HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Do you create unique foods? Get great advice
TELL US

Baltimore Seafood Restaurants

schlimmerkerl Aug 4, 2009 09:50 AM

I'll be in town at the end of August. Looking for good seafood near the Convention Center, but non-tourist. I'll go farther afield if need be. The food is what counts, and atmosphere, cost, etc. are secondary. Thanks very much.

  1. j
    Jason1 Aug 4, 2009 10:25 AM

    I usually fall into the Mama's on the Half Shell camp for good all around seafood in Baltimore. There's nothing great right near the convention center, so water taxi or cab are your best options. If you're looking for high-end, Black Olive is supposed to be fantastic, but I've never been.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Jason1
      h
      hon Aug 4, 2009 12:23 PM

      I 2nd Mamas on the Halfshell in Canton!

      1. re: hon
        h
        hon Aug 6, 2009 06:02 AM

        also Ryleighs Oyster Bar in Federal Hill.

    2. d
      drlee_susquespine Aug 4, 2009 11:42 AM

      Nicks in the Cross St market and also near port coventry is locally authentic; a blue collar type joint, along with LP steamers in Locust Pt

      1. w
        Warthog Aug 4, 2009 11:59 AM

        The standard recs have been mentioned already by other posters, or no doubt will be soon.

        That said, people often assume that because Baltimore is a port city, that it has a seafood culture. Other than blue crabs, rockfish, and maybe oysters, though, it doesn't. There are still watermen on the Eastern Shore and in southern Maryland, but Baltimore isn't a "fishing fleet" town, and there really isn't a strong seafood dining scene here - or at least no more than in even the most landlocked American cities of similar size.

        In other words, if you're coming to Baltimore expecting "fresh off the boat mere hours ago" seafood like one might expect in some coastal cities, you won't find it here. The recs mentioned by others will get you good seafood, prepared well, but for the most part, it's the same "fresh off the jet or truck" seafood that you might get anywher else, not "fresh off the Baltimore docks."

        I don't say all this to discourage you, but merely to manage expectations.

        34 Replies
        1. re: Warthog
          c
          charmedgirl Aug 4, 2009 02:09 PM

          It makes me very, very sad to agree with Warthog. Any Baltimore chef reading this site should take note: there is a customer base (local and tourist alike) ready and waiting to spend their dollars on a restaurant really and truly devoted to seafood.

          1. re: charmedgirl
            h
            Hal Laurent Aug 4, 2009 05:30 PM

            Yes, and what's even sadder is that it wasn't always true. Back when the Inner Harbor was a working port area and the wholesale fish market was downtown a few blocks away things were different. Connolly's Seafood was right at the waterside on Pratt St.

          2. re: Warthog
            baltoellen Aug 6, 2009 04:38 AM

            Warthog,

            I really hate to disagree with you, but I have to. Of course, Baltimore has a seafood culture! Just because fresh seafood doesn't come right from the water surrounding the city doesn't mean that there isn't a robust culture. It's because we eat "blue crabs, rockfish, and maybe oysters" that proves the point. Many people here grew up eating that kind of food, and there are traditional recipes for how to prepare it.

            We've had many discussions here regarding SE Asian and South American crab meat. Of course, that means that there can be crab meat across the country, and the world. Does that mean that MD-style crabcakes are not part of our culture? We also discuss slurping oysters at Faidley's. Again, except for the people who dislike Lexington Market, that's a pretty accepted part of food culture here.

            I won't even get into how the image of a crab is used from everything from the city's glossy marketing materials to patches used on sleeves on local Boy Scout's uniforms.

            Of course, this could be a discussion of what "food culture" really means. I don't know where the beef in a Vienna Beef hot dog is from, but I would doubt that it's from downtown Chicago. Does that mean that Chicago doesn't have a hot dog culture?

            1. re: baltoellen
              c
              charmedgirl Aug 6, 2009 05:54 AM

              I'm not sure why Joe's post (which is similar to Ellen's) and my response got deleted, but I (again) want to just say that I am not disagreeing that Maryland has wonderful varieties of seafood and that many preparations and traditions associated with that seafood can be found in the homes of Baltimoreans all over the city. But again, it seems to me there are almost NO Baltimore restaurants that primarily focus on seafood and serve it in a consistently delicious and creative way. If I'm wrong about that and missing out on some Baltimore gems, please, please tell me. I'd love for that to be the case.

              1. re: charmedgirl
                baltoellen Aug 6, 2009 07:00 AM

                charmedgirl,

                I'm not sure I understand, and I don't equate the fact that's there's no seafood place on rotting piers, with the smell of brackish water in the air, a sign that there aren't seafood places around town, or that we don't have a "seafood culture," as described by Warthog. Really, do people expect some Baltimore version of the Gorton's fisherman to be wandering around the inner harbor, wearing a yellow slicker and waders, and using salty language? I'm not trying to be mocking, I just don't understand what people imagine a city with a "seafood culture" looks like.

                Mourning the loss of Connolly's or the Chesapeake Restaurant doesn't mean that there aren't other places doing a fine job with MD seafood, or preparing non-MD seafood in a MD-style. For example, look at the other suggestions on this thread, Mama's on the Half Shell, and Henninger's, which, as Hon pointed out, no one thinks of as a seafood place, but has plenty of interesting preparations on the menu.

                If someone could provide examples of some cities with a true "seafood culture," I may understand what some people are getting at here.

                1. re: baltoellen
                  c
                  charmedgirl Aug 6, 2009 07:10 AM

                  Let me distance myself from the "seafood culture" thing. That was not my take away from Warthog's post, I'm not really sure what it means either, and it wasn't the point I was agreeing with. Basically, it seems to me that there are not many restaurants in Baltimore where the chef takes full advantage of the abundant seafood Maryland (or other parts of the great big wide world) has to offer. Sure, there are restaurants that serve seafood, but few that specialize in it, few that revel in it. We don't have many local, non-chain Baltimore restaurants to compete with the McCormick and Schmicks, Legal Seafoods and Oceanaires. And that makes me sad. When I lived in Seattle there were a bazillion restaurants where seafood was done almost exclusively and done right. I really, really miss that.

                  1. re: charmedgirl
                    baltoellen Aug 6, 2009 09:35 AM

                    Ok. I think I understand. You're thinking of a restaurant that pretty much only specializes in seafood. I see it very differently. The mere fact that you can find crabcakes on the menu from the Sip & Bite to the Prime Rib shows, to me, how completely integrated seafood, well, crab, is in our food "culture."

                    I haven't spent tons of times in New Orleans, but have visited a few times. Besides going to a place specializing in seafood in a close in 'burb, I don't remember ever eating at a "seafood restaurant," and, for the most part, I don't remember eating much other than seafood.....

                    And, yes, it makes me sad too that the "seafood restaurants" in Baltimore are the non-local chains. But, I think that those of us who care, or who bother to get advice from the locals on this board, end up knowing better.

                    1. re: baltoellen
                      h
                      hon Aug 6, 2009 11:08 AM

                      speaking of the 'burbs, I can think of plenty of Seafood restaurants like The Ocean Pride, The Crack Pot, The Seaside, The Crab Shanty and on and on and on.

                      1. re: hon
                        d
                        dcopeland Aug 6, 2009 12:31 PM

                        I think Baltimore is definitely a seafood town. I used to live in Chicago, and the fish there was terrible...always unreliable unless at a very expensive restaurant. Baltimore, in addition to having great local treats like crabs and oysters, has at least in easy access to the major east coast fish markets which makes the fish affordable and very reliable.

                        Whenever I have people come to visit me, we often go out for seafood and they think of this as a seafood town because of all the great stuff we've eaten. Among the highlights:

                        Mama's on the Half Shell - oysters, scallops, everything
                        Bertha's - mussels
                        Nick's, L.P. Steamers, Riptide - crabs and shrimp
                        Faidley's and Duda's - crabcakes
                        Blue Moon and Miss Shirley's - crabmeat and seafood infused breakfast
                        Helen's - fin fish

                        1. re: dcopeland
                          h
                          hon Aug 6, 2009 12:41 PM

                          been to Chicago quite a few times, definately not a seafood town. Now steak on the other hand...

                      2. re: baltoellen
                        w
                        Warthog Aug 6, 2009 08:31 PM

                        My point was that once you get past the crabs and rockfish, you won't find much in the way of seafood dishes or preparation beyond the standards that you'll find anywhere else.

                        By contrast, if you go almost any city on the California coast, you can find places that have a wider variety of types and preparation of seafood than in all of Baltimore and 'burbs combined. They'll serve you fish you've never even heard of, and they tout their direct connection to the actual fishing fleet, not to the local equivalent of the Jessup Seafood Market. You'll hear customers at such places debating about whether such and such a variety of fish from fishing ground A is better than that from fishing ground B, or whether this species of salmon, or tuna or whatever is better than some other species. They are into it to a degree that Baltimore simply doesn't match.

                        Here, it's crabs, rock and oysters, and after that we're back to generic seafood that you can find anyplace in the continental U.S. We don't have places specializing in a wide variety of seafood varieties and preparation styles because the customer base in this area does not demand it. There's no perceived market.

                        By the argument that the presence of crabs, rockfish and/or oysters on the menu of a wide range of restaurants around here constitutes an "integration" of seafood into our culture, then surely Chicago qualifies as a hot seafood town because so many restaurants there have sauteed lake perch and/or shrimp de jonghe as their "token" regional fish dish that is on nearly every menu, along with the ubiquitous-across-the-U.S. standbys of salmon, flounder or red snapper.

                        I've not been to New Orleans, but I expect that when you eat seafood there, it's not the same two or three seafood dishes on the menu of every restaurant. Even if they don't have many places specializing in seafood, I'd suspect that the range of options you see, and the quality and creativity of the preparation, is *much* better than what you find here.

                        Let me try putting it another way. If you were told to eat seafood on consecutive nights in the Baltimore area, all expenses paid, until you ran out of *different* dishes to try, how long would you last? I'd bet that there are a whole lot of other cities in the U.S., coastal and other wise, where the variety, quality and general affinity for seafood is such that you'd take a much longer time to exhaust the possibilities. You'd also probably enjoy the exercise much more because it would be *better*. Maybe not the quality of the fish itself (we do have *access* to good fish), but the quality of preparation, the love of the food.

                        Granted, maybe you love crab cakes and could eat them every night for eternity, but hopefully you get my point. By comparison to many other places in the U.S., Baltimore is pretty narrowly focused when it comes to seafood, and on the whole, we aren't very demanding once you get beyond that core of crabs, crab cakes, and maybe rockfish or oysters.

