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May 7, 2009

Yes, there are good bagels and pizza outside of NYC but...

CatchesCakes.jpgWarthog made an eloquent and impassioned plea for culinary tolerance under an earlier post last week:

... I remain baffled as to why so many people from NYC seem to expect the rest of the world to duplicate their preferred style of pizza (or hot dogs, or bagels, or...), rather than accepting and enjoying the fact that a wide range of other styles exists. It seems like every time I see a post of the form "Well, it's not just like that from *location*, therefore it sucks", the poster is almost invariably somebody pining for NYC. ...

Hey, NYC - get over it. If you need to go home to get your favorite dish, do it. Enjoy a nice crab cake or deep dish pizza while you're there. The rest of us are busy exploring and enjoying what the rest of the world has to offer wherever we are, even as we cherish our favorite dishes from "back home" when we can find them.

I was nodding to myself when I read this and thinking how how reasoned and broad-minded it was, and then something occurred to me. Much as I appreciate anyone dissing New Yorkers, especially if they're Yankee fans, I have to point out one exception. 

Crab cakes.

Now don't we all agree that while there are very good pizzas, bagels, hot dogs and so on elsewhere in the country that aren't like the New York version, you can only get a good crab cake in Maryland?

Wouldn't it be absurd to appreciate, say, a North Carolina crab cake for its own merits, or a West Coast crab cake?

Well, they just aren't like that from Baltimore, therefore they s**k.

(Lloyd Fox/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:22 AM | | Comments (40)


No, sorry I don't agree that there is good pizza outside of NYC. Bagels? Eh. I'm not a bagel person, but the ones I've had in NYC are pretty unbelievable. Again, I stand by my statement, there is NO pizza like NYC pizza. And I will continue to drive there JUST to get pizza and bring it back to Baltimore :) I give credit where credit is due and if someplace else does it better, so be it. They get my business.

I was born and raised here, and as my birthright, I don't eat crab outside of MD. Ever. Period.

In fact, when my sister and I eat out, she frequently gets crabcakes. Sometimes she forgets where she is and thinks about ordering them. All I have to say is, "You're not in Baltimore, honey." And she says, "Oh, that's right. I forgot." And immediately starts looking for something else to order.

My fiancee is from Buffalo. The same logic applies for her to her city's signature chicken wings. BBQ wings she will eat outside "The Buff". Buffalo wings? Not in Baltimore (or anywhere else), bub!

My favorite bagels come from Wegmans.
My favorite pizza is from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA.
My favorite crab cakes are at Emeril's in New Orleans. No Old Bay.

funny the way these things work. I think New Yorkers and Baltimoreans are both justified in their respective pride. It shows how hypocritical we can be, I guess. Having lived the first 25 years of my life in northern NJ I have to agree to a bias concerning bagels, pizza and BREAD! Having lived ever since - I won't tell you how long - I will staunchly defend the Baltimore/Maryland crabcake against all other pretenders. It's not just myopia.

We sometimes go to a pizza place here that is owned/run by a couple from Brooklyn. He makes New York style pizza like his family made in their pizza place when he was growing up.

So, I'm confused. Does his pizza s**k because it's made here--"outside of NYC"?

Nothing beats Baltimore Lake Trout

There are no bagels like NY bagels. It has to do with the water.

I was once telling one of my (now late, former) NY in-laws how interesting I thought it was that when we lived in Houston, one of the local television stations would scroll a list of the major cities and a few-word weather summary. Thanksgiving week, they'd use Plymouth, Mass instead of Boston; Christmas week it was Bethlehem, PA instead of Phillie. (I'm easily amused.)

His response (try to "hear" the accent) was, "I don't care what anyone else's weather is. All that matters is Noo Yawk."

As Billy Joel told us, It's a New York state of mind.

I can't wait for the Fourth of July to come so we can get crab cakes and pizza at Joe Oliver's Smokehouse in Monteagle, Tennessee. Yum.

