The jury is still out for who makes the best crab cake in Baltimore. While some visitors may have less discerning tastes and go with publication recommendations, locals disagree spiritedly with one another as well as with published food reviews, offering personal opinions on their favorites in the category. The “best crab cake” debate prospers many of the food establishments who make the “best of” lists while devoted crab cake-lovers fearlessly journey to dining rooms for their own bit of research. However, the spirited debate isn’t one that’s easily resolved with differing preferences on what makes a crab cake worthy of contention in the first place. Some palates prefer lump meat while others prefer the backfin. Then there’s the issue of the appropriate amount of filler, if to use any at all. Such preferences will keep the debate at an impasse, deferring any unanimous vote on who makes the best. Establishments like Annapolis Seafood Market, although outside of Baltimore and arguably, worth the drive, does not offer dine-in service. However, what they do offer is a no-fuss jumbo lump crab cake that’s all crab and no filler. Restaurants like Ikaros, though not an obvious choice with its Greek menu, serves up generous portions of crustaceous goodness using backfin meat and well-spiced. Old faithfuls like Faidley’s in Lexington Market are popular city favorites and staples of Baltimore, offering options between backfin and jumbo lump while Food Network-appointed contender, Gertrude’s incorporates its farm to table philosophy in its crab cakes - blending fresh local ingredients with simple lump crab meat.
G & M Restaurant
Situated just outside the city in Linthicum, G & M has an outstanding selection of fresh seafood. The restaurant is known for its crab cakes and has often been mentioned as one of the area's top contenders for "best." Besides the lump crab cakes, G & M's menu also features options such as baked stuffed oysters, broiled rock fish (another fish local to the Chesapeake waters), salmon and grilled tuna. Even with this seafood variety, fresh crab remains the star of the menu, especially famous dishes like the crab dip and crab soup. G & M also offers an assortment of non-seafood options and classic Italian entrees. (410-636-1777)
Timbuktu is one of Baltimore's area favorites for their colossal crab cakes. Although not in the city of Baltimore, they're on the way there from the airport. Located in Hanover, MD, a suburb 20 minutes outside the Inner Harbor, Timbuktu specializes in seafood and steaks. The parking lot seems to always be crowded but seating flows smoothly. The lunch rush hour may not be the best time of day to try them out if you're on a time-schedule but there's also a carry-out option on the side of the restaurant. Specials are featured every night of the week with the Monday night "twin steamed lobsters for $20" special being one of the most popular. Featured in Baltimore Magazine as one of the best Baltimore crab cakes, Timbuktu has an extensive menu featuring more than just seafood. Though the decor is outdated, service is friendly and there's something there for everyone. (410-796-0733)
Duda's Tavern is the oldest bar in Fell's Point and an official Baltimore landmark. Tucked away in a section of Fell's Point away from the nucleus of the area's bar crowd, Duda's is a small bar with above average bar-food. Mentioned in Baltimore magazine for having one of the city's best crab cakes, the bar serves them up as sliders or as a platter, always fried. Tuesday is half-off day on their crab cakes, which makes it a very popular day to stop by. Service tends to be slow so it's wise to come with your patience. Wednesday is half-off day on their burgers which are always a draw and a crowd pleaser along with their Old Bay wings, another local treat. Their impressive selection of beers includes some craft brews on tap in addition to Natty Boh, Baltimore's local beer. ((410) 276-9719)
Pappas Seafood Company
Pappas Seafood Co has two family-owned locations, one in Parkville, Baltimore and another in Glen Burnie, a suburb outside of Baltimore. Their Baltimore location, the original Pappas, is a simple dwelling that has its loyal followers. Their signature dish, their 6 oz. crab cake (though some would argue it's 7 oz.) has been featured in several media outlets. Winner of the Travel Channel's 2010 Local Food Wars, Pappas keeps it simple with their fresh seafood items like their popular Maryland crab soup and their cream of crab soup. Pappas ships its crab cakes for fans all over the world to enjoy. ((410) 661-4357)