                        Other than rabid debates over who does the best steamed crabs or crab cakes, you'd be hard pressed to get much more enthusiasm for "who's better?" comparisons.How many of us can even name a favorite non-crab seafood dish from a restaurant in this area, as in "Oh, you GOTTA go to <name> for the <dish>"? It just doesn't happen that much. Non-crab seafood simply is not a category that we tend to tout to visitors as a "don't leave Baltimore without trying it" genre.

                        If you had to nominate a restaurant in Baltimore for "best seafood in the country" who the heck would you vote for? In most other coastal cities of our size or bigger, you could probably find a viable candidate. There may be one around here, but if so, how many people in Baltimore even know or care? It's da crabs, Hon.

                        We just don't *care* all that much about seafood - other than crabs. The bar here is simply not set very high for seafood, and the public at large doesn't seem to mind one bit.

                        If you think I'm wrong, please tell me where the "must have" non-crab seafood is in Baltimore - I've certainly not tasted it.

                        1. re: Warthog
                          d
                          dcopeland Aug 7, 2009 05:17 AM

                          Pan seared scallops over creamed spinach and potato pancake appetizer at Mama's on the Half Shell

                          1. re: dcopeland
                            h
                            hon Aug 7, 2009 06:10 AM

                            Yum!

                          2. re: Warthog
                            baltoellen Aug 7, 2009 05:23 AM

                            I didn't realize that to be a "seafood culture," that once has to conform to a standard of multiple preparations of a wide-variety of seafood.

                            Who set this standard?

                            Isn't it in our "seafood culture," to, as Hon said, focus on non-"fussy" preparations? I didn't realize that just because we focus on the things that come (or came) from what HL Mencken called, “an immense protein factory," and not focus on their fru fru preparations, that we were in the no "seafood culture" camp.

                            You know, go to one of those Chicago, or Des Moines, or Lincoln, Nebraska, restaurants with seafood on the menu, and ask them where the shrimp is from. I'll bet the answer you'll get is "the freezer!"

                            1. re: baltoellen
                              h
                              hon Aug 7, 2009 06:09 AM

                              This is definately a seafood eating town, just because most of our seafood doesn't come from the Chesapeake is irrelevant, eating seafood is part of Baltimore culture. From raw oysters and clams at Nicks in the Cross Street Market to sushi at Matsuri to the Sizzling Shrimp with Romesco at the Woodberry Kitchen to the Shrimp Salad at Johnny Dee's The Lounge to the Mussels at John Stevens to the Whole Dorade Royale at The Black Olive to the Fried Calamari at Mamas on the Half Shell, etc. - it's everywhere and I could on and on and not one of those things had crab in it anywhere.

                              1. re: baltoellen
                                w
                                Warthog Aug 7, 2009 06:28 AM

                                Who said anything about "fussy" or "fru-fru"? I certainly didn't. Competent would be nice, though. I think there's more to seafood beyond "Ya want dat broiled or fried, Hon?"

                                As for shrimp from the freezer, I'd bet if you go anywhere in Baltimore and ask about the shrimp, you'll get the same answer. And your point is?

                                I'll bet if you go to Charleston, or New Orleans, or anywhere along the Gulf Coast, or the California coast, however, you'll likely get a very different answer. They live near the water, and they take advantage of that fact. It shows in their whole approach to food.

                                That's the point - aside from crabs, Baltimore is functionally equivalent, as far as seafood, to any non-coastal city in the U.S. We may live right on a bay and have an ocean somewhat nearby as the crow flies, but there is no more connection to either of them, other than crabs and maybe rockfish or oysters, than you'd find in Des Moines.

                                Go to NYC, go to Boston, go anywhere up and down the coast, and you'll find some evidence in the restaurants and in the eating habits of at least agood chunk of the populace that "Hey, this is a city that's near an ocean!" You'll find at least some restaurants specializing in seafood, or featuring really good seafood as part of a broader menu, not just having one or two aquatic items on the menu because they feel they must.

                                You'll also find people who grew up eating really good seafood, who demand it when they go out to eat. Other than crabs, that simply isn't the case here, or if it is, I don't know where these bastions of seafood appreciation are.

                                Call it what you want, Baltimore is a crab town, which to me is a very small subset of being a good town for seafood in general. If you believe that being a very good town for crabs equates to being a really good seafood town, we're in violent agreement - I fully conceded the preeminence of crab in Baltimore, and I'd put Baltimore's love of crabs up against any other crustacean fixation in the country. I just don't think that being a one-trick pony makes a city a good seafood town in general.

                                Imagine a city where every restaurant in town, from the bars to the swankiest places, made General Tso's chicken. No other Chinese to speak of, just the one dish and minor variants, any place you wanted to go. In that scenario, I wouldn't say that hypothetical city was a good city for Chinese food. I'd say it's a good place for General Tso's Chicken.

                                We've got excellent crab-based dishes in this area. We don't, for the most part, have excellent seafood outside that niche. In most cases, we don't even have adequately prepared seafood beyond crabs. We have the same sort of "usual suspects" seafood that you could find almost anywhere.

                                Since Chicago has been mentioned several times, and given that I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, I'll put it this way. Chicago is not a strong seafood town. You can find good seafood there, both to purchase for home cooking, and in restaurants, but you have to know where to look. As far as seafood goes, in my opinion, Baltimore is Chicago, with the addition of really good crabs, or if you want to look at it the other way, Chicago's seafood scene is what you'd have left if you removed the crabs from Baltimore.

                                If that's a good seafood town, then Baltimore is a good seafood town. I think there's more to aspire to.

