Getting your crab cake fix is about to get easier when Woody’s Take Out opens its doors in May.
Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar and Grill owner Jimmy O’Conor said the new take-out location will set up shop directly across Coastal Highway from his restaurant, in the spot formerly occupied by Hot Dog Johnnies.
“I wanted to do it last year to free up my staff,” he said. “It’ll make customers happy, too.”
Lines of hungry patrons awaiting an empty table are customary outside the popular restaurant known for its award-winning crab cakes. O’Conor opened shop in May 2009, intending to cook the best burgers in town.
“And I did that,” he smiled. “About seven or eight guys were in one night. They all got burgers and told me they voted us best burger, so I put that out on my sign as a joke.”
O’Conor, a Baltimore native, said he asked another Baltimore local to tweak his crab cake recipe. “She added a unique ingredient I’ve never had in a crab cake, and that’s how the recipe was formed,” he said.
Woody’s reputation as a crab cake mecca was sealed when the Travel Channel did an East Coast vs. West Coast story, comparing foods and destinations on each side of the country, O’Conor said.
“They came and did a story on our crab cakes,” he said. “It didn’t air for eight months, and I kind of forgot about it.”
Then, one day while O’Conor was working, he heard a little boy say, “Look Dad, there he is!” O’Conor thought it was strange but shrugged it off. About 15 minutes later, he went to check on the table.
“They said they saw me on TV last night,” O’Conor said. “They were traveling from North Carolina to Long Island, and decided to take a detour out of their way to get some crab cakes. Locals had already embraced the crab cakes, the Travel Channel helped, and word of mouth spread.”
Don’t bother asking for the recipe or where he gets his crab; O’Conor isn’t talking. Very few employees know the recipe, and they all sign a confidentiality waiver after a server told him he was offered $300 for the recipe.
O’Conor himself doesn’t nosh on his signature dish. “I still haven’t eaten a whole crab cake; maybe a slider,” he smiled. “But I probably eat about a pound of meat a day in the kitchen, checking consistency.”
Along with great food, O’Conor said, customers love the Cheers-like atmosphere of his cozy restaurant.
“It's been a lot of fun,” he said. “I love the personal interaction with customers and employees. Every night I come home tired, but it’s worth it. It’s been a fun 10 years. I have the best customers in the world. They’re so loyal.”
So loyal, in fact, they tell him they won’t eat crab cakes anywhere else. “I never get tired of hearing that,” he smiled.
While O’Conor says being busy is a great problem to have, he’s looking forward to Woody’s Take Out alleviating pressure on employees and wait times for customers.
About 90 percent of Woody’s menu will be available at the take-out location, O’Conor said. Burgers and steaks won’t be; the location doesn’t have an open-flame grill. In addition to cooked take-out orders, he’ll offer quarts of soup, to-go cases with prepared foods, uncooked crab cakes with cooking instructions, and a merchandise area.
The location will also allow him to venture into regular crab cake shipping, which he has done on occasion for friends and special requests.
O’Conor also said the eye-catching Hot Dog Johnnies mural will stay - he has already contacted the original artists about customizing the work to reflect his menu.
O’Conor is now hiring for the new location. Apply in person at Woody’s, 1904 Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach.