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June 3, 2008

Top Ten Crab Houses


If Baltimoreans have a Holy Grail, I once said in a review, it would be the perfect crab house. 

It's not just the heaviness and sweetness of the crabs and the perfect seasoning they're looking for. Intangibles like atmosphere, water view and old-fashioned charm play a part, too.

Other factors are important. If you have out-of-town visitors who are only here for a day or two, it may be hard to drag them down to Dundalk to tear apart crustaceans, an activity they're dubious about anyway. So you need to know about a crab house near the harbor, where your visitors insist on spending the afternoon.

I don't pretend to have tried every crab house in the area, so this list isn't a definitive one. Feel free to add your favorite by posting below.

Here are my 10: ... 

* Cantler's near Annapolis. A classic crab shack: hard to find with communal tables, a view of Mill Creek, and lots of happy people.

* Captain James Landing between Canton and Fells Point has a crab deck in the summer across the street near the water where you can get crabs and corn on the cob.

* Costas in Dundalk. It may not have the atmosphere of some crab houses or the water view, but this family-owned business has been turning out excellent steamed hard shells for more than 35 years.

* Gunning's in Hanover. This is more of a seafood restaurant than it used to be when its specialties included fried green pepper rings with powdered sugar as well as steamed crabs, but it's on this list because I feel nostalgic about the original.

* L.P. Steamers in Locust Point. The crabs are heavy, the beer is cold, and there's a roof top deck for your dining pleasure.

* Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn (200 Eastern Blvd., 410-687-5996) in Essex. The quintessential crab house. You won't find any tourists here -- it's  too much of a hike -- just great crabs steamed with Mr. Bill's own seasoning.

* Nick's Fish House in Baltimore makes a Top Ten for the second week running. It has two advantages: Great outdoor water view seating and, although it's a short drive from the harbor, it hasn't been discovered by the tourists yet.

* Obrycki's downtown. I wanted to include one place near the Inner Harbor where you can take out-of-towners for steamed crabs. You're going to run into hordes of tourists at any of them, but I think this one is your best bet. If you have another suggestion, tell us why.

* Pier Street Marina (410-226-5171) in Oxford. I prefer this Eastern Shore crab house with great water view to the better known Crab Claw in St. Michaels, which is where all the tourists go. It overlooks the Tred Avon.

* Schultz's in Essex. If I'm going to travel to pick hard shells, I go to Schultz's. I can't really say why; I just like the knotty pine walls and the stuffed marlin for atmosphere, and the crabs are good.

(Colby Ware/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:45 AM | | Comments (154)
Categories: Steamed crabs, Top Ten Tuesdays


Gunnings still serves Pepper rings and Onion Rings. Also I saw on another post someone was looking for the proverbial crab fluff, Gunnings serves them . They have very well seasoned crabs, and delicious cream of crab soup.

Woo Hoo! Pier Street made Crab Week.

I don't understand why Obrycki's continues to make these lists. Any crab house that doesn't use Old Bay or Old Bay like seasing shouldn't be considered a crab house in Maryland, or even the Mid Atlantic. Their pepper based seasoning is aweful.

I recently moved away from the Baltimore area and have found that Gary and Dell's in Westminster can steam a good crab. What I like about them is for carry out, they show you the crabs before they go in the pot & put them in the pot right in front of you.

I don't think people with visitors who want to go to the harbor will be happy with a Westminster suggestion from me. What place around the harbor would you recommend instead of Obrycki's? EL

What happened to your font. It's unreadable now. Please fix.

I don't know what browser you use, but with Safari it looks fine. I'll shoot an e-mail to our magician, Multimedia Editor Mary. EL

Looks the same as always to me.

Schultz's serves great tasting crabs but for people that are vision impaired will have a hard time walking around inside of Schultz's (dim lighting and crowded seating.

I also agree with Schultz's. Great food and good prices. And better yet, they have crab fluffs and have added fried hard crabs to the menu this year. They are hard to find!

I hate to expose it, but it's hard to see such a list without Kahler's of Rosedale.

May be out of the way but I always suggest Bill' crabs I have had in the state.

I'm curious why Bo Brooks isn't on the list? It's often cited on other lists, has the water view, etc... It isn't a personal favorite, I just wanted to know your thoughts (and others) about the place. Thanks, Larry

I have never had a good experience with crabs at L.P. Steamers or Obryicki's. They were watery, light, and over priced. The best crabs in Baltimore can be found at Canton Dockside. The crabs are always packed and hot. The seasoning is great and the view of the patio looks down the harbor. No tourist either.

Canton Dockside is so much better than Captain James. Except for the fact that you can actually eat on the water with Captain James. Crabs wise though - Canton Dockside wins hands down.

Obrycki's is horrible. They exaggerate the size of their crabs (calling medium crabs "larges", and then charging you the "large" price tag).

Instead, I would have included Bo Brooks. Sure it's not the same as it was when it was on Belair Rd (with the orange seats), and yes, it may be a little expensive . But it's no more expensive than Obrycki's (in fact it might be cheaper), and they don;t exaggerate their prices like OB's does. When you pay for "large" crabs at Bo's, you're atually getting "large crabs" and not mediums like at OB's. Plus, Bo's is right smack dab on the water.

Personally I prefer the days when it was on Belair Rd, but then again, I prefer Memorial Stadium over Camden Yards. But the reality is as much as they've "sold out' for the prime waterfront ral estate, Bo's still has excellent crabs. The only problem is that they're a lot more expensive than places in the 'burbs. But if you need to choose someplace sort of close to the harbor to take tourists, Bo's beats OB's hands down. Superior crabs at a better price plus waterfront dining.

I also would have put Ocean Pride up in Lutherville on the list.

LP Steamers has everything going for it (location, atmosphere, nice people, best steamed shrimp, cold beer, reasonable price) except for the fact that you will frequently get a crab or two per dozen with a strong amonia smell. This means the crab was dead before it hit the pot. If you are too lazy to steam them yourself, go to a bigger place that does more business so you get lively crabs in the pot. Most of the one's you listed above are OK, but also Bo Brooks in Canton.

Mike is right. Canton Dockside always has great crabs, heavy with excellent seasoning. The deck is awesome and there are plenty of TVs around the dining room. I just picked up a dozen for my wife and I on Saturday and they were awesome.

Gibby's Carry-out in Timonium!

LP Steamers is way overrated. The people that live near it don't eat there. That should tell you something. they have the worst cream of crab I have ever tasted.

No Harris' Crab House on the Shore??

The Barn on Harford Road

My husband and I just discovered it last week end. It's been there for a long time, we just never tried it before. No sense traveling to Essex when these supreme crabs are right in the neighborhood. It's an old fashioned, down home, Baltimore experience. Reminded us of the Old Bo Brooks and Glenmore Gardens. No water front dining, but we went for the CRABS not the water.

For those who have the disappointment of getting light crabs a rule I've always gone by is to buy my crabs a few days before a full moon. This is because the blue crabs tend to molt in full moons. When buying within a few days of the full moon, you get crabs that are on the brink of molting their shells, hence they are "fat".

Granted, there is no hard evidence behind the connection between lunar cycles and the molting of blue crabs, there is evidence from Mike Oesterling of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science that "there is an increase in peelers and soft crabs several days before and after a full moon"

If EL is cool with publishing it, here's a link to an article on the subject:

I love links. As long as people come back here. EL

Reter's Crabhouse in Reisterstown is the greatest! Should have made the list. Great food, great crabs and great service!
Check it out:

LP Steamers has been our "go to" crab house since the old Gunning's on Hanover Street closed. We have never had a watery crab (though we've had few light ones) or one with an ammonia smell. As for the locals not eating there, why do I keep running into long time LP residents?

Ugh. Reters is the last place I'd ever reccomend for crabs. They are overpriced and small for what the sizes are. In addition, the place has the ambience (and noise factor) of an elementary school cafeteria. And, you could die waiting for your waitress to ever return to your table - even with your bill! We live down the street and go to Captain Dan's in Eldersburg for a "local" crab experience but Costas is number 1!

What about Bill's Terrace Inn? Clearly and oversight not including them.

Take another look. It's on the list, but I couldn't find a Web site, so there's no hyperlink. That means it doesn't show up as much. EL

Maybe EL could do us a favor and find some great steamed crabs on the Eastern Shore (besides St. Michaels). We have the Old Mill in Delmar and either folks don't know from a good crab or they don't care 'cause the place is packed every night. As long as business is good they will continue to put out the dregs.
I need to know of something like you recommended in the B'more area. Please???

canton dockside is the best that I've had in awhile.

Cantler's has a great atmosphere and is pretty much a locals only place, but their crabs are subpar. The last 3 times I've gone there, they've charged $90+ for jumbo crabs that are light and empty and $4 for beers served in tiny sippy cups.
You want more for your money? Head 10mins north to Magothy Seafood.

Kudos for including Mr. Bills. It reminds me of what Bo Brooks used to be when it was on Bel Air Road (Donny B, couldn't agree with you more!) Bo Brooks has completely sold out and moved to Canton, charging Canton prices and adding menu items that we don't care about. Give me a mallet, pitcher of beer and some newspaper, baby, that's all I need!

I went to the CrackPot off of Loch Raven Blvd. recently and was pleased with the size of the crabs. $80 gets you a dozen jumbo crabs. You would literally open the crab up and scoop out handfulls of meat. Call ahead to reserve your crabs as they only had three dozen of the jumbo crabs to go around when I went.

Does anyone know if Evans Seafood in Piney Point near Lenardtwon is still in business?

Seaside Restaurant in Glen Burnie. Great crabs year round (from TX & LA) and the bread pudding is to die for! Beware, they usually don't serve crabs before 4. Customer service is pretty bad and they're very unapologetic about it so you may wanna do carry-out.

Evelyn Orsiniu wrote: "Maybe EL could do us a favor and find some great steamed crabs on the Eastern Shore (besides St. Michaels)."

You can definitely check out Pier Street, as EL has suggested on the list.

You mention that you are looking for a place outside of St. Michaels. If that's because of the tourists and over-pricing, check out Big Al's in St. Michaels, though not a crab house sells great crabs, pretty much right off the watermen's boat.I recommend getting what they call the Watermen's Choice bushel (or 1/2 bushel). It's a mix of all males, usually what the city crab houses would call larges and jumbos, at the medium's price. The tourists haven't latched on yet.

I have never been disappointed by Big Al's.

Personally I have been to Bo Brooks 4 times and each time the crabs have been microwaved...( you could tell as the shells were very dry and brittle) and the service has been below par. As an original native of dundalk and now canton and being a former crabber I know what it takes to steam and serve crabs and Bo Brooks apparently is spending the money on their mortgage and not on the crabs. I would replace Bo Brooks with Jimmy's Seafood on holabird avenue as it is far superior and its proximity to 95 (equal to that of bo brooks) make it actually simple to find for tourists.

