HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


Faidley's disappointment

We are in Baltimore for a few days and I just got off the phone with the owner of Faidley's after having some extremely mediocre lump crabcakes from there. Tasted like they were laced with filler, nothing like the quality of what we've enjoyed there in the past. His end of the conversation was laced with attitude-- "my wife makes the crabcakes, we use no filler, just saltines as a binder, what exactly are you looking for, sorry you were disappointed, g'bye."

Could have been a bad batch. I guess, But has anyone else experienced a slip in the quality of their product lately?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Just makes you wonder when the saltines cross over the line from 'binder' to 'filler.' I like the place, but I find the crabcackes a bit gummy from the mushy saltines - long before I heard they used them.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      One week ago my wife and I were at the Narrows on Kent Island. This continues as the best crab cakes and the best cream of crab soup anywhere. I haven't had Faidley's in a couple of years and really liked them on my last visit. Still, I continue to believe that the Narrows are the best.

      1. re: Steve

        Since when do saltines even qualify as "binder"?

        My understanding of a proper crab cake is "crab - mayo - tiny bit of seasoning - end of story."

        1. re: wayne keyser

          > My understanding of a proper crab cake is "crab - mayo - tiny bit of seasoning - end of story."

          Well, that would not be a traditional crab cake at all. And it would be darn hard to cook without it falling apart.

          I prefer bread crumbs to saltines for binder myself, but many traditional recipes do use saltines.

          1. re: Hal Laurent

            http://www.recipezaar.com/89609 is Faidley's recipe which includes a cup of crushed saltines and a half cup of mayo. For comparison the Narrows (my choice for the best crabcake) includes 2 tablespoons of fine cracker meal and a cup of mayo along with dry mustard: http://www.starchefs.com/features/cra... Simply, by their own recipes' definition the Narrows will have a richer crabcake (1 cup of mayo vs. 1/2 cup) and less filler (2 tblsp. fine cracker meal vs. 1 cup which I should note is SIXTEEN TABLESPOONS!).

            1. re: Hal Laurent

              There are a handful of restaurants that dont use filler...like a place a Cross Street Market...i always wonder how they make the tings stay together. However, we make most of the crab cakes we consume at home...


              Since my wife is allergic to wheat, we have formulated our crab cake recipe and we exclude any cracker/bread filler. Per pound of crab...We use seasoning, mayo, Dijon, worcester, and and 1 egg. THEN, we bake and then broil them in a silicon muffin tin....thank you.

              1. re: smt

                Right, but frying something like this, with no binder, is absolutely out of the question.

                1. re: Jason1

                  Crabcakes should be broiled not fried. I find that tourists are the only people who order fried because they don't know what is traditional.

                  1. re: melpy

                    Broiled Maryland crab cakes date from the Colonial era, adapted from English recipes where the cake was cooked under open flame in fireplace ovens. When deep fat frying became popular in the Victorian era, more binder was added to keep the cake from falling apart in the fryer. Coddies were adapted from this technique for those who were trying to keep it kosher. Both are traditional. It depends on which tradition you think is more traditional.

                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                      Moreover, who really cares? A good crab cake is a good crab cake.

                      Most of history is bunk.--Henry Ford

                    2. re: melpy

                      I am a native Baltimorean and I prefer fried to baked. Currently the fried crab cake at Samos is tough to beat. It reminds me of the crab cake I would get as a kid at the Pump Room. Neither had very much filler

                      1. re: dining with doc

                        The Pump Room! North Ave at Howard, right? I am impressed.

          2. I'm finally vindicated! Yeah!
            So many people are raving about the great crabcakes at Faidley's, so hubby and I hustled to the Market for a taste, They weren't what I'd been anticipating. Soggy, overly seasoned messes.

            I like the crabcakes at G&M. but they aren't great. By contrast, they are under seasoned and usually don't use Maryland crabmeat.

            I've had excellent crabcakes at Rib 'n Reef on Padonia Road and at Kali's Court. The Sunset Restaurant and Snyder's both have decent crabcakes.

            I guess it's just a matter of taste. Actually, I make the BEST CRABCAKES, therefore, I rarely order them in a restaurant. I just use the recipe off the Old Bay container and fry them in a very lightly oiled pan with butter. Don't mean to sound pompous, as generally I am not a very good cook. Ask me what I'm making for dinner and my cliched response is "reservations." (I know--bad, old joke).

            In addition, I'm an insult to being a native Baltimorean, as I rinse some of the seasoning off of steamed crabs (I can hear the OMG's to that admission). And, here's adding insult to injury--I don't drink beer when I eat steamed crabs. Wine is my choice of beverage. YIPES! Scarey, huh?! FoiGras

            2 Replies
              1. re: FoiGras

                I never understood the hype about Faidley's crabcakes either.

              2. I think Faidley's is pretty good if you happen to be in their part of town and it's kind of a cool setup in Lexington Market. But I've had many better crabcakes than theirs.

                1. I didn't like cakes at Faidley's either. Undercooked and gummy... yuck. I was p.o.'d since you pay an arm and a leg for them. Won't go back. There are vendors who sell them in the market that have better cakes and better prices.

