Best Crabs In Inner Harbor Baltimore – Material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used except with the prior written permission of Baltimore Magazine.
Editing by Jane Marion Featuring Suzanne Loudermilk, Mike Unger and Lydia Woolever PHOTOGRAPHY BY SCOTT SUCHMAN Spot Artwork by Jason Schneider Cover: Designed by Janelle Erlichman Diamond. Hair and makeup: Brian Oliver and model: Kyler Garner, both from T.H.E. The Artists Agency. Shot on location for Schultz’s Crab House.
Best Crabs In Inner Harbor Baltimore
“As I love you?” Elizabeth Barrett Browning once asked. When it comes to Maryland crab, we can barely count the shapes, there are just too many. But let’s try to illustrate our ardor. Every state has its point of pride, from Maine’s cranberries to Idaho’s potatoes. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, Maryland is for crab lovers. No disrespect to oysters and rockfish, the blue crab reigns as the undisputed king of the Chesapeake Bay. And while they can be found as far north as Novia Scotia and as far south as Uruguay, a third of our country’s blue crab harvest comes from our local waters.
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In Maryland, there are two seasons: crab season (May through November) and wait for crab season. The latter occurs in the colder months when the crabs bury themselves at the bottom of the bay and hibernate for the winter. As the thermostat rises, crustaceans rise with the warmer waters and swim into the crab pots, when they are as thin and fat as can be, not to mention salty, sweet and buttery in a way unique to our brackish waters. Sure, you can travel to Birmingham or Boise and see a “Baltimore-style” or “Maryland-style” crab cake on the menu, but there’s no truth to that hype. Ours are the best and we are happy to throw down the gauntlet, let it be the mallet, to anyone who argues otherwise. Unlike other blue crab states like North Carolina, Texas, and Louisiana, where the hard shells are often boiled, we steam-cook our bay beauties, which means they stay mustardy and moist, and of course, it’s our iconic state brand of crab spice seasoning, Bahia Vieja.
And while it may seem overly obvious, it must be said that there is only one place to eat authentic Maryland crab, and that is right in the Old Line state, where an almost religious fervor surrounds the seafood. We’ve got some bad news on that front: Due to the demand for this seasonal shellfish, plus recurring visa issues for crab collectors, it’s not always possible to get real Maryland crab. In fact, most seafood restaurants, even in season, supplement their local catch with other domestic crabs, while the meat can come from as far away as Asia. That said, other blues are an acceptable alternative, as many places don’t serve Maryland crab. Your best bet? Always ask where the crab meat comes from.
Crabs have long been an essential local protein throughout the Chesapeake. Already in the year 1200 a. C., these crustaceans were an important food source and were eaten continuously through the 17th century, when Native Americans and early settlers enjoyed eating them. Although the crabs’ shells are brittle and brittle, sites along the estuary have found their archaeological remains, from places like George Washington’s farm in Mt. Vernon to Sukeek’s Cabin, a 19th-century African-American residence in the Calvert County.
Given this history, it’s safe to say that our longing for crabs is deeply ingrained in our DNA, and this time of year that longing kicks in with full force. And we don’t limit ourselves to just crab cakes, hard shells, or soup. We use crab everywhere: folded into sauces; stuffing in dumplings; sprinkled over pretzels, waffles, and deviled eggs; piled on chicken cheese steaks, whatever. You can find crabs in their various incarnations at local seafood shacks, fine dining dens, pizza parlors, food trucks, food halls and malls, and even at High’s gas stations.
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Find your solution below, however you want to eat them. Then get ready to celebrate the return of blue crabs to a paper-wrapped table near you, and with it, one of Maryland’s most time-tested traditions.
Scenes from The Choptank: the aftermath of a crab feast; grapefruit and orange crushes; crispy crab fritters with rémoulade and pickled vegetables; the historic entrance.