You should have Mike's on this list. It's located off of Riva Road outside of Annapolis on the South River. Great crabs and a very large outdoor seating area. If the wait is long you can always grab a few drinks at either the indoor bar where it's kept cool or at the outside bar. Just a suggestion because the crabs are better than a few of the places on your list but on the down side it is about a 30min drive from the inner harbor.

Anyone have a crab fluff recipe?

LP Steamers is dirty and you do get some bad crabs here and there. The crabs and shrimp are the only things going for them, everything else is frozen.

Canton Dockside and Mike's Crab House in Riva should be on the list for sure.

Salty Dogs in Dundalk has great crabs for carry out,

Capt Harvey's in Owings Mills, yummy!

Jennifer said: I don't understand why Obrycki's continues to make these lists. Any crab house that doesn't use Old Bay or Old Bay like seasing shouldn't be considered a crab house in Maryland, or even the Mid Atlantic. Their pepper based seasoning is aweful.

Actually, the black pepper seasoning at Obrycki's is more old-fashioned than Old Bay (which didn't show up until the 1940s).

I disagree that it's awful. It's just different.

Jennifer!!! Thank you, Hon!!! Gary & Dell' isn't that out Littlestown Pike in the middle of all this beautiful countryside? If that's the place the crabs are great and the steaks are too!!

Captain Dan's in Eldersburg. It's hit or miss sometimes but the crabs are better and less expensive than you'd get around the harbor. AND....they serve my all time favorite, The Crab Fluff. The last time I tried it at Gunnings it had lost that magic. But I guess the magic went north west young Eldersburg

The current Gunnings is everything the original used to be. They still have the sugared pepper/onion rings. They serve a great crab fluff, AND they sell a fried hard crab. Not many places these days can say that.

I've yet to have a bad experience at LP Steamers. I walk there often (although someone claimed locals don't go there) and they always have crabs of all sizes with accurate prices.

On the Eastern Shore, Harris' and Fisherman's Crab Deck are both great, as is The Crab Claw (even if that's where "the tourists" go).

Fifer's in Pasadena, MD!

My new place is Conrads on Joppa Road........Great crabs and reasonable prices!

The key to good crabs is finding a plae that sonsistently, and practically solely gets them from the Gulf of Mexico (Texas and Louisiana).

Maryland and Carolina crabs really don't get good and heavy until season ultil late summer/early fall.

Gulf crabs are always consistently heavy.

There's a misnomer out there that the bigger crabs aren't necesarily the heaver crabs, and more often than not, they're lighter than the smaller ones.

I can tell yo, that's just aint true when it comes to Gulf crabs.

Bills, Seaside, Costas...they all get them from the Gulf, and ONLY from the gulf. that's why they're so concictently good and heavy.

The best time for MD crabs is late september and October. And come October, I'll put a MD crab against anyhting that comes out of the Gulf. But in the summer time, I want good crabs consistently, and places who deal solely with Gulf crabs is the way to go in the summer months.

Sorry, but it's the truth. Besides, Natty Boh isn't brewed in Maryland anymore, so i don;t feel that bad about preferring Gulf crabs in the Summer months.

Ross Seafood in Dundalk is as good or better than any big crab house. Costas is okay but they tend to turn thier tables and run you out of there.

Its been a long time since I've been there, but The Corral Inn on 46th St. (just off of Eastern) used to have the greatest all-you-can-eat deal with the best crabs. Are they still around?

best way to introduce a visitor to crabs is to buy them carry out and set up the picnic table in the back yard. short of that, drive all the way to white haven, md on the shore and go to the red roost.

What is crab fluff? I'm picturing whipped jello with whipped cream and crab. Not a pleasant mental picture.

Ah, Lissa, do you have a treat in store. That is, if you like fried batter. We'd better discuss offbeat crab dishes in a separate post. EL

Don't forget Crab Quarters. It's worth the hike. the best cream of crab soup. And yes, Bo Brooks on Bel Air Road was the best. I used to live 2 minutes from that place when i was a kid.

I agree with Damian, I like Jimmy's in Dundalk--BUT, if you want another place that's great and you're willing to drive, PRICE'S up in Havre de Grace is the tops!

Evans is still in business, but they have new owners. I understand from a friend in St. Mary's County that the new owners have a lot of the old recipes.

They got hammered by Isabelle a few years ago. I went to college down there and we used to sail over for lunch on the weekends.

I can't believe no one has mentioned Gaffney's on Highland in East Baltimore. The crabs are heavy and the seasoning is one of a kind!!

You guys are freekin crazy. The only thing that matters when it comes to crab houses is who has the biggest meaty crabs... (old bay is a must, but 95% know this). Only three restaurants consistenly have Jumbo Crabs...drumroll please idiots....Bahama Mamas in Ocean City, Crack Pot in Towson and Mikes Restaurant in Annapolis.

I was at the Crackpot and purchase a half dozen of the $38.00 crabs. The crabs were light with barely any meat. When I voice my opinion to the waitress who brought out the crabs she said I have to let them know upfront if the crabs are a problem.How can I voice my opinion of bad crabs if I haven't taste them. I have to open each and everyone to see if they are okay.As far as I'm concern that was bad business. I tell people I know about the incident and haven't brought anymore crabs from there.

Why does Obrycki's in Upper Fells Point count as "near downtown" when Captain James, which is 5 blocks away, does not?

I agree with everyone else that Obrycki's should be left off the list.