Very amusing. Thanks for the Elizabeth on 37th recommendation. EL

I've had good pizza and I have had cr@ppy pizza in NYC. I haven't been to Wooster Square, Connecticut but I understand they have a couple of amazing pizza places, i.e. Pepe's and Sally's, gee they aren't in NYC. Gimme a break.

I am a smidge taken aback by the wimbling of standards per the inclusion of the masked yet obvious application of the vulgarism "sucks" in the post. I say, it is a bit uncouth. In this economy I respectfully suggest that indeed we thrust forward to rally our standards above the rather waxing improprietous orbit of the commoner's idiom. For shizzle.

I'm a Chicago pizza guy, myself. Lou Malnati's in particular, loaded with tangy tomatoes and italian sausage. I like how they put the cheese on first, then the sausahe, and then the tomatoes (sauce) to cover it.

Hon, I put some CT pizza, some NJ pizza, and NYC pizza in the same category - all better than other places. The location is close enough to NYC that they are able to get it right.

And while I have not had pizza everywhere in the US, I have had just about all of it in the greater Baltimore area. And there is none like NYC. If I had found it, trust me, I wouldn't still be driving up there for pizza :)

This whole food nationalism thing is- if you'll forgive the term- total BS. Location has nothing to do with how good a particular food is. I agree that New York does some awesome pizza...but if someone moves here from there and makes it exactly the same way there is no reason it shouldn't be as good. And don't give me that 'it's the water,' stuff because unless you're going and dunking it up out of the Hudson (ew)it's the same crummily filtered fluoridated junk with traces of prescription medications in it that we have here. The microscopic content of the (tap) water used to make it shouldn't change the taste of well made food.

Am I offended when someone makes a "Maryland style" crab cake that is clearly nothing like what we would eat here? Absolutely. But if it's just billed as a crabcake, I'll give it a try. The fact that I may be in New Jersey or North Carolina has nothing to do with whether it is tasty or not. Maybe "New Jersey style" crab cakes are just as good but in a different way? It's apples and oranges.

Just my two cents on a subject that annoys me frequently (as I may have mentioned, The Boy is from New York.)

I'm with you Diamond Bob. Chicago Pizza is is REAL pie. That NY stuff is for sissies!

I lived in Chicago for a few years, and I'm a convert. Lou's is good, Gino's East is okay. Due is pretty good too, but nothing was like the ORIGINAL Gino's (no affilliation with Gino's East).

I have no problem with anyone making according-to-local-tradition pizzas, bagels, cheesecakes, or whatever. Such foods can stand on their own for what they are. Unfortunately some are billed as "New York" bagels or "NY-Style" pizza, which they are not. Those of us who did grow up or live in New York know they are not authentic and that's when the complaints start.

Sounds like Lord M has his knickers in a bunch. He really does make the King's English sing though. Why don't you saunner down to the solarium and have a Pimm's and soda with a slice of cucumber. Or loosen your corset. :-) Just kidding most powerful Lord M.

Retired in Elkridge is right - it's not where the food is prepared that a lot of people take issue with, it's when the food prep is identified with a region, like NY-style pizza.

That being said, I had a crabcake in NC this weekend that was way better than a lot of the ones I've had in MD.

*quickly ducks from barrage of disagreements*

I can assure you "TwoToedSlooth" there are NO good crab cakes in New Jersey. The things they do to crabs in NJ should be against the law!

I agree that many regions or locations have some dish that is "theirs" - Chicago-style hotdogs or deep-dish pizza, Baltimore crab cakes and pit beef, BBQ (Texas, various Carolina styles, Memphis, KC, etc.).

That said, I predict that if EL went to San Francisco, she wouldn't say that because Dungeness crabs aren't Maryland blue crabs, they're not worth eating. She'd probably accept them as a different thing and either enjoy them or not on their own merits.

I agree with whoever it was that indicated an objection to inferior products being passed off as "New York (or wherever) Style" while bearing scant resemblance to the original article. THAT I can completely and emphatically agree with, having suffered through some real abominations that were foisted on the unwitting as "Chicago style pizza". I can enjoy lots of styles of different food items, just don't pass off a pale imitation under the banner of being an "authentic" rendition of somebody else's style!