As we walked into this remote store in a Carroll County strip mall, we couldn’t help but notice the to-go order bags behind the counter. Steamed crabs and takeout seafood are big business here. There is also dining service, but we couldn’t see the dining room right away. Noticing our confusion as we entered through the bar, a friendly cashier directed us to a solid door that opened into a connecting room with about 10 tables. It’s a basic but cheery space with a mural of docked ships and photos of crab house scenes. Depending on the time of year, the cooked-to-order crabs are a mix of hard shells from Maryland, Virginia and Louisiana sprinkled with the kitchen’s own seasoning. And the restaurant’s crab expertise is evident. After all, owner Dan Schuman, who runs the crab house with his brother, Mike, has been in business since 1971, spending time at a Randallstown seafood market before opening Captain Dan’s in 2003. Simply put, the crabs are fabulous.
People love to crack crabs while sitting near the water, but Captain James goes a step further by offering guests the chance to eat crabs near the water and on a boat. Granted, it’s not an actual ship, but a ship-shaped restaurant with an adjacent crab house that features a large terrace on the water between Canton and Fells Point. That central location certainly contributes to the restaurant’s popularity, but the place wouldn’t have stuck around as long if it hadn’t delivered quality, too. When we visited on a Friday night in the spring, we found both the food and the service to be stellar. The sight comes with a price tag – these were among the most expensive crabs we found, ranging from $100 for a dozen mediums to $155 for jumbos (they sell only by the half or dozen). They were well seasoned and well cooked with sweet meat. Corn on the cob, pitchers of cold beer and an order of delicious fries that tasted like the boardwalk rounded out our meal, which was as good as the view of the Patapsco.
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Crab Takes: Captain James Crab House is one of the last places to offer all-you-can-eat crabs in town (with a two-hour dine-in limit), available Monday through Thursday, 4-9 p.m.
Picking up freshly steamed crabs at the old-school Costas Inn in Dundalk; Al fresco dining and live music at The Choptank.
At first glance, a casual visitor might not realize that The Choptank is a place to eat steamed crabs. The outdoor area has a happy hour vibe, and the cocktails flow faster than the waters of the nearby harbor. But once you sit down and focus on the menu, you realize it is a crab house after all. Before the steamed shells arrive, your table is covered in brown paper and the proper tools appear: mallet, knife, and even a shell breaker (for those more accustomed to eating lobster). While we waited for the crabs (Louisiana on our visit and local when available) to steam, we dug into a worthy mound of seafood nachos loaded with grilled fish, shrimp, and chunk crab. Our half dozen large, coated with J.O. seasoning, they were mostly fat specimens, but one was light, so the kitchen threw in an extra crab.
If your crabs here taste like some of the freshest shellfish you’ve ever had, that’s because they could be literally out of water. Owner Tony Conrad, a triple-threat watersman, restaurateur, and businessman (who recently expanded into Harford County), has probably just disembarked from his boat after a morning of crustacean fishing in the bay. There are so many reasons to come here, from the bucket of free popcorn to whet your appetite to the surprisingly delicious salads (which is not where crab houses usually shine) to the box of delicious treats (strawberry cakes, tiramisu) or the refreshing melon shreds. But we strayed. It really is all about those delicious Maryland crawfish, coming hot, heavy, covered in the restaurant’s proprietary seafood mix, and stacked proudly on a plastic tray.
I Got Crabs In Baltimore!
Crab Takes: In the mood to do it yourself? Conrad’s also has its own seafood market in Parkville, where you can buy live crabs to steam at home. While you’re there, grab a house-made crab pretzel or a pound of spicy steamed shrimp to go.
Since 1971, Costas has been a stalwart of the local crabbing circuit and, in many ways, is a Baltimore crossroads, hosting everyone from families just out of church service to dock workers arriving for half a dozen shells. hard after their shift for couples enjoying a date night. The diner-like menu also showcases a mix of cuisines that have settled in the eastern reaches of the city, things like Italian lasagna, Greek gyros, and, you guessed it, plenty of crab dishes. Everywhere you look, there are old photographs of Lexington Market and the Preakness, and TVs for watching everything from NASCAR to Orioles games. Of course there is
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