What makes you think Captain James doesn't count as "near downtown"? Why can't you be happy that the restaurant you like made the list out of all the crab houses, instead of mad at me because I didn't say it was near downtown? Give me a break. EL

As someone who travels a lot (30K in the car, 25K by air in an average year, though on business rather than recreation) I'm wondering what's wrong with tourists? When I'm visiting a city for 48 hours and get one dinner to myself, I like to look for iconic experiences. It's nice to be able to stroll around something like Pike Place Market or the Riverwalk and know that you are getting a taste of the local culture -- even if the really good stuff is hidden away. (Though I am always grateful when Zagat provides a decent hint!)

I agree with Gunning's, which is consistently good.

Scooter's on Rt. 1 in Elkridge is another decent crab house with a real local feel, but the crab size descriptions can be a bit inconsistent.

Seaside in Glen Burnie has excellent crabs, but let's keep that quiet...

Obricki's used to have another location that did carry-out only. it was right up on the northern edge of the City (might have been the county side) on The Alameda (where it turns into Sherwood Rd.

We didn't live too far from there, and they had great crabs for years and a dedicated staff. I remember how busy they were on the Big 3 summer holidays.

I can't seem to remember what happened, as one year they just weren't there anymore. I think it was sometime in the mid 90's.

But I agree with other posters, the restaurant on pratt Street is really a tourist trap with lousy food.

Although I was a HUGE fan of the black pepper based spice. The seaosning might be the only good thing about the place these days.

Question for everyone:

Mallet or knife? or Both?

I use both.

But there's been a long running debate between Baltimore and the Eastern Shore. The Shore folks are "knife only", and the Baltimore folks like to rely on the mallet.

I use both, but sometimes neither.

We always head to the Crackpot in Towson with good results. If you get a light crab there, send it back an they wil bring you a heavy one to replace it as long as you are being reasonable.

Can we do a list of places to do carryout crabs in the area? I know LP Steamers will do carryouts when they have a sufficient number of crabs to do it, which to my disappointment was not this past weekend.

What have been everyone's experiences elsewhere in the city of nearby for carryout crabs (half bushel or bushel or by the dozen)?

What about Ocean pride. it;s been there for years and their crabs are always good. they serve crabs year round. Good crab fluffs too.

Cantlers is way, way overrated. let;s forget the fact that it;s so secluded and there's zero parking, thus causing traffic jams. The crabs were horrible. They were fresh enough, but they were extremely small for the money thy were charging. B\

But the WORST part of the whole ordeal is that DON'T steam their crabs in seasoning. They were steamed without seasoning!!! They sprikkled the seasoning on AFTER they came out of the pot.

It's a neat place if you're not eating crabs. Otherwise, look elsewhere.

If you are looking for carry out only The Crab Crib in Catonsville is the best. Crabs are always heavy and they have their own seasoning that includes Old bay mixed with something and it is absolutely wonderful.
As far as dining inn Captin Harvey's on Reistertown Road is so good. The service is great and the crabs are meaty. It doesn't have a waterfront view but I don't know about everyone else I come for the crabs not the view!!!

Canton Dockside has the best crabs by far.
Great service as well.

Here here, Damian. I don't know why Jimmy's is always left off these lists, not to mention the boggling display of Obrycki's love. Crab for crab I have found Jimmy's to be the most consistent in Baltimore.

for carryout and steamed to order for YOUR designated pickup time, nobody beats Captain Dicks on southwestern blvd, arbutus--call at noon on weekends or they will be sold out--steamed the way baltimore likes them !

Evans in Piney Point is getting ready to open back up in a couple of weeks. It burnt down a couple of years ago and I understand that they went through some ownership changes. They have hired a chef from Stoney's in Calvert County and rumor is that they will return to their old self once again.

Elizabeth: The online version does not have a photo caption. Where are those crabs from? They look great! For my money you can't beat Waterman's in Rock Hall. It's a trek for most folks (unless you have a boat), but you get a Bay view from the deck and the best local crabs around.

They're from Mr. Bill's. If you rest your cursor on the photo, it should tell you. EL

I would like to suggest the Kentmorr Restaurant on Kent Island. We travel there by boat, but I understand that it is short drive from route 50. We have been to Harris' and Hemingway's and Annies, and think that the Kentmorr far exceeds. Their food is wonderful, the view is wondreful, and the people are wonderful. We live in Annapolis!

I'm glad to see you did not exclude non-Baltimore crab houses. But that you are absolutely right in selecting Cantler's as the TOP crab house. Every trip back home to Maryland includes a dozen or two or more dozens of crabs at Cantler's.

Colorado Springs

hmmm I have to agree growing up Bo Brooks was the shite but since they became sell outs to Canton ..Never again. I moved to Harford Co and the place to go there is The Seafood Fesitval I have never received a bad batch from them. Yes it's carry out but the best in town. If you want to venture to another place try Baldwin's they also have HUGE onion rings.

Cantler's is the BEST!

Charlie - Colorado Springs

Number One-
Ships Cafe-Catonsville

Well I may be in the minority but this Marylander LOVES the black pepper-based crab spice ala Obrycki's. Old Bay? Can you spell b-o-r-i-n-g? Got tired of that over-rated stuff decades ago. I'll put it on corn on the cob but that's it.

As a teenager I learned how to pick crabs at Obrycki's in the '70s. I can't help but have a fondness for the place. And although I don't go there very often these days, I've never been disappointed with their crabs or service, and I'm not surprised to see Obrycki's on the Top 10 List.

