People sometimes forget that the DelMarVa area – of which Maryland is part of – has been settled for over 400 years. Early settlers brought Renaissance cooking techniques from Europe, which included making all kinds of loaves, savory and sweet pies, as well as crumbles. This involved mixing the main protein (or fruit) with seasoned bread crumbs and fat before cooking. The common technique accomplished many things: stretching out the expensive/hard to obtain ingredient, preserving it to some degree before the days of refrigeration, and of course, flavor.
Baltimore has its own takes on crab cakes, they've become world-famous. Locals get the hankering for a traditional flavor – though they're more expensive than they used to be. Tourists can't seem leave town without sampling one (or several).
Certainly, there's a sub-industry for listing the best crab cake. Hey, you're reading this list! Publications have competing annual lists, vehemently disagreeing with each other. There are a lot of factors that go into what makes a great crab cake, not the least of which involves personal palates. Historically, crab cakes were made with mostly backfin meat, which has a distinct flavor. Modern tastes tend to adore the sweeter, milder and more costly jumbo lump meat. How much breading do you like? Some people like a creation that's more akin to Crab Imperial, it's so creamy and rich. Others love the crunch that's brought on by fried bread crumbs ("filler").
Classics like Faidley’s in Lexington Market are popular city favorites, 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.