Whole crab encrusted with seasonings on a table at L. P. Steamers crab house.

Crab on the table reader for cracking at L. P. Steamers. Photo © m01229, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Looking for the best crab in Baltimore? Baltimoreans dine on this famous crustacean in four ways, and crab houses like Phillips Seafood in the Inner Harbor and Bo Brooks in Canton usually offer all of them. Try as many preparations as possible to see what you like best.

Also note that much of the crab served in Baltimore is no longer from the Chesapeake Bay. This prompted the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to start the True Blue campaign in 2012, which recognizes restaurants that serve only Maryland blue crab. If eating local crab is important to you, check the website Maryland Seafood for a list of dining options.

Steamed Crabs

Cracking open a dozen steamed crabs crusted in Old Bay is a Baltimore tradition. If you want to try it, be prepared to work for your food (though it’s work that Baltimoreans love). After you arrive at a crab house like L.P. Steamers (1100 E. Fort Ave.), a platter of crabs will be poured on your brown paper-covered table and served with wooden mallets, knives, and paper towels or wipes. Break them open, feast on the delicious white meat, and, to dine like a true local, wash it all down with a “Natty Boh,” or National Bohemian beer.

Soft-shell Crabs

Those who want to eat the whole crab (except the lungs) will love soft-shell crabs. They’re made during the brief period of time between when a crab molts, or loses its hard outer shell, and when the shell grows back a few hours later. Around late May, many restaurants like The Black Olive (814 S. Bond St.), Regi’s American Bistro (1002 Light St.), and Fleet Street Kitchen (1012 Fleet St.) offer specials to kick off the short season, while restaurants like Nick’s Oyster Bar (1065 S. Charles St.) and Mama’s on the Half Shell (2901 O’Donnell St.) usually offer soft-shell crabs throughout the summer.

Close-up photo of a crab cake from Faidley, broken open to show huge chunks of crab.

Crab cakes at Faidleys. Photo © Krista, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Crab Cakes

Crabs cakes come broiled or fried, either served simply with crackers or dressed up with accoutrements. For a simple fried version for lunch, try Faidley Seafood (203 N. Paca St.). Woodberry Kitchen (2010 Clipper Park Rd.) and Heavy Seas Alehouse (1300 Bank St.) serve more dressed up versions. To taste a different preparation, try Pierpoint (1822 Aliceanna St.), where the crab cakes are smoked.

Crab Soup

Maryland crab soup is made with a tomato or beef broth, vegetables like peas, carrots, and corn, and tons of Old Bay seasoning, but many restaurants also carry a rich, creamy crab soup, too. One-Eyed Mike’s (708 S. Bond St.) has a good spicy version, Nick’s Fish House (2600 Insulator Dr.) has well-received cream-of-crab option, and Ryleigh’s Oyster (36 E. Cross St.) does both.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Baltimore.