There's a few good comments here, but everyone else here must be a tourist. Here's the definitive list from someone who was raised here and has tried them all - ME!

1) Seaside - Glen Burnie
2) Ships Cafe - Catonsville
3) Bill's
4) Costa's
5) Mikes - Annapolis
6) Harris's - Kent Narrows

Everyone else can stay off the list. These I have mentioned here are old school and consistently good - likely for the Gulf of mexico explanation given earlier. Seaside supposedly has their own guy down there in Louisiana waiting dockside to get first dibs on the crabs as they come in off the boats. Every crab they serve is plump and heavy - their seasoning mix is the best, and their prices are competetive if not he best. Don't worry about the service, just give me the crabs and the bread pudding for dessert.

Oh yeah - and Bo Brooks died when they left Harford Road. I love the black spice at O'Bryicki's, but their crabs are lame and their prices are ridiculous....such a tourist trap. Ditto for Cantler's

Seaside in Glen Burnie has gone way downhill in the past few years. 4 years ago my wife and I would be in there 3-4 times a month eating crabs. Now it is about 1-2 times a season if that. You are being over-charged for lights and paper shells. And the crabs have gotten way smaller for what you pay for. As mentioned before service is only so-so there as well.

Gafney's in Highlandtown for carry-out are outstanding (heavy, well-seasoned, and reasonably priced). If you need to find it its at 415 s. highland ave (just north of eastern ave.)

For dining in, the Cheshire Crab in Pasadena is always a good bet.

Tim -- I, too, remember the Corral Inn's all-you-can-eat crab special back in the 1980s. If I recall correctly, the then owner wound up under arrest for having illegally tapped into BGE's lines for free electric service (which no doubt accounted in part for the cheap all-you-can-eat price). A Google search indicates that the Corral Inn is still there (under new ownership, I hasten to add), but I haven't been there in years.

Andrew Keatts wrote: "AND they sell a fried hard crab." Is this a joke? I love soft-shells, but why fry a hard crab???

It's a Maryland thing. EL


Nick's has the worst seafood in Batimore, not to mention horrible crabs.

Seaside consistently has the best crabs around.

Consistency is KEY.

Mr. Bills!!! Mr Bills?
A friend took us there two years ago and we have not gone anywhere else since. First thing the waitress said was "Hi, how many you want?" without even suggesting a look at the menu, so you knew right away this place was for the serious.

Folks, please don't bicker, count your blessings. I am a Baltimore native now living in Kansas City. I would love to taste steamed crabs again from any of these locations.

I would second the vote for Ocean Pride. And add to the many anti-Obrycki's comments. Bo Brooks is nothing special...I look forward to trying some of these, thanks!

I totally agree with everyone else that Obrycki's should be left off the top-ten list, or maybe even any list altogether.

I just moved to the area in the last six months, and have been checking out every crab place I can find. I had heard about Obrycki's before, and decided to give it a try. Not a great idea.

The pepper seasoning is just bad. It doesn't really flavor the crab positively, and... well, it is slimy. Strange to say, but I was amazed at how much that influenced the meal.

Not to end on a negative, so the atmosphere there was nice :)

Harris's on the eastern shore is the best crab house int the state of Maryland. They have all you can eat with corn on the cob, and a half pound of steamed Shrimp. Also when you buy by the dozen if they are light they will replace them. The atmosphere is what I like most.

Bo Brooks and Shipps Cafe are the top 2 in town, and glaring omissions on a Top 10 list.

Also, the Canton Bo Brooks is far better than the old location...

1. Captain Dan's in Eldersburg. We have never been disappointed.

2. If we are in the mood to drive a distance it would be to Costas!

John -- the old Bo Brooks was on Belair Road (just north of Frankford Avenue), not Harford Road.

if anyone in Howard County is interested, my entire family and I swear by Crossroads Pub in Dayton.

I had another crabcake for lunch today to honor crab week. Went to Peter's Pour House on water st. The cake itself was OK- Much better than yesterday's (Burke's) but it was tiny! I tore 1/2 the bun in half and folded it over. I guess I need to venture further out tomorrow.

'... a fried hard crab' It's a Maryland thing. EL When did this happen? As a kid growing up here (when Rock fish were 5 feet long [see colonial stories]) I don't remember them.

Bo Brooks, expensives and tasteless.
Schultz's, not bad family owed.
Capt. Dan, 6 out of ten.
My friend recommends Nick's on Southwestern Blvd.
My favorite is Capt. Dicks on Southwestern Blvd. the crabs are excellent, they do not give extras, always full, try the females,call ahead for the bigger crabs.

I appreciate all the crab house recommendations near Bmore, however, are there any good crab houses closer to DC?

I agree the best carryout place is Gaffney's on Highland St. Call early or they will be sold out. It's a great, family-run business, not to mention GREAT CRABS...

Costa's always delivers quality crabs.

It's a hike, but Crab Quarters in Middle River is consistently good, too.

Ryleigh's, in Federal Hill, hosts a "Shore Night" every Tuesday during the summer with $2 crabs, $1 corn on the cob (cooked uniquely and is absolutely delicious) and other specials for cheap raw/steamed seafood as well as beer. It gets packed so go early!

To David H. in Kansas City: Thank you for reminding all of us Marylanders that we are indeed blessed to have steamed crabs so readily available. I hope you can venture back here real soon to treat yourself to some again - you deserve it!

Actually if you're looking at crab house longevity... Captain Harvey's has been owned and operated by the same family for over 75 years. It's a little far from the Inner Harbor, but they have great crabs, corn on the cob, crab cakes... mmm...

