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April 13, 2009

Wanted: a great shrimp salad



I recently got this e-mail from John, telling me of his friend's dilemma:

My friend Roger...used to live in the area, now lives in Kansas City. Can you tip him to a great shrimp salad place for his next visit? Thanks a bunch!!

Here was Roger's heartfelt e-mail to his friend that sparked John's plea to me: ...

No one in the Heartland understands shrimp salad.  When I lived in Baltimore it was a bigger deal.  There was a place near St. Agnes Hospital - Kibby's- that was known for their shrimp salad.  But it was too much mayo / not enough Old Bay.  The best one I had was oddly enough in the cafeteria at USF&G, they really got it right.  I know there were other good ones around, but I just don't remember them.  Really, I haven't had a good shrimp salad sandwich for almost 20 years now!

Whoa. I didn't know anyone felt that strongly about shrimp salad. I mean, can't you just buy some shrimp, cook them up, add mayonnaise, celery, parsley, lemon juice, a little salt and pepper and have a great shrimp salad?

The problem is that when people ask me for a shrimp salad recommendation I send them to Kibby's, even though it's been years since I've eaten there. I don't know of another restaurant known for its shrimp salad so I'm no help.

Anyone out there have a better suggestion for Roger and John?

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:16 AM | | Comments (78)


Mary Mervis Lexington Market..the best!

Eddie's isn't a restaurant per se, but their shrimp salad is fantastic. The tables outside the St. Paul street location near Hopkins are a great place to watch the city go by.

Eddies makes a good shrimp salad in their deli section. not sure if you were looking for more of a takeout option or a sit down place...

I think Bat Cafe's shrimp salad is not bad!

Bay Cafe but they are expensive.

The shrimp salad sandwich from the deli in Eddie's of Roland Park is very good. But I really miss the shrimp salad from Bun Penny, which used to be in the Columbia Mall.

I've had a great shrimp salad sandwich at City Cafe. Lighter on the mayo, and more old bay than Kibby's

Gertrude's at the BMA and the Charles Village Pub (yeah, really!)

I recommend the shrimp salad from Eddie's in Roland Park. Very little mayo. I first had it a few years ago when I was in Baltimore visiting my cousin Donna and we decided to eat in rather than choose a restaurant.

When I was a child, my Aunt Bess loved the shrimp salad at the Yorkshire Restaurant.

When I make shrimp salad at home, I always use lemon yogurt instead of mayo. Mayo = gack.

I second the nomination for Bay Cafe. The size and quality of the shrimp is very important to me and Bay Cafe gets high marks for both large and succulent shrimp. The seasonings are perfect as well.

I'd recommend the shrimp salad at Theresa's in Broadway Market, but someone said on the other day that Theresa has retired. I haven't been down to confirm or deny yet.

I need to try the Bat Cafe...; ). Sorry, Elizabeth, I coul not resist. Believe me I have made my share of typos! I pulled a Dan Quayle on an earlier blog, and spelled potato with an "e", didn't catch it before I sent it.

The Linway Lounge in Parkville is supposed to have good shrimp salad. I don't know firsthand because I can't eat seafood due to allergies.

I grew up in Catonsville near St. Agnes and Kibby's but live in DC now - where there is no truly good Shrimp Salad. My personal rankings:
1) Suburban House - Pikesville
2) Kibby's - Across from St. Agnes Hospital
3) Ocean Pride - Timonium
4) Snyder's Willow Grove - Linthicum
5) Gunning's - Hanover
** btw - Gunnings get's my vote for the best crabcake in Baltimore but that's a debate for a whole other thread...

Betty and Jake's Tavern in Catonsville. Large shrimp, not too much mayo.

Amicci's in Little Italy has a pretty inexpensive and delicious one, I'm told.

Three best shrimp salad experiences are Mama's on the half shell, Werners, and Gibby's Carry-Out on York Road.

I will concur on the Bay Cafe suggestion, but because they are known for it, the price is a little steep. Can't beat the scenery though, and drinks usually aren't that bad if you grab whatever's on special.

Also, Cafe Gourmet which has locations on Water Street and Charles Street has a great shrimp salad, but they are lunchtime only spots. It would work if they were visiting the harbor during the day. I would recommend calling first, because sometimes they run out.

Ale Mary's (Fells Point), Bay Cafe (Canton), Eddie's (Roland Park),and Duncan's Famous Deli (Linthicum).