It's just the "our way is the ONLY way" type of culinary jingoism that bugs me, and as I said, for whatever reason, I hear that sort of absolutism far more from NYCers than folk from any place else. OK, except for maybe the French.

To carey:

I might agree that it's hard to find good New York style pizza out of the Metro NYC/NJ area. Not being an expert on that style of pizza, I can't offer a contrary example.

I'd also agree if you were to cite NYC pizza as your personal favorite. Where we part company is if you therefore claim that no other style of pizza is worthy. "I think XYZ is the best" or "I prefer XYZ to other options" is a different thing than saying "XYZ is the best" - no debate or contrary opinion allowed.

Chicago style deep dish, Chicago style stuffed pizza (reatled to, but different from deep dish) the Roman and Neapolitan styles from Italy, the New Haven style, the sort of things that Chris Bianco is doing out in Phoenix, the Califorina "gourmet" pizza trends - all can be fabulous, and all are pizza. Different from NYC style pizza, certainly, but equally wonderful, if done competently.

It's that openness to enjoying other styles on their own merits that I think is important.

This reminds me of a classic family story: My mom was in one of the Carolina's, visiting the HQ of a newly merged company. The new group was eager to share their surprise dinner and refused to reveal what it was. My mom describes what was served as a "dark brown, flat disc." After a few bites, the locals wanted to know what she thought. "Coddie?" she replied. "But with flounder?"
"No, crab cake!" they responded.
My mom swears that one of the toughest moments in her career was trying to stifle her laughter, then and for the rest of the trip.
Months later, the Carolina group visited our fair city and my mom treated them to a lunch of Faidley's crab cakes. They couldn't believe how different the two versions were and vowed to stick to BBQ during her next visit.

The Albertson's grocery store here in Florida sells "Hand-made Maryland Crabcakes" in their fresh meat case. Price? Wait for it.........
99 cents!
I laugh myself sick every time I pass that display, and no, I would never THINK about trying a 99 cent "Maryland crabcake", even in Maryland for that matter!
That being said I do have a preference for one particular food; Chincoteague oysters in their purest form (raw). The oysters that come from there are beyond match from any other body of water on the planet. So, maybe it really IS the water?!

One other angle I forgot. If one is going to lay claim to another region's prized menu item, the least one can do is spell it right. Back home in Chicagoland, I've seen both "Marilyn crabcakes" and "Merlin crabcakes" on menus, to my great amusement. Both times it was in establishments where one presumes that the problem of heavily-accented owner dictating to the printshop (as sometimes happens in ethnic restaurants) was not the issue. No, I suspect that these dingbats simply had no idea that crab cakes are from Maryland, rather than being the specialty of an individual named Marilyn or Merlin.

I heartily agree with Warthog's basic premise that there are good examples of food groups called by common names in many parts of the world. That's why I like the idea of Appellation Controlee for certain foods. Let anyone sell a crabcake any way they want. (The ones I had in Webster Groves this week were, in fact quite tasty, as are many that I have had in foreign places.) But a "Maryland crabcake" should be made to a certain standard, plus or minus a limited range for creativity.

This is admittedly much harder to manage for freshly made foods and beverages than it is for prepared, canned or bottled products. And I know its not very Libertarian of me to want to see more regulation rather than less. Maybe some restaurant trade association could offer some Appellation guidelines to its members?

To Lord Marmalade, your comments regarding the "wimbling of standards" reflect the sort of arrogant pedantry up with which I shall not put.

Thanks to Phillips and others like them, it's becoming harder and harder to get a proper Maryland crabcake even here in Maryland. The Asian crabmeat that Phillips brings in and passes off as blue crab is just wrong (albeit much cheaper).

Being a pizza lover, I can appreciate and enjoy all kinds of pizzas with no real preference toward any particualar one. I think they all have something that I might enjoy on a particular night depending what I'm in the mood for. Even Pizza Huts thin and crispy fits the bill occassionally - I love their sauce.