                                1. re: Warthog
                                  h
                                  hon Aug 7, 2009 06:51 AM

                                  Why not "Baltimore is an Oyster Town", plenty of places here to slurp down oysters and clams for that matter. I just disagree with you, I grew up here and it was always all about seafood whether it be crabs (yes, that one trick pony the crab) or the various fish my Dad caught or the oysters and clams he and my Uncle would always shuck with a cold beer on hand. I love the seafood I find in Baltimore much more so then what I have had in NYC and I am there several times a year and way more so then Chicago and I have been there about 11 times. I think we are very lucky. Sorry you don't feel that way.

                                  1. re: Warthog
                                    baltoellen Aug 7, 2009 07:18 AM

                                    You were the one who talked about preparation:

                                    "By contrast, if you go almost any city on the California coast, you can find places that have a wider variety of types and preparation of seafood than in all of Baltimore and 'burbs combined."

                                    (And, oh, BTW, just in case you haven't noticed: Baltimore is on the Patapsco and not right on the coast.)

                                    What do they have in Boston that makes it have a good "seafood culture" to you? Clams? "Chowdah?" Lobster rolls? Scrod? I lived there, and never thought of it as "more" of a seafood town than Baltimore. And, NYC? What gives you the sense that they have a robust "seafood culture?"

                                    Yes, crabs are a huge part of our "seafood culture." And, so is shrimp, and oysters, and rockfish, and even "lake trout."

                                    One only needs to look at discussions here from crabs to crabcakes (ooops, there are those ubiquitous shellfish again) to crab soup (ooops! did it again!) to shrimp salad, to lake trout, to raw and padded oysters, and that amazing oyster appetizer at Henninger's, to shad roe season to realize that people are passionate about their seafood.

                                    1. re: baltoellen
                                      h
                                      hon Aug 7, 2009 07:42 AM

                                      OMG, did you mention crab???
                                      Clam Chowdah? Creme of Crab Soup
                                      Lobster Roll? Shrimp Salad
                                      Scrod? Rockfish or perch or trout or spot or whatever (lets not forget we have an extensive river system with abundant fresh water fish)

                                      1. re: hon
                                        h
                                        hon Aug 7, 2009 07:46 AM

                                        also the seafood culture in NYC is about other places seafood cuisines, New Orleans? Maras Homemade, Acme Bar and Grill, Baltimore? City Crab or Clemente's Maryland Crab House, New England? Mary's Fish Camp or Pearl Oyster Bar.

                                      2. re: baltoellen
                                        t
                                        tbw Aug 13, 2009 09:25 PM

                                        What Boston has that qualifies it as a seafood town is an active commercial fishing fleet and an active fresh fish auction.

                                        NYC is the largest seafood market on the east coast. Portland, Gloucester, New Bedford, Fairhaven, Newport, Point Judith, Shinnicock, Montauk, Pt Pleasant and virtually every other port on the eastern seafood ship product into the city.

                                        Does that indicate a robust seafood culture? I think so. With few exceptions, most fresh fish finding it's way to Jessup comes via NYC.

                                        And not to nitpick, but scrod is a size of fish, not a species.

                                        1. re: tbw
                                          baltoellen Aug 14, 2009 06:39 AM

                                          Thought it was a whitefish, like cod. And, just to clarify, I'm not saying that Boston and NYC don't have a "seafood culture," rather saying that that Baltimore also has one.

                                          1. re: baltoellen
                                            t
                                            tbw Aug 14, 2009 08:59 PM

                                            In years past cod, haddock and pollack (atlantic) were sold as either steak (7 lbs or greater with head off), market ( 4-7 lbs, head on), and scrod (under 3 lbs). Size restrictions have since made the "scrod" size illegal.

                                            The whole "seafood culture" thing is pretty hard to quantify and we all run things through our own set of filters so no surprise of the disagreements on this issue.

                                            I'm from New England so naturally think the seafood there is the best. Plus, unlike Baltimore, no one has an accent.

                                            1. re: tbw
                                              baltoellen Aug 15, 2009 05:14 AM

                                              And, there's that gigantic cod in the Statehouse, too. Thanks for the quip about New Englanders lacking accents. Once of the best laughs I've had on this thread.

                                  2. re: Warthog
                                    j
                                    Jackzig Dec 28, 2009 10:23 AM

                                    To think that Baltimore is not a seafood town is absurd. Do you consider Boston a seafood town? New York? New Orleans? Boston has clams and lobster. How many varieties of seafood do you require for a town to be considered a "seafood town"? Yeah, we have crabs (the best in the world), oysters that stand with the best on the east or west coast, and rockfish, the most delectable and sweetest fish you'll find anywhere. There are many, many restaurants in Baltimore that prepare these items to perfection.

                                    Not only Baltimore but the eastern two thirds of Maryland is known for it's seafood all over the country. Travel anywhere and you are bound to see "Maryland Style" crabs, oysters, shrimp on the menu. I've never sampled one that does it right either. We ordered "Maryland Crab Cakes" from a restaurant in Milford, Penna. They had corn, onions, peas, and carrots in them. I sent them back, the owner came to my table and told me he had been to Baltimore and that's just how they made them. I asked him where, and he couldn't remember, but still insisted his were true Maryland Crab Cakes. He begrudgingly took them back and gave me a piece of salmon. That was 13 years ago, I live 3 miles from his restaurant, and I've never been back.