                  1. I am a regular at Lexington Market and Faidley's. Sadly, I, too, was very disappointed with the lump crabcake I had last week. As reported in some of the other replies to this post, it was a bit pasty, very salty and, yes, had waaaay to much filler/binder (or whatever they want to call it). I've been eating Faidley's crabcakes for years and this is the first time I've been disappointed.

                    Joe H reports below a Faidley's recipe that calls for half-a-cup of crushed Saltines! Good grief, no wonder I was disappointed. When I make crabcakes at home, I use the equivalent of two or three saltines.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ichabod

                      I was gonna say, I use 4 crushed saltines per pound of crab meat!

                      1. re: hon

                        When I was but a wee lad back in the years of the Kennedy administration my Dad taught me the term "tourist trap" and the importance of avoiding same.

                        1. re: hon

                          Where people may be getting confused is in the difference between a binder and a filler. The binder holds the crab pieces together. Sticky stuff like mayo, mustard, egg whites, shrimp or scallop mousse, tapioca, agar-agar, transglutaminase...etc. Without binder, the whole thing will fall apart before it gets to the plate.

                          Filler is, well, the bulky stuff that isn't crabmeat that increases the volume (and stretches the pocketbook) - bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, oatmeal, etc. Usually when a restaurant says it is 100% crab meat, they mean there's no filler.

                          I'm not a fan of Faidley's crabcakes either - a lake trout sandwich is why I go there at all. The Narrows and Bistro St. Michaels crabcakes are as close to perfection as it gets.

                          more on binders: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?s...

                          1. re: crackers

                            Thanks for the post Crackers. I was wondering why they were saying saltines were "binders". When I add saltines to soup it isn't to bind anything, it is to make it more filling. Let's see if they respond.....

                      2. As I read through this old thread, and many others like it, I am reminded of the many studies about human taste: supertasters, medium tasters and non-tasters. The results of such research definitely appears to explain how so many people can perceive the same product -- prepared basically the same way for years -- so differently.

                        As I read negative reviews of any meal I immediately wonder if the issue was with the quality of the ingredients, the preparation, or simply the sense of taste of the person who authored the review. What is perceived as gummy, salty or "overcooked" to one person, may not be the case with another.

                        In any case, fascinating to read.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: josephmartins

                          If you don't like Faidley's crab cakes, well---you probably just don't like crab cakes.

                          1. re: flavrmeistr

                            Or... you probably don't like microwaved, gummy crab cakes that taste like fridge. Faidley's crab cake was featured on Best Sandwich in America and somehow the microwave was left out of the process. Their employees tried very hard to convince me their little microwave-looking thing was a convection oven. I felt bad at first, but after wasting a lot of time I am convinced it is indeed a microwave and not a convection oven.

                            1. re: bmorecupcake

                              Combination appliances exist that are both microwave and convection oven. You can Google that.

                        2. I'm not a big crabcake fan. When I go to Faidley's, I almost always get oysters and clams. Their raw bar is one of my favorites.

                          1 Reply
                          1. As an occasional visitor to B'more I've been to Faidleys more than a few times and I'm not looking for "the best" crabcake when I go there. It's the whole experience and I don't mind paying for that. Hey what do you spend for a movie you might not like?
                            By supporting Faildleys and other places rich with tradition, we are doing our part to keep it alive.
                            My 2 cents anyway.
                            Crab cake, Bo, fried gizzards for desert at Lexington market. Hard to beat for the memories. Not to mention the "inflation buster" breakfast at another place there I can't remember the name of.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JayDK

                              I feel the same way about coddies. Always get a batch when I hit Weiss Deli.

                            2. When I was a kid a crab cake in that we ate at local joints (don't ask for name I don't remember) never had more that a piece or two of lump or jumbo lump crab. They were a cheap sandwich made with mostly backfin or even "special" meat, some cracker or bread crumbs, mayo, egg, and whatever the crab house used to make theirs unique (hot sauce - Old Bay - ect.). Then they had a light dusting of breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs then either deep fried or pan fried.

                              These mounds of jumbo lump crabmeat barely held together and run under the broiler or salamander started a appearing in my consciousness sometime in the early 80's.

                              I like the more accessible old style. I think of the crab cake and she crab soup (which should always be a tomato/vegetable based soup) as a blue collar lunch not someting that costs a fortune and is eaten with a napkin in your lap.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: drewpbalzac

                                Several of my Maryland/Virginia cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century back this up. Older recipes for New England crabcakes have a similarly higher binder-to-crab ratio. The binder (breadcrumbs, stale bread soaked in some liquid, crushed crackers, etc) was used to stretch the crabmeat. At some point, access to cheaper imported crab meat made the binder less of a necessity. Combine this with a "more is better" attitude and you get the mound of lump crabmeat barely held together style.

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  That isn't binder, that's filler. Binder holds the crab pieces together. Sticky stuff like mayo, mustard, egg whites, shrimp or scallop mousse, tapioca, agar-agar, transglutaminase...etc. Without binder, the whole thing will fall apart before it gets to the plate. Cheaper imported crab meat doesn't make the binder any less necessary.

