Home / Travel Guides - Baltimore / A Guide To Baltimore's Crab And Seafood Scene

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A Guide to Baltimore's Crab and Seafood Scene Seafood reigns supreme in Bawlmer, a town where they take eating seriously. Rich in ethnic neighborhoods, the city also is blessed with outstanding restaurants (Italian and Greek in particular). And when it comes to seafood, locals love their oysters (preferably deep-fried); striped bass—which Marylanders call rockfish—grilled and simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice; and last but not least, spicy steamed blue crabs.

Although blue crabs are harvested as far north as Cape Cod, as far south as Uruguay and in such exotic places as the lakes of the Nile Delta in Africa, they thrive in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The bay's varying salinity levels and the shallowness of the water are two reasons for the large summer harvests that contribute to a prosperous state crabbing industry. Blues served up in local restaurants also come from other waters, including North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas. But it's not where they were caught; it's the method of steaming and seasoning that makes these hard-shelled crustaceans so popular.

For the uninitiated, the ritual of eating steamed crabs can come as a bit of a shock. The table is usually covered with brown butcher paper, and the critters are either delivered on a tray or unceremoniously piled right on top of the paper. Mallets, picks, bibs, stacks of paper towels and buckets (for the cast-off shells) all are supplied. The seasoning of choice is Old Bay, a piquant blend of 18 different herbs and spices that has been manufactured in Baltimore for more than 75 years.

There's no delicate way to go about cracking a crab open to remove the succulent meat; it's a gloriously messy dining experience. If you've never done it before, fear not; at some Baltimore crab houses the servers will pull on a pair of gloves and cheerfully walk you through the process.

For those who consider bludgeoning a whole crab with a mallet and rooting around bits of shell and claw with their fingers a bit on the barbaric side, there are other ways to enjoy blues. Maryland crab soup is loaded with crab meat and vegetables. Cream of crab soup is traditionally prepared with a shot of sherry to lighten the cream. Crab dip makes a tasty appetizer. And crab cakes rival steamed crabs in popularity. Side dishes are definitely supporting players, but you can usually count on crispy french fries, coleslaw and onion rings.

Baltimore's many crab houses each have their passionate supporters, and picking the best one is a subject of intense debate. Baltimoreans often take out-of-town guests to the Rusty Scupper, a well-known institution on the Inner Harbor. And many locals and travel sites will tell you that Baltimore's best crab cake is the jumbo lump version at Faidley's Seafood in the venerable Lexington Market, which was founded in 1782. About the size of a baseball, each cake is made to order, deep fried to a golden brown, and worth every penny.

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Baltimore, MD

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Travel Information

City Population

620,961

Elevation

445 ft.

Sales Tax

Maryland's statewide sales tax is 6 percent. Baltimore has a 7.5 percent lodging tax; an 11.5 percent tax is levied on automobile rentals.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

311 or (443) 263-2220

Time

(410) 235-1212

Temperature

(410) 235-1212

Hospitals

Greater Baltimore Medical Center, (443) 849-2000; Johns Hopkins Hospital, (410) 955-5000; MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, (443) 777-7000; Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, (410) 601-9000; University of Maryland Medical Center, (410) 328-8667; University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, (410) 225-8000.

Air Travel

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), about 10 miles south of downtown, is reached via I-195 off I-95 or SR 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway).

Rental Cars

Numerous automobile rental agencies maintain offices at the airport and downtown. Hertz, (410) 850-7400 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Baltimore Penn Station is at 1500 N. Charles St., between Oliver and Lanvale streets. Baltimore is situated on seven Amtrak routes, including the Acela Express to New York City and Boston; phone Amtrak, (800) 872-7245.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. terminal is at 2110 Haines St.; phone (410) 752-7682 or (800) 231-2222. Megabus offers service from the southern side of the White Marsh Mall parking lot, adjacent to Honeygo Boulevard; phone (877) 462-6342. (New York service is from the south side of the White Marsh Park & Ride lot.) BoltBus offers service from 1578 Maryland Ave.; phone (877) 265-8287.

Taxis

Taxis are metered. The base fare is $1.80, $2.20 for each additional mile and 20c each 30 seconds of waiting time. A 50c surcharge is added for trips between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. An additional 30c-per-mile surcharge is added for trips beyond Baltimore. Among the larger cab companies are Diamond, (410) 947-3333; Sun, (410) 235-0300; and Yellow Cab, (410) 685-1212.

Public Transportation

Baltimore's public transportation consists of buses, a subway system, light rail and MARC commuter trains.

Boats

Water taxis are available at the Inner Harbor.

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