For 100: Costas

While I don't eat seafood, the owner of my old job raved constantly about Scooter's on Route 1 in Elkridge. It's located near a seedy looking motel, but don't let that put you off. My parents ate there recently, and had nothing but good things to say about it.

How about the Crab House on the water in St. Michaels.....that place is fantastic!

Anyone have any Northern VA recommendations for a family that moved away from the Baltimore area years ago? Cannon Seafood in Great Falls can steam some good crabs, but they are the best and perhaps only ones I've found.

Ah, Cliff--come on home, Hon!

Anyone have any Northern VA recommendations for a family that moved away from the Baltimore area years ago?

I've heard largely favorable things about the Quarterdeck in Arlington, but I haven't been there.

Haven't been to Obrycki's in a couple but lament the loss of "Olde Obrycki's", their original corner saloon half a block east.
Baltimore's Best Maryland Crab Soup(remember my mother uttering"this tastes like "Miller Bros." crab soup used to taste).The soup still is great. Their crab seasoning is excellent...slightly medicinal, perhaps cloves?
It's not salty like most.
That's why some are saying they don't like it, gotta get their salt fix.
Bill's Terrace, after one visit, seems like a great destination for crabs. Although a bit high in salt content, the crabs are fresh and hot, and definitly a feelgood, fun crabhouse.
For carryout, though far,Fallston Seafood ahs great, lateseason, Maryland crabs.
Finally, a Big R.I.P. to
"Gabler's Shore" on the Bush River in Harford County. Once a great crabshack of a crabhouse,
now mediocre waterfront Townhouses. What a loss!

The Poplar Inn, in Dundalk.

After that, Cantlers then Bill's Terrace Inn.

Ocean Pride in Lutherville, very good crabs and alot of TV's to watch in the bar area. Gets there crabs from the Gulf and they are big and heavy. Fifteen minutes from the city just off 695.

Dahlink wrote: Ah, Cliff--come on home, Hon!

Cliff might be missing his crab fix, but he's in Kansas City where he's probably caught up in the constant "who makes the best BBQ?" debate.

BBQ is to KC as crabs are to B'more.

Not a bad place to be.

My steamed crabs are the reason I have never left Maryland. What's better than sitting down with a pile of the red beauties and a jug of beer, with your friends. It's our social life in the summer. Couldn't do without it!

Has anyone ever had steamed crabs from Faidley's? How are they? Overpriced? Do they sell bushels for carryout?

Obrycki's is quite poor. Too bad it's a tourist magnet. Bo jumped the shark in Canton. Bill's is the best. Consistant, heavy, tasty. At good prices too. Shultz's deserves a thumbs up.
For those of you in Harford Co., Seafood Stop is always great.
For more of an adventure, head to Leipsic, DE and check out Sambo's. Literally some of the best crabs I've ever had. DE shore type seasoning times 50!!

..coming home from Iraq on leave later this summer and have been craving a cold beer and steamed crabs...You left some good places off your list...

1. Ships Cafe in Catonsville
2. Bo Brooks when it was on Belair Road
3. Jimmys
4. Cpt Dicks on Southwestern Blvd
5. Gibbys

SFC (in Iraq) - I wish I could send you a bushel and a case of cold ones!

Does anyone have a suggestion for a good crab house in or close to Harford County? So far, I haven't found one.

Are there any of the old crabhouses left on Monroe Street?(Crab Alley?)
I was probably in my twenties before eating steamed crabs at a crabhouse.
You either bought them carry-out(our go to place was Augies in Millers Island) or steamed them at home.
The most common was to go to Ted Reisingers in Lodge Forest, and he would dip a few dozen or a bushel from his livebox, and we would take them home. Dad would steam them, with his own concotion of some Old Bay,dry mustard, kosher salt, black pepper, vinegar(cider) and beer...

No ones been to PAPPAS on Taylor Ave. ?? Their srab cake is the Best.
Since they took over Hale's (across the street ) The steamed crabs are going to be the best ever......

No ones been to PAPPAS on Taylor Ave. ?? Their srab cake is the Best.
Since they took over Hale's (across the street ) The steamed crabs are going to be the best ever......

Have you seen the decline in the neighborhood that Bo Brooks moved from? All of the surrounding businesses also moved. (Wockenfuss may be the only survivor in that area). I am glad they didn't 'sell out' for the suburbs and moved to Canton before anyone even knew where Canton was!!!!!!!! Still my favorite!

I agree that Costas and Jimmys on Holabird have some of the best crabs around.
For the poster who mentioned Old Mill in Delmar, I had forgotten about that place. You're right. The crabs there are poor.

Hey Dan,
My dad works for Wockenfuss as a driver, but he's retiring in a couple weeks. You're right, that neighborhood "ain't what it used to be".


One thing people nee to be careful of is palces that serve crabs that were cooked the day before (or several days before). This happens more often in carry-outs than in sit-down laces, but it can happen there too.

A lot of places do that these days because crabs are very expensive and very pershable (crabs need to be live when you steam them). They steam them as they get them, so they won;t die. And if they don't sell them that day, they;ll use them the next day and merely re-heat them.

This practice is AWFUL !!!! The term used is "re-heats". Any place that sells you "re-heats" should be closed down. You know you're getting a re-heat if the crabs, when opened, have a strong, musty/ammonia type of odor. If only one out of the batch is like that, it;s probablt a fluke, but if there a lot of them like that, you know you're getting re-heats.

I personally saw this happen at Crab Claw in St. Michaels (horrible food, small portions, and highly priced).

