Steve Vilnit, the seafood marketing genius at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, is an innovative cheerleader for the Maryland blue crab. Credit Vilnit for initiating the True Blue program, providing restaurants that use the native crustacean with logos to post on their windows. So, if you insist on crab cakes with the distinctive sweet taste and pleasing texture that distinguish the “beautiful swimmers” from their distant relations, “Go for the Blue”.
Here is a list to assist you in your treasure hunt for the real deal as you search for that “perfect crab cake” in Anne Arundel County.
Boatyard Bar and Grill, 400 Fourth St., Annapolis MD 21403. 410-216-6206. Casual and family friendly, this local favorite is a fun place to enjoy excellent Maryland jumbo lump crab cakes – although on Mondays, there’s a two-for-one special featuring claw meat mixed in that you don't want to miss. Lively, fun and very-Annapolis, it’s open daily 7:30 am – 11 p.m.
Cantler’s Riverside Inn, 4558 Forest Beach Rd, Annapolis MD 21409. Take a taxi to this iconic woodland destination for a taste of Maryland crab – for picking at outdoor tables, as soft shells in a sandwich or as the main ingredient in crab cakes. Be sure the crab cakes are made with jumbo lump – pricier but worth it.
Davis’ Pub, 400 Chester Ave, Annapolis MD 21403. 410-268-7432. Located in the colorful Eastport section of the city, this casual destination welcomes well-behaved dogs (especially labs) accompanied by their owners at outdoor picnic tables. It is known for its generously sized crab cakes and friendly service.
Harry Browne’s, 66 State Circle, Annapolis MD 21401. 263-4322. Any restaurant that survives for 30-plus years does a lot of things right, and making first-rate crab cakes and cream of crab soup are among them. Rusty Romo is the genial host-owner of a multi-faceted operation that includes outdoor tables, an elegant interior and a casual second-floor operation.
The Point Crab House, 700 Mill Creek Ave., Arnold MD 21012. 410-544-5448. Take a taxi or a boat to this waterfront jewel in a residential neighborhood. Wildly popular for its first-rate fare, including excellent crab cakes, a memorable Maryland crab soup and crack-them-yourself crab feasts at indoor or outdoor tables.
Reynolds Tavern, 6 Church Circle, Annapolis MD 21401. Step into a 1747 world, the atmosphere carefully preserved to make a visit here a unique pleasure – whether for a crab-laden sherried cream of crab soup, a crab-heavy Chesapeake crab cake or the establishment’s famous afternoon tea. Dine in the historic dining rooms or on a tree-shaded outdoor terrace.
Sam’s on the Waterfront, 2010 Chesapeake Harbor Drive East, Annapolis 21403. This recommendation is for boaters, who can dock and disembark for a Maryland crab cake (in season) OR a Maine lobstah’ roll, for a year-round taste of Maine in Maryland.
If you want to go home with an edible souvenir of your visit to Annapolis, buy a pound of jumbo lump Maryland crab meat at Whole Foods and follow iconic Annapolis caterer Ken Upton’s award-winning recipe, here:
- 1 lb. jumbo lump Maryland crab meat
- 1 egg
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (homemade with lemon would be great)
- ½ t. salt
- ¼ t. pepper
- ¼-1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Carefully pick over crabmeat to remove cartilage and bits of shell. Set aside. Combine egg, mustard, mayo, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Carefully add crab to the mayo mixture and combine gently so as not be break up the crab lumps. Add enough bread crumbs to form a sticky mixture and shape into four cakes. Sautee in a buttered skillet over medium heat, flipping once, until golden brown.
Recipe from Seafood Lover’s Chesapeake: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions by Mary Lou Baker and Holly Smith. Rowman & Littlefield publishers; 280 pp, with photos.
Photo of Cantler’s Riverside Inn courtesy of Ann Powell.