                                  Filler is what increases the volume (and stretches the pocketbook) - the bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, oatmeal, etc. you're referring to.

                                  1. re: crackers

                                    I mix my mayo-egg-and hot sauce into ten crushed Ritz crackers and mix unil a paste forms and then combine with my crab meat? So the crackers are both binder and a small amount of filler. The pan fry?

                                    Ritz crackers are not traditional but I like the depth they bring as compared to saltines.

                                  2. re: monkeyrotica

                                    My grandmother's family crabcake recipe which dates back to at least her childhood before WWI featured no filling. It was always crabmeat held together by eggs and seasoning then fried. So there was certainly a range of crabcakes that could be made.

                                    Crabmeat used to be fairly inexpensive when in season but the diets of the day preferred starchier meals probably because people were more physically active so crabcakes with filler wasn't just to stretch the amount of meat but a personal preference.

                                  3. re: drewpbalzac

                                    I definitely can enjoy a good cheap crabcake that relies more on a recipe than simply using all-jumbo lump crabmeat barely held together.

                                    And I still think the Faidley's crabcake is gummy because of the saltines.

                                    1. re: Steve

                                      I feel the saltines in Faidley's crabcake cause gumminess because of how long the formed cakes sit before broiling/frying. Whenever I use saltines at home, I don't let the crab cakes sit very long and don't get much if any gumminess.

                                      1. re: bmorecupcake

                                        This happened to me recently when I used Faidley's recipe to make them here at home. I pre-formed a couple dozen and they sat refrigerated for hours before frying. The saltine crumbs became mushy and definitely affected the texture of the cake. I suspect that's unavoidable in a high volume kitchen unless they have someone making them constantly throughout the day.

                                    2. re: drewpbalzac

                                      Growing up around my relatives "Bar/Restaurant" in the 50's crabcakes were made with "special and claw crabmeat, They were deep fried and placed on the back of the bar, along with hardboiled eggs , pickled pigs feet , pickled pig knuckles, and those huge sour white onions...the crabcakes were expenisive , a quarter and everything else was a nickel..

                                    3. So . . . just in case we decide to go to Baltimore tomorrow, probably to visit the B&O Railroad Museum, is there a good crab cake to be had? In REAL Baltimore, not half way to Washington (we'll either not be hungry enough or too hungry by then) or out on the Eastern Shore or Annapolis.

                                      1. I wondered about the filler too, as I watched their crab cakes being made on restaurant featured on the Travel Channel's "Chowdown" program. As shown, they are using large pieces of saltines, instead of grinding them up so they are closer to the size of bread crumbs. AND, they state on the show-- "There’s roughly a pound of gourmet crab meat to every cup of saltines, so the mix won’t mask the pure crustacean taste...." Per LINK- http://www.travelchannel.com/interest... This is surely why, many reviews write that Faidley's crab cakes are not what they used to be. Actually, it DOES lose the crustacean taste.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mjmarti

                                          Really? That ratio doesn't sound so high to me. Not to get too analytical about this, but let's say there are 10 saltines to a cup. A little stray Googling suggests that saltines weigh 3-4 grams each, so 10 crackers/1 cup = 30-40 g. = 1.05-1.4 oz in comparsion to the 16 oz of crabmeat.

                                          It seems to me like a 10: or 12:1 ratio between crab and saltines will not mask "the pure crustacean taste," but instead will act as a binder only.

                                          By comparison, the classic Old Bay crab cake recipe calls for two slices of white bread to a pound of crab cake, which sounds like just about the same ratio.

                                          1. re: lawhound

                                            lawhound--you make a perfect point with regards to the saltines.

                                            When I was a youngster, my mom made crabcakes using the Old Bay recipe--but I believe she may have toasted the bread. Not sure. She fried them--no such thing in Baltimore as a broiled crabcake in the 1960-70 time frame that I was aware of.

                                            Crabcakes/softshell crabs and steamed crabs in that era weren't considered a delicacy. We ate more crab related meals then steak--now that was a special Sunday dinner.

                                            I know of a few persons who get bent out of shape with regards to using some type of filler to make a crabcake. I tell them that there has to be something to bind the crab meat--along with perhaps mayo/mustard, or whatever suits the cook, along with seasonings--i.e., Old Bay, etc.

                                            When these people get so uppity over the recipe(s) I tell them to forget ordering/making crabcakes and just order a lump meat crab cocktail. They can't argue over the quality of the crab/taste/origin, etc.

                                            Years ago, the Polo Grill offered a "crabcake" without any filler. It was a mound of lump crabmeat formed into a "cake" and served over some type of buttery/lemony (I'm guessing)sauce with some chopped chives??? It was delicious, but definitely not a Baltimore traditional crabcake.

                                            Based on the endless discussion of Baltimoreans and crabcakes/and-or steamed crabs. Have any of you transplants have a similar situation with regards to your previous hometown and the food item that garners the most attention. For example--cheesesteak subs in Philadelphia, Florida stone crabs (at Joe's--but there are other options that serve up that wonderful crustacean). FoiGras