The table next to us ordered a dozen crabs. I saw the crab guy go into the walk-in fridge, pull out 12 pre-steamed crabs, and then put them in the steamer to re-heat. I know NEVER to order crabs from there again.

I live in Ocean City (for 23 years now)! There is a wonderful carry out with picnic tables outside at around 43rd street. By the Bay Seafood crabs are so fresh & delicious. They catch their own and steam just right!! So sorry to hear my Baltimore favorite, Hales, isn't around anymore!

I agree, Cantler's is overpriced and their great ratings must be the result of bribes or something. I don't like the idea of community tables. A reader mentioned "reheats." Magothy Seaford in Annapolis is one place that does that. I got a spoiled crab there once and then when they brought a tray to the table next to me, all the patrons near the table almost passed out from the smell. I was told by the waitress that they were getting them from Texas. I saw them take the crabs from the steamer and put them into these coolers and the waitress says they "partially cook" them since they sell large quantities...but I think the other reader was right and some of the crabs were heading to la la land when they cooked them. The best place I'd say, as an experienced hard shell crab lover, is definitely Kentmoor Restaurant in Stevensville, MD. Its a very short drive (15 min. or so) from the Bay Bridge. During the summer they have great "all you can eat" crabs with 1/2 pd. of shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, cole slaw and Maryland crab soup. You may have to make a reservation for the "all you can eat" since crabs will be in short supply this year. They have the best deal i've seen so far and the crabs are not small either. Plus the restaurant has beautiful views of the water and marina and in the summer the "sun room" is opened up (it can be warm though and sometimes the flys can be real mean.) Good draft beers (in pitchers too)! I think I'll call in sick the rest of the afternoon....

Best cream of crab soup in Baltimore? Harry's Amercan Bar (623 South Luzerne Avenue). And it doesn't get more Baltimore than ths, Hon!

By far and away, Crossroads Pub in Howard County (Dayton) is the best for steamed crabs and seafood. They are consistently heavy and seasoned perfectly. You would not be disappointed. I've been going there since they opened 10 years ago and they blow away the local competition. They also rank among the best in the state.

I guess I'm too cheap. I see no reason to buy cream of crab soup when The Joy of Cooking has a wonderful recipe called Charleston She-Crab Soup. It's quick, it's easy and it's SO delicious!

Best cream of crab I've ever had was Linwood's hands down - and I've tried just about everyones! I've had some that are nothing more than Campbell's cream of celery with Old Bay and sherry, and some that are excellent; but Linwoods alone, (IMHO) is sublime!

LM, there's an unassuming looking cement-block place on Belair Rd just before the turn towards Bel Air that has wonderful crabs! We get them there every year for our choir crab feast in September. The name escapes me (damned precocious senility!), but if you get to Don's you've gone too far.

I'm not interested in the atmosphere, the view or the cost. My interest is in the size, the weight, the flavor, and the succulence.

Ross' in Dundalk truly has jumbo sized crabs. They're big, heavy and juicy with delicious flavor. DO NOT buy them on Sundays. They don't steam them on Sundays they just re-heat, which makes the crabs tough and dry.

They also have great fried crabs.

Don's Crabs in Towson has good flavor and are juicy. The jumbo crabs are big but they are light, at least the last jumbos I got from them were light. We ordered a dozen and got a half dozen free for $75. I think they gave away the half dozen because of the weight. The following week the jumbos were $84 a dozen which I didn't try because of the empty crabs the week before.

I've never eaten crabs from LP Steamers because they rarely have the big ones for carryout. I love carryout because I can sit in front of my big screen television in my multimedia room and watch a movie from my extensive dvd collection.

Crack Pot in Towson has jumbos for $80 a dozen. One problem is that their crabs are not jumbo. If you think so, you need to try Ross'. The other problem is the lack of flavor.

Crack Pot does have great crab cakes.

Captain Jerry's in Perry Hall has great tasting and juicy crabs. The extra large aren't very big or heavy. They didn't have any jumbos.

Crabby Cousins in Parkville has great tasting and juicy crabs. The size isn't big enough but the weight is pretty good.

I agree with the comments about the new Bo Brooks. The Belair Road location had way better crabs.

Where is Bill's?

Im looking for an all you can eat crab legs joint???
Love the blue crab, but the legs are easy to eat and more enjoyable

Does Captain Dick's ship crab meat? Want to send some to New York City.


When we were kids, my dad used to take us to "Bo Brooks" for crabs. is it still around. that to me was the best ever, even than our own back yard!

When we were kids, my dad used to take us to "Bo Brooks" in Belair for crabs.(1970's) is it still around. that to me was the best ever, even than our own back yard!

For what its worth, I'm a lifelong Baltimorean and here are my two cents:

LP Steamers is too expensive for my tastes.

Never heard anyone say anything bad about Bill's Terrace Inn.

Bo Brooks has turned into a tourist trap. Its not the same for locals as it was, but if you are from out of town its in a safe area of the city easily accessible by water taxi. The crabs are good, not great, and certainly not worth the money unless you are from out of town looking for a nicely packaged, easily accessible product in a part of town that's safe to walk in almost any time of day.

Gibby's in Timonium: correct me if I'm wrong but haven't they been closed for a few years now?

Salty Dog-carryout crabs at their best. You get exactly what you pay for-nice crabs at the right price, and trust me when buying crabs, nothing is worse than getting a great looking crab that is light. Its just not worth your time picking them.

I'm surprised that Waverly Crabs has not been mentioned anywhere. I have not had a bad crab from there, ever, and the price is extremely reasonable.

Now if you are traveling to the Eastern Shore your opportunities grow but my favorite is a little crab shanty located immediately off 50 East just before the bridge entering Cambridge. You literally get the crabs steamed for you right off the boat.

On a different note, the black market is honestly the best place to buy crabs if you don't mind steaming them yourself (another plus is you choose the seasoning). The price is lower, the taxes are nill and you always get fresh crabs, many times nice heavy crabs. No middleman, just you and the waterman.

I agree with most that Mr. Bill's has great crabs! The best crab cakes are from either Jerry's seafood or from a place called The Narrows, under the Kent Narrows Bridge.

Mr. Bill's is what's up!! The consistently have heavy, huge, and good tastig crabs. The drinks are good also.

The service is just OK, but the crabs are the bomb!!! Plus the prices are reasonable. Never over $60 for the jumbos.

Dundalk is not a place I would want to go;however, I would go there just for Jimmy's seafood. The food is remarkable. the crab fluff is to die for. I am currently looking for a recipe foe crab fluff. Anyone with some info on where to look, please let me know!!!!

any suggestions for northeast md. I am a philly transplant and don't want to drive too far. had tap room once in chesapeake city and don't think it is worth the hour each way. what about woody's?

Tracy - this is the recipe I use:


1 egg
1 cup self-rising flour
1 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tbsp. parsley flakes

crab cakes, shaped and chilled

Whip eggs with fork or spoon. Add flour, Old Bay and parsley. Add enough milk to make consistency of pancake batter, but not too thin; mix well.

Dip crab cake into batter using 2 forks. Place dipped crab cake into hot oil and fry until golden brown.

Love Kentmoor Restaurant and Crab House on Kent Island - 10 minute drive after you cross the Bay Bridge. Going this afternoon. Found it a few years ago and prefer it to all others. Crabs have been true to size, always fresh, always meaty. Fabulous views, spacious seating, indoors and out, great service and for non crab eaters (gasp) very nice menu. But, ssh, don't tell anyone.

If you get carry out crabs at Capt. Harveys in Owings Mills make sure you look in the bag before you pay the clerk to see if you are getting what you pay for. I was really upset. It was no mistake.

I've had that problem while eating in-house too JB Lapree. I don't recommend Cap't Harvey's for that very reason. However, that bread/crab appetizer with garlic sauce totally rocks and their oysters are reasonable and good sized.

I can't believe Hales is gone. Their soft crab sandwiches were to die for. I live in northern nj now and steamed crabs are unheard of. We make the trip to Maryland once or twice a year to get our crab fix. Ate great crabs at Bo Brooks about two years ago. Had excellent crabs at Higgens in OC last summer. A night earlier we had huge heavy crabs at Bahama Mama's but the seasoning was not good. When we can get the good lump carb meat up here my wife makes the best crab cakes in the world.

Crossroads Pub in Dayton is hands down the best all you can eat in the region. Outside patio and nice owners. Sizing is accurate and reasonably priced. Never thought I'd find a place like this in Howard County. Blows Scooters (which I'm not sure is still opened) away,

Cantler's in Annapolis is still my favorite. I do not care about anyone else's opinion. I was born in Baltimore in 1945 and know and expierenced every crab house ever opened. You can get good crabs and bad crabs at anytime. But for good consistancy over the past 5 years, Cantler's is still my pick. And as for crabcakes, I have enjoyed the Olive Grove in Linthicum.

I miss Crabby Dicks of fell's point which is now all through Deleware starting in Rehobeth, but being a Baltimoron I would miss that tacky tasty crab house.

Everyone BEWARE of Magothy Seafood in Arnold, Md. They steam their crabs when they first get delivered then put them in the walk-in refrigerator until you order them. Then they re-steam them a second time. Sometimes they are steamed more than that. Whatever all-you-can-eats the patron does not consume they put back in the walk-in cooler and resell them to the next patron! Disgusting!!! They will also sell their cooked crabs that have been sitting in the walk-in cooler for up to 2 weeks if they haven't sold!!! That's why they smell so much like ammonia!! Do not eat crabs there! I don't know how the health department doesn't shut them down!

I've found BluePoint in Owings Mills has consistently excellent crabs for Carry Out. Cantlers is great for Dining in but I hate the wait.

I just saw in a Shoppers Warehouse flyer that they have steamed crabs. That just does not seem right to me. I mean, I am okay with crab legs, shrimp, etc, but steamed crabs??

Okay, I plan on visiting Maryland late July with my family of four. We are on a strict budget but would love to try Maryland crabs that we've heard so much about. Where's the one place you would recommend that we try with our limited money but a hearty appetite?

I recommend T.L. Morriss Seafoord off of Rte. 50 in Trappe, MD, just south of Easton. It's just a little shack with the crabs in water pens (with the bubbles to keep them aerated - what are those called?) outside, no indoor seating. On our way to O.C. (from St. Louis) every year, we call in our order then eat the crabs on a picnic table outside, on a bed of oyster shells on the Choptank River, practically in the shadow of the bridge. Sweet.

Canton Dockside? YUCK...horrid...unless you like looking at all the pretentious yuppies from Canton avoid the joint. I'd rather scoop up a couple crabs from off the Hanover Street Bridge green oil slicked waters and steam them then eat the ones at Canton Dockside.

Although it looks like a biker bar, Woody's in NorthEast is the best - but pricey. I have never had a smelly or water logged crab.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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