                                    I've had seafood in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, LA and San Fran. With the exception of Houston where I had great shrimp, and San Fran. I've not had memorable seafood anywhere.

                                    So Baltimore (and MAryland) might only be known for three or four varieties of seafood, it's a seafood town, one of the best in the nation.

                                    1. re: Jackzig
                                      h
                                      hon Dec 28, 2009 12:49 PM

                                      You tell'em!

                                      1. re: Jackzig
                                        h
                                        Hal Laurent Dec 28, 2009 02:42 PM

                                        Unfortunately, the Maryland crab cake is being devalued, what with the increasing prevalence in restaurants of the pretty, large lump, but not terribly flavorful Asian crabmeat rather than North American blue crab. In a few years, if it hasn't happened already, visitors will wonder what's so special about Maryland crab cakes.

                                        1. re: Hal Laurent
                                          baltoellen Dec 28, 2009 03:13 PM

                                          I doubt that seriously. The Chesapeake will have to be totally void of crabs first.
                                          Oops this is BaltoMike and not Balto ellen---she forgot to log out!!!!!!!!

                                          1. re: baltoellen
                                            h
                                            Hal Laurent Dec 28, 2009 04:05 PM

                                            The problem is that restaurants are using the cheaper Asian crab meat for crabcakes rather than the considerably more expensive blue crab. John Shields has allegedly reported customers sending back crabcakes made with real blue crab and complaining about them tasting "fishy".

                                  3. re: charmedgirl
                                    d
                                    deangold Aug 7, 2009 05:33 AM

                                    I would like o note that there is really not a lot of "abundant seafood" int eh Chesapeake. While the rockfish has come back, the rest of the fishery is in horrible condition with the crab population and oyster population in single digit percentages of historical levels. It would be better for us to leave much of the seafood in the Chesapeake and consume sustainable caught fish from other waters where the fisheries re in better shape.

                                    But do support the sustainable Rockfish fishery!

                                    1. re: deangold
                                      t
                                      tbw Aug 15, 2009 09:03 AM

                                      Much of the rockfish served in restaurants is farmed.

                                      Sustainable? Of course. Great for portion control? Absolutely! Tasty? Yup.

                                      But the whole concept of eating something raised on pellets doesn't always sit right with me. I know, what about salmon, most poultry and the rest. I'm just saying...

                                      1. re: deangold
                                        h
                                        hon Aug 15, 2009 09:12 AM

                                        actually thats not true, there was a big increase in the crab population this year:

                                        "The results of the most recent Bay-wide winter dredge survey, which is conducted annually by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), estimate the total number of crabs overwintering in the Chesapeake Bay during 2008-2009 has increased from 280 million in 2007-2008 to just over 400 million."

                                        1. re: hon
                                          f
                                          FoiGras Aug 15, 2009 09:35 AM

                                          Then why are the prices still outrageously high? FoiGras

                                    2. re: baltoellen
                                      l
                                      lawhound Aug 6, 2009 08:00 PM

                                      For agood example of this, tho not exclusively seafood, consider Gertrudes, which aims to - and often does - deliver the essence of Chesapeake Bay seafood, cooked to a very high level.

                              2. f
                                FoiGras Aug 4, 2009 03:43 PM

                                I've always found the seafood at Kali's Court in Fells Point to be well executed, fresh and delicious.

                                Blue Sea Grill is another favorite.

                                Just stay away from the chains, such as Oceannaire, Rusty Scupper, etc. FoiGras

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: FoiGras
                                  a
                                  abovethewaves Aug 4, 2009 04:21 PM

                                  Oceannaire has great fresh seafood...it is just rather overpriced. I will agree with Blue Sea Grill though.

                                  I would steer clear of LP Steamers. Everything they serve is frozen out of a box except obviously the crabs and the oysters.

                                  1. re: abovethewaves
                                    d
                                    deangold Aug 4, 2009 05:19 PM

                                    what else would one eat there? Well the shrimp are good too. When I eat crab, crab is all I eat.

                                    1. re: deangold
                                      baltoellen Aug 6, 2009 04:44 AM

                                      I wouldn't even eat the crabs at LP Steamers.

                                      1. re: baltoellen
                                        h
                                        hon Aug 6, 2009 06:00 AM

                                        Me either, not sure why people go back there, the crabs are mediocre at best.

                                        1. re: baltoellen
                                          h
                                          hon Aug 6, 2009 06:08 AM

                                          75% of the menu at Henningers Tavern is seafood and it's delicious. When you think of Henningers do you think, "seafood restaurant"? Probably not but really it is. Thats the thing about Baltimore, even the most modest bar can have great steamed shrimp and crab cakes and while not "creative", it epitomizes Baltimore seafood. In fact, I think the best seafood is unfussy.

                                          1. re: hon
                                            c
                                            charmedgirl Aug 6, 2009 06:39 AM

                                            You're right, I don't think of Henningers as a seafood restaurant. The menu right now is 75% seafood (and I did just check), but I'm not sure that's always the case. I certainly don't remember that being the case in January. Regardless, you are also right that their food, including their seafood, is delicious. But last time I was there in April I had bronzini and it was excellent.

                                    2. re: FoiGras
                                      d
                                      dcopeland Aug 5, 2009 06:32 AM

                                      Oceanaire is a terrific restaurant. Is it particular to Baltimore? No. Do they have a dozen someodd locations elsewhere? Yes.
                                      But it's also a beautiful, upscale destination with delicious fish that is very fresh and occasionally local. To throw it in with tourists traps like the Rusty Scupper is disingenuous. If I were visiting from a city that did not have an Oceanaire in it, I would go there in a heartbeat.