I'm open minded about barbeque too- another point of regional snobbism for some.

About bagels, not so much. New York and North Jersey probably tie for the best.

"Maryland" crabcakes outside of MD - not usually a good thing, Requires careful questioning of the staff to make a decision pretty quickly. "Do they have onions and green peppers in them?" "yes" "no thanks, I'll go with the grouper".

My apologies Brother Bim. I have yet to master the easy breezy cover girl style of banter you colonials affect. Ta my good man.

Lord M. wrote about "the easy breezy cover girl style of banter ... Afraid I don't converse with many cover girls.


I totally agree that there are other good kinds of pizza. But to me, they are totally different meals. I might as well be eating spaghetti. I have to be "in the mood" for Chicago style, or even my own homemade concoction on flatbread.

But I'm always, always in the mood for authentic NYC pizza (and usually eat a whole 16" or 18" by myself.... especially when people bet me I can't!)

While we are making laws in NJ, can we PLEASE do something about U-turns, left turns, and pumping your own gas???? Pleeeeease??

Carey, if we're doing laws, can we please make signalling mandatory in Maryland? I was shocked to find out it was only suggested.

Carey, the one and possibly only thing I find endearing about NJ is that they still pump my gas and clean my windshield! And, their gas is cheaper than ours too.


I don't actually particularly like crabcakes and I make a point not to spend more time in New Jersey than is strictly necessary, so I wouldn't know on either count. :)


When it coems to "Chicago" style pizza, you really only can get it in Chiacgo. I've traveled all over this country and have been to many, many places who try to say "Chicago style deep dish", but it comes out NOTHING like it does in Chicago.

Even the piza at the Uno's Chicago Pizza chains around the country don't really serve "authentic" chicago pizza. If you go to the Uno's at the Inner Harbor, or in Columbia, or anywhere else, you might be getting "deep dish" pizza, but you are NOT getting real "Chicago" ppizza. And it's NOT because it;s not made in Chicago, it's that you're getting a differrent product all together.

Nowhere in this area can you actually get "real" Chicago style pizza, the way it's made in the windy city. Not even close. just because it's "deep dish" doea not make it "Chicago style".

The original Uno's in Chiago is differrent than all the franchises you see around the country. it does serve "close to authentic" Chicago pie, and it's made differrently than all te other Unos. They used to be real deal years ago, but have gone down hill the past 20 years. Still, the original Unos does serve a completely different product that what you'd find at your typical suburban franchise.

Joyce W.

I'm a very fast-paced person (especially when getting to or from somewhere-one stop, you better do food, potty, gas, all of it, 'cause we aren't stopping again!! lol) and it drives me absolutely bonkers. They take their good 'ol time, going to other people's cars, mosey on blood pressure sky-rockets. What should have been a 2 minute stop, turns into 10 or 15. And if I want my windows washed, I'll do it myself. It would be nice if they offered it, but give people a choice.

Joyce w.
Unlike Carey, I'm more leisurely in my travels. When I head on over to Mount Pilot, I like to stop at the fillin' station for a bottle of pop and a nice chat with Goober.:-)

RayRay, I'm with you, that cold bottle of Nehi grape sure is good from the old fillin' station!

When I stop on the NJ Turnpike, we potty; we get drinks (for another potty down the road) and look for a snack; we walk the dog to as many trees as he'd like to visitand we take our time. What the hell, we can act ugly and "save" 10 minutes and then the Tpk'll come to a dead stop and a 10-mile backup and we'll lose an hour or so anyway.

I really prefer PitStops at Mike's Famous Harley's in Delaware, just before the Bridge. The restrooms are cleaner than Maryland Houses, whatever is in Delaware and the NJ Tpk stops; the menu is limited but fresher; there are outdoor tables so the dog gets a little longer out of the car (every biker on the planet is a doglover, so there are a lot of new friends to be made) and the Small (or, Not) boys can look at - possibly sit on - the Bikes. Unfortunately, they don't sell gas.

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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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