For my shrimp salad, I process 3-4-5 shrimp in mayo then use that mayo mixed with whole shrimp. Cuts down on the mayo-e flavor. Then liberally douse with Old Bay. I suppose doing the same thing with yogurt would accomplish the same end.

When I make shrimp salad I process 4-5 shrimp in mayo and use that mayo to make the salad (liberally doused with Old Bay, of course). This cuts down on the mayo-e taste. I guess you could do the same thing with yoghurt to the same end.

sort of out of the box...but rocket to venus makes great "shrimpies"...sort of a spin on shrimp salad...with old bay and yuengling.

i am not a huge fan of Bay Cafe in general, but i will say their Shrimp salad is pretty ridiculous. Pretty rare that you can finish the entire thing.

sounds like i will have to check out eddie's.

Hal Laurent,
I was in the Broadway Market a couple of weeks ago, and yes Thereas has retired. The market is almost empty now.:-(

Thornton's Pub in Locust Point has a tasty shrimp salad.

Yes, the Linway did have good shrimp salad. But that was a good while ago and I'm not sure they still have it.

The Firehouse Tavern on Joppa Road (west of Harford Road) has pretty good shrimp salad.

700 South deli in Linthicum has really good shrimp salad -- large, plump, perfectly-cooked shrimp, not too much mayo, and just the right amounts of spice and celery. You can order it as a sandwich on your choice of bread (they have quite an assortment of different breads and rolls, including baguettes, croissants, and wraps), but I've also ordered a plain salad and asked for the shrimp salad on top (I don't know if they will still do this; however, the shrimp salad alone is enough to if I order a sandwich but don't eat the bread). It isn't a sit-down restaurant, although there is room upstairs to sit and eat once your order is ready, and if the weather is nice, there is also an outside deck. They have a wide delivery area but unfortunately, they are open only until 2:00 p.m.

I don't really eat shrimp salad (because, like Mary in York said, mayo = GACK) but I do know that Dara from Dining Dish, who's taste I definitely trust, loves the Rocket to Venus shrimpies...

The Linway tavern in Parkville is still serving up a fantastic shrimp salad... have taken many folks there - everyone always enjoys it. very casual atmosphere... very neighborly... great folks.

I was eating the Linway in Parkville shrimp salad 30 years ago and it was the best. Like PCB Rob I live in Florida and don't know if they still have it but I have always loved shrimp salad sandwiches and there's was the coup de gras back I just make my own as Florida's idea of shrimp is to boil them......UGH!

Johnny Dee's Lounge has the best shrimp saled sandwich and platter.

Could anyone please explain to me the relationship between shrimp size and shrimp quality? It's probably something really obvious like meat to shell ratio but I'd appreciate it if someone could spell it out for me. Are larger shrimp older and if so, wouldn't they be less tender? And if the shrimp salad is in a sandwich, would smaller shrimp be easier to eat? I await my education.

Thanks Kit for the mention. Shrimp Salad is my holy grail and the best I have had was at Rocket to Venus but I haven't been back in awhile. Fields Pharmacy in Pikesville had a good shrimp salad.

May I direct people to my story that has guide to making great shrimp salad.

Bay Cafe is the best I've had by far. Not cheap, but it is huge.

Laura Lee,
How I understand it is that the larger the shrimp, the better they are. I don't think its a meat-to-shell ratio, but larger shrimp are easier to peel provided they haven't been overcooked. And you really don't want soft shrimp, they should be slightly firm but not chewy at all.

As for in a sandwich, really big shrimp can be a bit of a pain if they are whole, they just fall out. Which kinda reminds me of the Firehouse Tavern sandwich.

Medium size shrimp would be best for a sandwich, I guess.

But if you're gonna use really large shrimp, then cut them into smaller pieces. That's probably the best way, in my humble opinion.

Lone Lady,
I feel your pain about the boiled shrimp. Why take a perfectly good shrimp and boil it? Yeah, its easier, but the final product is not the same even if you sprinkle Old Bay on it. I think the boiling process takes some of that firmness out of the shrimp.

Laura Lee, I am puzzled that so many people seem to value large sized shrimp as a desirable feature for shrimp salad, especially on a shrimp salad sandwich.

I also don't understand the desirability of a large shrimp salad. I don't want to buy more food then I can eat.

Koco's Pub

Mamas on Half Shell

Rams Head in Annapolis (garlicy!)

Tremont deli

Bay Cafe (though the past few times I've been there the service was so ridiculously horrible I have sworn to never go back)

Dining Dish is right, the shrimp (should be large shrimp) must be steamed with plenty of Old Bay just until they are done, do not over cook! They should be cooled, peeled, split, mixed with some mayo, chopped celery, a little lemon juice and maybe a little celery seed. Sandwiches should be on rye bread, or a Kaiser roll, with some crisp iceberg lettuce.