                                      1. re: dcopeland
                                        schlimmerkerl Aug 5, 2009 08:50 AM

                                        Thanks to all. Great suggestions. I especially appreciate the caution against expecting "fresh off the boat". Consider my expectations well managed.

                                        1. re: schlimmerkerl
                                          a
                                          abovethewaves Aug 5, 2009 09:13 AM

                                          Catonsville Gourmet is a great place for seafood even though they are about 10 mins outside the city. They always have a variety of fresh fish to choose from and a great oyster selection.

                                          It's BYOB with a wine store across the street and my one of my new favorite restaurants.

                                          1. re: abovethewaves
                                            p
                                            pomme de terre Aug 6, 2009 12:53 PM

                                            A second recommendation for Catonsville Gourmet. Definitely a bit out of the OP's way, but if you're a die-hard seafood person, well worth the trip.

                                    3. d
                                      ditsyquoin Aug 5, 2009 06:59 PM

                                      I know it's old hat by I recently revisited Bertha's Mussels at Fell's Point and really enjoyed it. I hadn't been there in ten years and it it seemed much improved from what I remembered. Service was spot on, the beer menu was interesting (try the dry cider), the mussels were fresh, plentiful and perfectly cooked with a great choice of dipping sauces, unlimited crusty bread and butter were served to sop up the sauce. The two of us started by ordering one mussel platter each but they were so good we ended up ordering a third to share. I guess it was 72 + mussels it all that we consumed and the price was quite reasonable.

                                      Our perfect day in Balto is to go the American Visionary Arts Museum, take the water taxi across to Fells Point, eat at Bertha's and then buy dessert next door at Pitango Gelato which we eat outside and and watch the people.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: ditsyquoin
                                        w
                                        Woof Woof Woof Aug 5, 2009 07:55 PM

                                        Yea Pitango Gelato from what I have seen the last few hot/warm summer night recently has been hopping. But damn they are expensive. For the the small "kiddie" cup that is almost $5. You know one of the "kiddie" cups you get at Coldstone? Yea the little baby one you can get at Pitango Gelato It is $4 and change. But pretty sure it is all homemade there at PG and I am sure all Natural and very tasty.

                                        Back to seafood..

                                        1. re: Woof Woof Woof
                                          d
                                          ditsyquoin Aug 5, 2009 08:10 PM

                                          It may be small but the flavors are intense, besides you can choose two flavors per cup. The tiny spoons make it last longer. After gorging on mussels, the two of us share the small cup and debate which flavor is better. A bit of sweetness is all you need after the saltiness of mussels.

                                          1. re: ditsyquoin
                                            p
                                            pomme de terre Aug 6, 2009 12:54 PM

                                            I agree -- I always feel like I get my money's worth at PG, especially because they will combine as many flavors as you want in one cup.

                                      2. a
                                        abovethewaves Aug 7, 2009 06:50 AM

                                        Don't forget about the tuna, mahi, flounder, mako, and clams regularly caught out of all the marinas around OC.

                                        1. w
                                          Warthog Aug 7, 2009 03:44 PM

                                          Having emerged somewhat charred from the firestorm over whether Baltimore is a good city for seafood, I'll get back to the original question and recommend Zorbas on Eastern Avenue.

                                          It's a Greek neighborhood bar/restaurant, but specializes in charcoal grilled items of all sorts, in a Greek style. The seafood there is pretty much whatever they happen to find at their fishmonger's that looks good, and the preparation is pretty much limited to grilled over the charcoal or pan sauteed, but within those constraints, there is aquatic bliss to be had. They usually have something like three to six different types of fish each night, ranging all over the map as far as sizes and types of flesh, but it's all pretty good stuff.

                                          It would be a longer cab ride than most of the places mentioned so far, but if this sounds like your kind of place, it might be worth the extra cab fare.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Warthog
                                            c
                                            charmedgirl Aug 7, 2009 05:18 PM

                                            And the ocotpus at Zorbas is outstanding.

                                            (BTW Warthog, I agree with almost everything you said upthread, and I appreciate that you took the time to state your position so clearly and reasonably. I usually get too frustrated to bother.)

                                            1. re: Warthog
                                              b
                                              BaltoMike Aug 7, 2009 05:42 PM

                                              Zorba's has one mean grilled rockfish (one of the big 4 of Maryland Seafood!). One of the best I have ever had. BTW, I couldn't disagree with Warthog more. We were in Southern Florida once, right on the Gulf of Mexico. We had fresh local shrimp that was delicious. We asked how they prepared it. The waitress said she would show us. She brought out a huge can of Old Bay!

                                              1. re: BaltoMike
                                                w
                                                Warthog Aug 8, 2009 07:57 AM

                                                OK, I'm puzzled. What exactly are you disagreeing with me about? I recommended Zorba's, and you say they grilled one of the best rockfish you ever had.

                                                If the purported disagreement is based in you having delicious shrimp with Old Bay in Florida, I'm not clear what the connection is.

