Fresh catch: Baltimore's enviable seafood restaurants
By Tamar Alexia Fleishman
Baltimore Local Expert
It's difficult to truly experience the food culture of Baltimore without indulging in its seafood. Known widely for its crab cakes, blue crabs, Old Bay-seasoned steamed crabs, and crab soup (cream or vegetable), this is where you'd want to start your tasting journey - if crab is what you want. If you're looking for a wider range of seafood options, from oysters to rock fish, there's a plethora of restaurants to choose from all around the city and tucked away in Baltimore's neighboring suburbs.
If you're staying in the Inner Harbor, you're fortunate to have more than enough restaurants to choose from near the waterfront and in neighboring Fell's Point. Phillip's, synonymous for Baltimore crab cakes, is a city icon. A popular stop for visitors, due to it location, it's as much an attraction as it is a restaurant. You kind of have to go just to say you went. A short taxi-ride away, you can find yet another Baltimore icon in Lexington Market, Faidley's Seafood, also well-known for its jumbo lump crab cakes and oysters. This isn't a sit-down establishment but makes a great bite-and-go seafood dining choice.
Thames Street Oyster House, a newer establishment, is a crowd favorite. Located in Fell's Point, they serve traditional and modern Maryland, New England, and Mid Atlantic seafood dishes as well as an a la carte raw bar. With appetizers like lobster mac and cheese and Buzzards Bay scallop ceviche, you can feel confident that your seafood dining experience is going to be an exciting one.
Other popular stops include eateries like Mama's on the Half Shell, Rusty Scupper, and Bo Brooks Crabhouse. In general, you can find less expensive seafood restaurants a short walk or drive from the Inner Harbor. Whatever your fancy, Baltimore has you covered with great seafood restaurants.
10 Sterling's Crab and Oyster House
If you want to try Sterling's tasty fare -- people in Baltimore have been doing so for over 65 years -- you'd better hurry. This Baltimore staple in the working class neighborhood of Remington is going on the auction block on July 7. Why? The reasons are probably myriad. It's a take-out place that's not quite where their customers live. Owner Dorothy Goff is getting older (as are we all!) and owns The Seasoned Mariner in Dundalk. That restaurant is located on prime real estate, Bear Creek and its interior needs a facelift; no doubt it rates as the better investment of the two establishments. Hot seafood sandwiches are best eaten right away on site, so they don't get soggy. The seafood sub is the way to go! A huge, crunchy fried shrimp, oyster, scallop and piece of fried haddock (or other combination) share space with a medium crab cake. (410-467-7710)
9 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)
8 Bo Brooks Crabhouse & Restaurant
Savor the sweetness of crab meat any way you like, from huge steamed blue crabs to flavorful crab cakes. Although you may pay a little more for your crab infatuation at Bo Brooks, it's worth the cost. The unassuming dining room makes it clear that people come not for sophistication but for a relaxed, bib-wearing, mallet-wielding good time. The menu features non-crab items too, including wild rock fish, cajun grilled swordfish, and pan-seared Chilean sea bass, but the true stars of the show are the crabs. Pitchers of beer and tasty side dishes only add to the appeal for crab-lovin' crowds. (410-558-0202)
7 Rusty Scupper
Located in the heart of the Inner Harbor, right around the corner from the American Visionary Arts Museum, Rusty Scupper provides a breathtaking panoramic view of the Baltimore waterfront. Its location makes it a popular seafood destination for tourists and those looking for a romantic upscale Inner Harbor evening. The menu is primarily focused on seafood dishes, inspired by the foods and flavors of the Chesapeake region. Its Sunday brunch is complete with a live Jazz band or live piano and plenty of patrons. Reservations would be wise. Crowd pleasers include the warm ciabatta bread, the crab bisque and Maryland crab cakes. The restaurant also offers a free shuttle service to visitors residing at nearby Inner Harbor hotels. (410-727-3678)
For almost 30 years, this Fells Point landmark has been the place to go for fresh, perfectly prepared mussels. At dinner, they come steamed and accompanied by your choice of 8 great sauces - so you'll never get bored with flavor. Other options include seafood-studded paella and shellfish royale in cream sauce. Live jazz and a quirky atmosphere highlighted by historic photos, posters and nautical items contribute to an always-entertaining experience. Perennially popular for dinner, Bertha's also attracts crowds with its pub menu, featuring Scotch eggs, shepherd's pie, fish cakes and chowder. Sunday brunch includes favorites such as crab cakes Benedict, french toast and omelettes. (410-327-5795)
5 Faidley Seafood
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)
4 L. P. Steamers
L.P. Steamers doesn't play when it comes to crabs. The simple menu at this Crab House has everything you could want from a seafood restaurant. Most people come here for the steamed crabs, which are available in a variety of sizes and brought to your table for you to crack yourself. If you ask, they will give you a "receipt" of what size crabs they have available and the quantity left in their inventory. The steamed shrimp are also a favorite, but don't forget the steamed scallops, clams, mussels and oysters. Another sure bet is the perfectly fried crab cakes. (410-576-9294)
3 Henninger's Tavern
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. (410-342-2172)
2 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)
1 Thames Street Oyster House
Thames Street Oyster House offers some of the freshest seafood you'll find in Baltimore. Located in Fell's Point, the restaurant practices sustainable aquaculture whenever possible and boasts an incredible raw bar that includes several varieties of oysters both local and beyond. Appetizers like the lobster mac and cheese, grilled rock octopus, and Buzzards Bay scallop ceviche are turning heads (and palates) of customers, creating a loyal following of dining fans and disciples. The lobster roll, Maryland crab soup with short rib, lobster and oyster mushroom risotto are huge crowd favorites and worth giving a try. Although you won't find a traditional kids' menu here, you can find simple fare like burgers and fries. ((443) 449-7726)
About Tamar Alexia Fleishman
It takes a Renaissance woman to cover cool, shocking, tasty and thought-provoking things. Tamar was a professional violinist, studying with Daniel Heifetz at Peabody Conservatory, serving as Principal Second with Annapolis Symphony. She earned her BA in Political Science from Goucher, her JD from the University of Baltimore and is a member of the Maryland Bar. She’s appeared on TV with Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren and Peter Frampton. A foodie, she’s judged the Roadkill Cookoff, the International Water Tasting Fest, the Mason-Dixon Chef Tournament. Tamar’s a Kentucky Colonel, a beauty pageant winner and managed Southern rock and alt-country bands.
Read more about Tamar Alexia Fleishman here.