I always loved Kibbys shrimp salad. Hutzler's in WestView serverd a great shrimp salad on toasted cheese bread. It was delicious.

I now live in the Pocono's where their idea of shrimp salad is canned shrimp and mayo.

I forgot to mention the shrimp salad at the City Cafe

And the recipe on the Old Bay can is pretty good. I usually add a little garlic.

EL, you can't make shrimp salad without at least a little Old Bay.

And people are passionate about their shimp salad because so many places make it so poorly, and with gross shrimp When it's good, it's really really good, and when it's bad it's horrid to life-threatening..

Agree with Fl Rob and Lone Lady. Boiling shrimp is a total waste. Not only do I feel it needs to be steamed but steaming in beer seems to really elevate it to a higher level.

I like Old Bay, but I find that too many places dump it on shrimp salad and everything else to excess. Some view pouring on the Old Bay as some kind of badge of honor or proof of being a real Marylander.

Old Bay is a failure of imagination. It's the ketchup of seafood spices

Thanks PCB Rob and Hal, I knew you'd come through. I've got a hankering for shrimp salad now.

I second Ale Mary's.

I've had stupendous shrimp salad at J. Patrick's Irish Pub in Locust Point, but that was a while ago. I'd need to go back and sample it again.

"Some view pouring on the Old Bay as some kind of badge of honor or proof of being a real Marylander."
Well, it is! (A Marylander for all of my 71 years)

Another boost to the shrimp salad at Eddie's on St. Paul. That is just some yummy yummy stuff.

If they happen to be in northern Anne Arundel county I'd suggest The Sunset. They do an impressive shrimp salad (as sandwich or on a salad plate).

Good luck with the search! It's hard to find a good shrimp salad!

Well, I like ketchup. And I like Old Bay!

And furthermore, I like ketchup AND Old Bay on my french fries!

I'd send you to Bertha's. It is highlighted on their menu as a signature item, and they hit it out of the park.

Dara - RtV took the Showalter (sp?) classic shrimp salad off the menu. Boo.

I'm with you, Joyce...ketchup AND old bay on the fries! (and malt vinegar if it's around).
I've enjoyed the shrimp salad at the Whole Foods in Harbor East for take home/custom sandwich.
While out, Bay Cafe and Rocket to Venus have my votes.

For Shrimp salad Faidleys makes a pretty damn good one, but one of the best is at Canton Dockside.

As for taking shrimp salad seriously, dear lord you don't get shrimp salad outside of baltimore, its usually made with those tiny nasty shrimp not the monsters that you use here. Its a whole different thing. And my mother has refused any number of good meals for shrimp salad in this town when she comes visit me. Its one of those things we discovered when we came to town. We knew about crabs and crabcakes but Baltimore should take PRIDE in its shrimp salad too.

I'm late to this one, but here are my favorites (in no particular order):

Shannon's Saloon (Ellicott City)
Kisling's (Fleet St.)
Ocean pride (York Rd.)

Most overrated: Bay Cafe! I don;t need to pay $20 for a shrimp salad sandwich. And the SS is';t all that great either. Certinly not worth $20.

I didn't see it mentioned, but I think the shrimp salad sandwich at Red Brick Station in White Marsh is excellent.

Yay Joyce! Old Bay fries are great. Dipped in ketchup. We may be pedestrian, but if it makes us happy, who cares.

That's what I don't get about some food snobs, they always think that something new or "different" is by definition better. It isn't always better. That's where the wisdom of "don't mess with a good thing" comes in.

I make mine with some fresh wasabi.

Reading this post the first time through made me so hungry for shrimp salad, I made my own last night. It was so good, I bought more shrimp to add to it tonight.

Start with shrimp steamed with Old Bay, add finely diced celery, plain yogurt and spicy brown mustard. Delicious, and healthful too. I have leftovers - come on over!

Last year (I think) EL did a top-ten listing of shrimp salad, and because so many people endorsed Kibbys, I made a special trip to try it. I thought it was okay, but not Top Ten caliber. I guess shrimp salad is like crab cakes: you know what you like, and it's probably not the same as the next guy.

One caveat: I grew up in Kansas, then lived 10 years in Denver, and I don't remember having shrimp salad or crab cakes in either location. I moved to Maryland 11 years ago and "discovered" both dishes - loved them - so I am probably not an authority on either one.