                                                1. re: Warthog
                                                  b
                                                  BaltoMike Aug 8, 2009 03:49 PM

                                                  I agree, Zorba's grilled Rock Fish is Amazing.
                                                  I disagree with most everything you have posted on this thread.
                                                  To say Baltimore minus crabs equals Chicago is almost laughable.
                                                  I have been to many other US cities and almost always do I see, "Maryland-style" this or "Maryland-Style" that; be it crab cakes. soup or steamed shrimp made with Old Bay. Imititation of someone else's way of doing seafood can be a high form of a compliment. The fact that the OP wants to venture to a seafood place while in Baltimore also means there is enough of a seafood culture here, that even outsiders recognize it. We were in Europe once an an Icelander said to us, "We know all about your Chesepeake seafood." Wow. The bay aint what it use to be, I'll give you that, but "culture" takes time to develop, making the latest dish from the newest most popular fish to me is almost is almost trendy and not necessariy what I would call -culture.
                                                  I would recommend to the OP, if you havent any transportation, walk south down Light Street until you get to Cross Street Market and go to the back. You will find a jovial atmosphere and people eating crabs, oysters, shrimp, sushi, you name it, you can't go wrong. And chances are you will talk with some locals and they can tell you where else to go. Guaranteed a good time.
                                                  If the OP has access to a rental car, I would suggest going out to Schultz's on Old Eastern Avenue in Essex for a more varied menu (they have killer gumbo!) of seafood both Maryland style and other--Plus some real old Baltimore Atmosphere. You won't go wrong there either.
                                                  Have fun and enjoy your time here!!!!!

                                            2. b
                                              BaltoMike Aug 7, 2009 05:26 PM

                                              I would head to Essex in Eastern Baltimore County.
                                              Schultz's on Old Eastern Avenue is one place with old Baltimore atmosphere.
                                              It may be a bit of a cab ride but the menu prices for what you get may make up for it.

                                              1. h
                                                hon Aug 8, 2009 08:07 AM

                                                "Let me try putting it another way. If you were told to eat seafood on consecutive nights in the Baltimore area, all expenses paid, until you ran out of *different* dishes to try, how long would you last? I'd bet that there are a whole lot of other cities in the U.S., coastal and other wise, where the variety, quality and general affinity for seafood is such that you'd take a much longer time to exhaust the possibilities. You'd also probably enjoy the exercise much more because it would be *better*. Maybe not the quality of the fish itself (we do have *access* to good fish), but the quality of preparation, the love of the food."

                                                In this town, you could last a very long time, it would take me a couple of weeks to go thru the Mama's on the Half Shell seafood entrees alone. Move onto the next restaurant, lets say The Black Olive and different seafood from Mamas, lots of entrees. I couldn't disagree with you more on this one or frankly your whole argument. Can I ask, ,where did you grow up?
                                                You obviously have some giant chip on your shoulder about Baltimore.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: hon
                                                  w
                                                  Warthog Aug 8, 2009 10:26 AM

                                                  You can ask where I grew up, but if you'd actually *read* my prior posts, you'd see I already told you, and I did so in this very thread. I'm from the south suburbs of Chicago.

                                                  And I have no "giant chip on my shoulder about Baltimore". I just don't see Baltimore as the paragon of seafood restaurant Nirvana that some apparently believe it to be.

                                                  Others who appear to be from Baltimore have posted on both sides, so the whole "where are you from" issue seems to be a red herring, pardon the pun. I see no point in getting into personal attacks or trying to dissect the psychology and motives of other posters.

                                                  I've tried to state my viewpoint as clearly as I can, but it appears that no matter what I say, we're not even agreeing on the basic expectations or definitions. As noted above, some folks apparently aren't even reading my posts closely, and there's been more than one "counter argument" to things I never said or implied.

                                                  As an example, I expressed a desire for more than a small number of restraurants capable of and offering a variety of preparations of their seafood. That was labelled as favoring "fussy" or "fru fru", as opposed to simple preparations. Excuse me, but there are a wide variety of "simple" preparation techniques for seafood- raw, poaching, steaming (good for whole fish, not just shell fish and crustaceans - ask the Chinese), broiling, deep frying, sauteeing, smoking, curing, charcoal grilling...I could go on, but you get the idea. None of those technique mandate heavy seasoning, sauces, weird garnishes or anything else that I would describe as "fussy" or "fru fru", nor did I advocate any particular seasonings, sauces or the like. But no, my comments on simply desiring a choice from range of technique gets derided as favoring "fussy" or "fru fru".

                                                  Can I find exemplars of each of the techniques above in the Baltimore area? YES. Can I find many places that bring all of them to bear on a regular basis? Nowhere near as many places as I can find whose range of possibilities on seafood is "broiled or fried?" "Brolied or fried?" appears to me to be the rule in this area whe it comes to range of preparation techniques, not the exception.

                                                  Another example was where I was talking about what people grew up eating and demanding *in restaurants*. That comment turned into a discussion of somebody's relatives in the area who fish for a hobby and eating what they catch. Huh? If we want to talk about the number of fishing enthusiasts or what home cooks do, in Baltimore, that's another topic entirely - one that has little correlation to the point I was attempting to make.

                                                  Various posters hare pointed out a small number of individual exceptions to some of my points, but my whole thrust is that in my view, they are *exceptions*. What I perceive as a general rule in the area is something else entirely. Agin, it's my opinion, based on my experience here over the last couple decades.

                                                  It seems like people are trying to apply some sort of seafood calculus of how being superior on crabs and getting some lower grade on "everything else" maps to a more general seafood scene elsewhere. I've tried to state that I prefer more variety as the rule, not the exception, and I've readily conceded that Baltimore rocks crabs (pardon the pun). I just don't weight the crab excellence in weighing the scene as a whole.

