather than sit down for a time. I finally did find Thompsons - it's a little further than I thought by the post, but I found it and it was... closed. For brevity's sake I'll skip the rest of that night, which held nothing more of chow interest.
The next day for lunch I checked out the CD cafe. Nice place. Great service, a place you can tell everyone there puts their heart into. Though I was still dying for some seafood, the beef tips special caught my ear, and I wasn't disappointed. Looked like a great menu. I also kept my eye on the place the whole stay, and though it was during the week, it was obvious that it didn't get the traffic as the places closer to the boardwalk did. On a related note, I tried another day at lunch to hit the Dry Dock, to find they're only open for dinner. It just never fit my plans to be able to get there at that time.
On the evening of my first full day there, I had to get to Thompson's, since I had set my sights on it so firmly the night before. Got there and had a softshell sandwich. They put two crabs on it, for 8.95. Beautiful. My first one, but it was nice and light breading. Only thing about softshells now - you still end up eating the mustard - just seems a bit strange. I also got some crab cakes to go - $6 each, made that day. On a side note, I took it out to the one picnic table on the other side of the parking lot and ate it while watching a nasty storm pass to the north.
The next day for lunch I tried to go to Stoney's outpost in Solomons. Service was so bad from the front door that I turned my back and left. I ended up making it on a hunch over to Clarkes Landing Inn. Wonderful spot that appears largely undiscovered until you get close and read the sign that they recommend reservations be made. I had the crab cake sandwich which was divine. Nearly no filler whatsoever, and they used big chunks of crab. Choice of broiled or fried, so I took broiled. Nicely done homemade chips and some good slaw rounded it out. They even served it on a nice platter and the cost was in the range of $15. This is in my list of must visits now for down there. Oh, and I also got the cream of crab soup which was also excellent.
The next day had me heading home. I had in mind the Westlawn Inn as rec'd, and I saw many other favorable reviews, but I also spotted that they closed for lunch at 1:30 and I doubted I could easily get there by then. So I chose to try the Stoneys on Broomes Island.
I'll just break down the Stoney's thing by comparison. I got their famous family crab soup and a crab cake - to give it a run against Clarkes Landing. It cost more, the ambiance is telling of a popular spot, they played Jimmy Buffet incessantly (big neg in my book), they used a styrofoam platter, I think I could only get it fried, and while it was good, there was certainly more filler, small strands of crab with few chunks. There were no chips but more slaw than Clarkes, but the slaw seemed to be exactly half way btwn mayo based and vinegar based. Not a good option to try to please everyone that way. I like both ways of slaw and found this not very appealing at all.
To round out the crab cake comparison, I broiled up the ones from Thompsons last night after getting home. Taste wise I preferred them the best, with a close second by Clarkes. Not the big chunks like Clarkes, but not as stringy as Stoney's.
All in all, I think that Stoney's may be suffering from their success? Even for hard shells, if I'm ever down there again, with all the other options, I don't see myself making it to Stoney's again.