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Best crabcakes in San Diego?

We're looking for quality crabcakes -- not the Phillips mystery-variety, or anything deepfried, but pan-fried ones with big chunks of crab, bits of onion, etc. and not a lot of filler. Sort of like what you would get at Legal Seafoods back East, if that means anything.

We've gotten burned too many times and are hoping for some serious recommendations.

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  1. Not sure if this departs too far from "not a lot of filler", but the crabcakes at Oceanaire are as legendary as they are ephemeral. Nary a trace of any filler, one is left with the impression that they are eating nothing but just be best, most succulent crab meat.

    The other thing I like about their crabcake is that any seasoning is kept to what must be trace amounts, and just lightly cooked, or so it seems. It must just get a very short amount of time under a broiler, but that would just be a guess.

    It takes quite a bit of confidence in the kitchen to do so little to one's ingredients, which is what they do for their crabcakes. My recommendation would be to forgo their sauce and sneak in your favorite (moist) sea salt - that's all this crabcake really needs to enjoy fully. (I didn't much care for the sea salts that they had available at the oyster bar.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: cgfan

      I also think Oceanaire is the best and we've looked around a lot here to get the ones we loved on the east coast. They really are just crabmeat but it's delicious and you can go with whatever condiment (or not) you'd like. The rest of the food there is also extremely good.

    2. not a huge fan of Legal Seafoods but have to agree on Oceanaire..
      SD is not really known for their crab cakes and so wish they were..
      Crab Catcher in LJ had some decent ones but its been awhile.
      the key is good fresh lump crab meat and a very little filler..panko bread crumbs makes such a difference in taste.. imo.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Beach Chick

        Have to agree, Legal on the EC is just OK, crab cakes definately not their thing, I can vouch for Morton's, they have an excellent 'Jumbo', yah really jumbo, lump crab cake.

      2. I agree that Oceanaire has fantastic, melt-in-your mouth crabcakes. But I recently had great crabcakes at Cowbar Star, the relatively new steak house and butcher shop in East Village. When I had them they were prepared with a blood orange sauce and a bacon endive salad. Not your traditional crabcake, but still fantastic. I slightly prefer Oceanaire's crabcake, but others in my group preferred Cowboy Star's version - which is a pretty good endorsement.

        1. I hate to agree, but Oceanaire is the best crab cakes I have had in san diego (only reason I "hate" to agree is that Oceanaire is corporate).

          Oceanaire in general is very good seafood.

          (Just an opinion from a kid who grew up in Maryland, 2 blocks from DC, and ate blue crabs as baby food.)

          On a further note, Crab Cakes are one of those kinds of foods that the best ones you will have will always be from the home.

          1. I had some very good crabcakes at JSix over Labor Day weekend. They were actually crab and lobster cakes, and the portions were very generous. They might be a bit too fried for what you are looking for, though. But they sure were tasty. I also saw the crabcakes at Oceanaire and they looked amazing, I wish I hadn't been too full to order them.

            1. I'll be tryin' out Oceanaire this weekend, but the crabcakes at Donovan's, are kick butt!

              Very similar in description to the Oceanaire descriptions.

              Best Regards,

              STeven Garsson

              1. Ditto times three on Oceanaire. The best crabcakes I have every had were at the Jefferson Hotel in DC - these are almost identical. I detected minimal if any filler. I think they are started on the stove and finished in the broiler, very light and ethereal that just break into large jumbo pieces of crab. Totally made me a believer.

                3 Replies
                1. re: foodiechick

                  Madame Notjustastomach had Oceanaire's crab cake this evening. Certainly there was crab a-plenty and virtually no "filler," Yet, in her opinion, it was more like a crab muffin or crab dumpling than a crab cake, since it had too little cakeiness about it. In short, she enjoyed the dish, but would just as soon buy and eat a dungeness crab, since there was so little to the cake beside the crab.

                  Second, even though it is just about all crab, for $16 there should have been two of 'em.

                  1. re: notjustastomach

                    I think considering the price that a pound of premium lump crab goes for retail, and the obvious mark-up that a fine dining establishment must charge to try maintain a profit in this sketchy economy, the portion size-flavor-quality of Oceanaire's crab cake offering is quite reasonable. I recommend it over any other that I have sampled in San Diego, as I seem to keep running across the variety produced by the Cohn chain...mushy small pieces of fishy tasting crab, formed into micro-sized portions of over-battered and over-fried hockey pucks (although sure, you get more than one.) Just MHO ;-)

                    1. re: foodiechick

                      Heavy batter and deep fried, sounds aweful, a waste of crab (if it's real) and you get a pair of pucks.

                2. Hands down, The Oceanaire. If they use any filler, it's undetectable for the big crab flavor and texture. But, don't try to compare it with Legal or anything from Maryland. You're just not going to find the same thing.Enjoy this for what it is -- big gorgeous tasting crab.