Every summer, I leave the concrete jungle of New York City to venture down to the Eastern shore of Maryland, St. Michaels, for one of the things I most look forward to – eating lots of delicate Maryland blue crabs!

Growing up in Towson, Maryland, crabs to me were an amazing delicacy; but once I moved to NYC, where I have lived for the past 26 years, I have struggled to find a good crab cake.  To my palate, NYC crab cakes have either too much filler or too many fancy spices.  While I am not a cook or a foodie and apologize upfront if I misrepresent the spices or cooking styles, I am writing as a crab lover who is trying to discover what makes a tasty crab cake. In fact, my husband challenged me to find the best crab cake..  The following journal is based on our trip to the region last summer. Let the crab games begin!

I couldn’t wait for the first crab cake as we head into St. Michael’s.  We select the Town Dock for our first dinner where we can sit outside and enjoy the view of the boats.  Upon arrival, the air smells like Old Bays, the spice that my first crab cake is broiled and lightly spiced with. These crab cakes appear to be 100% jumbo lump meat and are so soft,  the crab meat melts in my mouth, making it hard to beat.

The next day, we had lunch at the Briasserie Brightwell in Easton.  Surprisingly, the only crab dish they had is the infamous Maryland crab bisque. The crab soup had a sweet tomato base and many large pieces of crab meat and flavors but I have had better crab bisque.

We ventured back into St. Michael’s the following day for brunch where we heard a new restaurant, The Grille, had opened.  I order a version of Crabs Benedict with Canadian bacon and lots of Hollandaise sauce. Huge pieces of spicy, soft jumbo crab meat on my English Muffin awakened my senses for a very different yet more memorable experience than the Town Dock.

A bright blue sky called us to attempt kayaking. After two hours, we were hungry and decided to check out another new restaurant in St. Michaels called Gina’s Cafe, a Mexican restaurant that serves fish tacos and burritos.  I get the crab tacos, full of lump crab meat, avocado, cheese, and ginger! A completely new combination! The ginger really provides a zing and nice contrast to the cheesy hot crab meat.  This meal is the most creative treat so far.

The following day, we biked to Oxford and sat outside at Schooners Landings.  I had a simple broiled crab cake sandwich, full of large juicy lump crab meat that tasted fresh off the boat.  However, there were very few spices which led me to load on the tarter sauce which drowned out the fresh crab.

Rain came down in buckets and once the rain stopped, we craved a nice dinner outdoors.  The problem was all the restaurants had closed their outdoor dinning.  The only one that seemed to be open was St. Michael’s Crab & Steakhouse. Unfortunately, after two dried out crab cakes, this was the only meal I want to forget!  I headed to Justin’s ice cream parlor to save the day with an amazing dish of salty caramel ice cream!

This leaves me wanting to make up for lost crab! My husband and I went on another long bike ride and on our way back, I picked up a crab cake from Charlotte, who just has a roadside stand on route 322 on the way into St. Michael’s.  Charlotte has been making crab cakes for over 25 years and has had this stand there every Friday for 3 years.  She deep fries the crab for a moist, succulent spicy taste and puts her special mustard-base sauce on top. She offered hot sauce and other spices but I declined and quickly devoured this delicious crab cake.  This is the best $10 crab cake you will ever find!

My last crab cake of the trip was at The Robert Morris Inn.  This was the most expensive crab cake at $31.  The entire dish was a wonderful blend of broiled crab cake with sweet corn succotash.  The corn tasted like candy while the crab cake was a bit disappointing.  The crab cake appeared to be a bit overcooked as the meat wasn’t that moist.

As my journey to find the best crab cake comes to a close, I surprisingly discovered that Gina’s Cafe and The Grille’s dishes were what I most enjoyed, with Charlotte’s as a close second. My assumption that crab meat can be ruined with a lot of spices was challenged. Rather, it is the overcooking that ruined the freshness. What are your views on crab cakes and other summer delicacies? Do share as this trip has now inspired my curiosity about how many ways can you cook up that fresh little crustacean!



2 Responses to Crab Cake Diaries

  1. Margaret says:

    I enjoyed your journey to find the perfect crab cake! I must admit that I stopped ordering crab cakes because of the disappointing filler and the lack of lump crab meat. Instead, I order only lump crab meat appetizer or salad. The best can be found at the Stony Hill Inn in Hackensack NJ! (They also have capellini with lump crab meat sauce!)

  2. Nancy says:

    This sounds like my kind of week! I never knew we had so much in common Kathryn…crab cakes and salty caramel ice cream are two of my favorite foods. I believe that simple seasoning with Old Bay and just a touch of egg and bread crumbs make the very best crab cakes. They stay soft if you don’t over mix the ingredients, and turn them only once during cooking. Enjoy many more crab cakes to come and thank you for the sunny thoughts…

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