Henninger's Tavern is an unassuming eatery, nestled in Fell's Point, just minutes away from the Inner Harbor. Its dark decor, paired with a hodge-podge of prints, photos, and pictures across its walls, give the space a strangely quaint and cozy feel. Henninger's low lighting makes it a decent choice for a romantic dinner date. Known for its modern American cooking, it also serves up some amazing seafood options. The bacon-wrapped shrimp, jumbo lump crab cake duo, and pan-fried breaded oysters are signature dishes and local favorites. Like some of Baltimore's more upscale restaurants, the menu changes seasonally. Other entree options may include broiled whole fish and grilled salmon. For great starters, try the popular Texas BBQ shrimp or the traditional steamed shrimp. For the non-seafood lovers, the menu also features beef and chicken dishes. However, surprisingly for a Fell's Point tavern, entree prices are high. just minutes away from the Inner Harbor. Its dark decor paired with a hodge-podge of prints, photos, and pictures across its walls give the space a strangely quaint and cozy feel. A back-lit chalkboard populated with daily specials flanks the bar wall and is accompanied by eclectic prints such as one of Jesus, the Pope, and JFK. Henningers low lighting and cozy feel make it a decent choice for a romantic dinner date just as long as the focus is more on food than on furnishings. Its' new American offerings such as the bacon-wrapped shrimp, lump crab cakes, and pan-fried breaded oysters are signature dishes and local favorites. Like some of Baltimore's more upscale restaurants, the menu changes seasonally. However, surprisingly for a Fell's Point tavern, entree prices are high. (410-342-2172)
Ikaros is one of Baltimore's oldest and most popular Greek restaurants. This Greek giant is not your obvious choice for offerings like crab cakes but they put their own spin on the Baltimore delicacy that keeps patrons coming back for more. They're known for delivering on size and flavor with their extensive seafood and lamb entree selections. The staff, dressed in traditional Greek-style tunics, is always friendly and unpretentious, aiding diners with menu selections. If you're looking for ambience, Ikaros may not fit that bill as the decor is dated but it is obvious that this family-run restaurant puts more of its resources into its food and customer service than into its furnishings. That's a plus for those more interested in good Greek food than they are in furniture. (410-633-3750)
Gertrude's located in the Baltimore Museum of Art in Mt. Vernon mixes good food with good art. Owned by chef John Shield, the restaurant celebrates Chesapeake Bay cooking and follows the farm-to-table movement by incorporating fresh, local and sometimes organic ingredients into its dishes. The number 1 seller are its crab cakes, offered three different ways. The deserts and fall drink selections are as unique as the artwork in which they share residence. If you visit Gertrude's during the warmer months of the year, you'll have a unique opportunity to pair your meal with one of the best out door galleries this side of the Chesapeake. Brunch is also a big seller for Gertrude with seafood favorites like Eggs Crabette, crab quiche, and Tilghman Island eggs made with single-fry oysters and topped with hollandaise sauce. Even with brunch seating on both Saturdays and Sunday, reservations are highly recommended. (410-889-3399)
Faidley's, located minutes from the Inner Harbor in Lexington Market, is a crab cake landmark. The building itself has been around since 1886. Eat-In is done at stand-up tables where diners can enjoy other Faidley seafood favorites such as raw oysters, shrimp, and clams before heading to the main attraction. Their award-winning crab cakes have been featured in various publications as well as on the Food Network in a crab cake show-down where they came out on top. Patrons can choose between regular or jumbo lump crab cakes where they're fried in minutes and accompanied by any number of side dishes. Visitors interested in enjoying Faidley's crab cakes at home can also have them shipped. (410-727-4898)
Mama's on the Half Shell
A 10-minute drive from the Inner Harbor, Mama's on the Half Shell is located in the Canton-Highlandtown area. Opening in 2003 and joining the myriad of seafood houses in Baltimore, Mama's environment is down-to-earth. This popular hangout offers classic Baltimore dishes such as their highly-praised fried crab cakes with mustard and their raw bar of oysters and clams. Mama's interior resembles a classic tavern, decked with dark wood and low lighting. Their low prices, large portions, and seafood all-stars such as the Blue point and grilled oysters, fish and chips, swordfish, and pan-seared scallops make it a favorite not only in Canton Square but the Baltimore area on the whole. (410-276-3160)
Annapolis Seafood Market
Annapolis Seafood Market is located in a suburb outside of Baltimore and offers crab cakes without pretense. The market, where dining in isn't available, offers fresh seafood for purchase and/or preparation. After tasting one of their no-fuss jumbo lump crab cakes, either broiled or fried, you'll be more than happy to eat it standing. They've somehow found a way to bind the lumps without filler, maintaining the integrity of the crab. A neighborhood staple, Annapolis Seafood Market has been around for over 30 years and is a favorite amongst locals and one of the best kept secrets in the crab cake landscape. (410-544-4900)
About Tawanna Browne Smith
Tawanna has had a wanderlust spirit since she was 13. A dozen or so addresses later, she now resides in Maryland with her husband and two sons.
Tawanna is the founder and creator of Mom's Guide To Travel, a family travel blog. She's also a contributor to the Travel Channel.
If she's not traveling somewhere out of state, she's either shopping or searching for the best crabcake or the best cupcake in the Baltimore-Washington area.
Read more about Tawanna Browne Smith here.
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