If I have malt vinegar handy, the ketchup doesn't come near the fries. Try them with just the malt vinegar and some black pepper. Yum!

Old Bay might be a worthy substitute for the black pepper though.

PCB Rob - I have questions for you. Please authorize EL to facilitate contact, if possible.

I have questions for you too PCB Rob,

I did, but got EL's out of office reply, out until tomorrow.

Not sure what you mean.

Towson Delly North has great shrimp salad, like $20 a pound or $10 for a sandwich. Artful Gourmet has a decent shrimp salad plus the french fries served with it are amazing. Last would be Oregon Grille, they're shrimp salad is good

I don't question that Old Bay is good on many things, but on somethings it is very nasty. Popcorn and Old Bay is really bad; however, corn on the cob and Old Bay is really good. Go figure.

Old Bay on crispy chicken wings with blue cheese dressing on the side.... amazing.

I haven't been there in a couple of years, but I used to love the shrimp salad at Bay Cafe. And it came with their 3-Potato Salad.

PCB Rob, does your "fiancee" read the blog and do you think she would think your actions are honorable?

I tend to be both cynical and suspicious. (Probably a result of my NJ upbringing.) Since I, long, long ago, spent some time near PCB, I am inclined to think that I can envision FL Rob's surroundings. Combined with the coincidence that Rob's old stomping grounds are my current 'hood, I am convinced that he somehow belongs to me. A friend's nephew, maybe.

For those reasons, I pay attention to what Rob says. (As opposed to the fast skim that we all do once in a while) I have never - not ever - found him in anything that would cause me to question his honor.

No, she doesn't read the blog but I tell her about what goes on in here a lot.

And yes, she would think my actions are honorable.

I think Capn Obvious was teasing you about exchanging e-mails with BG, but those posts were so far up it may not have been obvious. EL

Wow, I certainly hope Capn is just joshing with you PCB Rob. You have never been anything but a gentleman and respectful towards all here.

Thanks Eve and Trixie! I appreciate your kind words.

I am a gentleman and always will be.

PCB Rob, I agree wholeheartedly with Eve and Trixie that you are a man of honor. I have also been wanting to tell you that I will never forget the last words you said (though you couldn't know it at the time) to RtSO: "Open a window in that garret and let in some fresh air!"

You're always thinking of others.

Yes, Capn Obvious must have been joking (though it may not exactly have come across that way in print).

No one on this blog would be so rude as to seek to publicly impugn the character of a fellow blogger merely for having an off-blog conversation with another blogger - particularly since off-blog conversations have been and continue to be commonplace among members of this blog, especially with all the Facebook communication as of late.

I'm sure Capn Obvious, upon seeing everyone's comments above, will reassure us all that he did not mean to attack our PCB Rob's integrity.

Laura Lee,
I've thought exactly the same thing about what I last wrote RtSO. Plus, I thought his last comment was a bit haunting (after the news came out) that he was retreating to his garret and closing the door.

Its almost like he knew what was going to happen and that was his goodbye.

I miss RtSO.

Thanks again, all of you, for your kind words.

PCB Rob, I am haunted by that last post as well. I was comforted by the service for RtSO, especially when I learned that he dreaded a long lingering final illness. He was fortunate enough to have been spared that.

There isn't that much Facebook convo going on, LJ. It is mostly "oh, that is your name."

Well, and Owlie and me making obscene comments at each other, but you all can probably make that up in your heads.

I could go with the humor except for those quotes around fiancee, as though FL Rob has an alleged fiancee.

PCB Rob, I urge you to listen to Rev Fran's homily for RtSO if the Cathedral can get it online. You'll find not just comfort but understanding.

In Parkville, just off the city line there are two great places for Shrimp Salad. Mueller's Delicatessen and the Linway Lounge. In fact I will be featuring thier Shrimp Salad in my poetic writing soon. They have been making their recipe for decades as my mother who didn't frequent lounges, made a weekly pilgrimage to get hers. I just picked up a shrimp salad sandwhich and for about $11.00 one gets not only a great tasting sandwhich, but also a very generous portion. There is a reason that on is given a fork. Overall, it is great tasting and very well balanced, without being overly salty. I had to take half of mine home.

OK, listen up. The secret to a spectacular shrimp salad is to mix a little catsup into the mayo , Old Bay, lemon juice, celery seed mix, chop some celery and add to some perfectly steamed shrimp, large ones should be cut up. And yes, catsup is what makes the Bay Cafe's recipe so darn good.

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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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