                                                  If one can analogize to judging a body-building contest, others seem to be saying "Our guy Mr. Baltimore has the most muscles!" (pun intended), while I'm saying "Yeah, I agree, but his muscle development is all in his forearms. Nothing else is really developed beyond the typical muscle structure of the average guy. He looks like Popeye! I'm voting for the guy whose whole physique is developed and toned, who looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his body-building days."

                                                  Bottom line, in my travels, I've found greater variety and better quality of seafood (aside from crabs) and of seafood restaurants (whether seafood-specific, or the seafood portion of more general restaurant menus) in many other cities, especially in ones with similar proximity to waterways and oceans to that of Baltimore. I do acknowledge that Baltimore stands alone when it comes to superiority in all forms of blue crab preparation and consumption.

                                                  Others appear to feel that in their travels they have found Baltimore's seafood restaurants to compare favorably in quantity, variety, and quality to the selection available in other cities. Maybe we went different places and got different impressions of the same cities, or maybe we went to different cities. I don't know. YMMV

                                                  I suppose we could go point by point and haul out phone books or search other Chowhound boards to see how many raw bars, seafood restaurants, menu items, or whatever are listed in various cities, but I'm sure that whatever methodology was chosen would then become the center of another debate about how one properly compares one city to another.

                                                  However I try to state things, though, my words have sometimes been taken out of context, sometimes not understood, and perhaps not even completely read. Feel free to blame me. I am not getting my intended message though. I have failed to communicate clearly. But since it appears that I'm not able to express myself in a way that gets the point across, and that others are getting increasingly agitated as a result, there's no value to further conflict.

                                                  I hope the O.P. finds and enjoys his seafood, and my apologies for my part in the divergence and distractions from that goal. I'm done on this topic.

                                                  1. re: Warthog
                                                    Joe H Aug 8, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                    Warthog, I was the first to respond to your criticisms and my comment was deleted. At this point I only want to point out that many on this board disagree not with your opinions but rather with your epistemology that frames these opinions. I am one of these.

                                                    Regardless, you express yourself very well and I've enjoyed reading your posts; I thank you for taking the time to share with the others on this board. It's been one of the better discussions that I've seen on CH over the years. Thank you, sir.

                                                    1. re: Warthog
                                                      baltoellen Aug 8, 2009 12:49 PM

                                                      Hey Warthog,

                                                      Virtual handshake here (or, a real one when I run into you in person). But, just one more quibble: From my reading of this thread, no one stated that Baltimore is, to use your term, a "paragon of seafood restaurant Nirvana," but rather took issue (and, here I'm repeating myself, feeling as though my words haven't been read) with the fact that Baltimore didn't have much of a "seafood culture." Further, I disagreed with your proposition that, by definition, a city with a good "seafood culture" is one that prepares food from the sea in a variety of ways. We can argue merits of different dishes, but until we agree come to an agreement of what a "seafood culture" is, this conversation will not go anywhere.

                                                      I'm glad you suggested that the OP go to Zorba's. A great place. And, I've read your great posts on threads about pizza, where you go into specifics about crusts and sauces, and various preparations of, say Joe Squared versus Iggies. In this thread, I saw nothing but grand generalizations. For example, not only did you not name a restaurant on the California coast, you didn't even bother to name a city or town that, by your definition, had a "seafood culture."

                                                      I could go on, but at this point, we're definitely just going around in circles. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you over a beer when I next run into you at some pizza place, or even over a crabcake (yikes!) around town.

                                                      To, the OP: Enjoy your meal in Baltimore! Let us know where you end up.

                                                  2. crackers Aug 8, 2009 12:20 PM

                                                    For the highest quality seafood, with spectacular service and close to the Inner Harbor, take yourselves to Baltimore's finest destination for seafood: Charleston. There, enjoy the best cornmeal fried oysters in the city (with some bubbly).

                                                    The most recent posted menu also has these dishes (and depending on how many courses you want, you could really have a great meal with nothing but seafood):
                                                    shellfish bisque,
                                                    shrimp, andouille sausage and grits,
                                                    snapper ceviche,
                                                    salmon tartare,
                                                    grilled grouper,
                                                    pan-roasted wild rockfish,
                                                    southern fish fry with turbot,
                                                    cornmeal-fried softshell crab, and
                                                    sea scallop b.l.t.

                                                    ooops! I forgot the one dish that everybody expects. Well, they have that too:
                                                    Southern lump crabcake, with avocado, tiny tomatoes and arugula oil.

                                                    Enjoy!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: crackers
                                                      schlimmerkerl Aug 13, 2009 11:32 AM

                                                      Thanks again to everyone. A lot to "digest". I will definitely report back. (Next trip-- Charleston.)

                                                      1. re: schlimmerkerl
                                                        Joe H Aug 13, 2009 08:01 PM

                                                        Charleston has the best fried oysters that I have ever had. Also an absolutely superb crab cake that is not "traditional" but may be the equal to the Narrows. Depending on my mood I might say that it is a bit better. You've made an excellent decision to go to Charleston. It is the best restaurant in Baltimore.

                                                    2. p
                                                      pleiades Aug 14, 2009 06:22 PM

                                                      I would also like to add that the best Farm (and Boat)-to-table place we have, Woodberry Kitchen, always takes its seafood very seriously. And although they have no raw bar per se, they offer a superb selection of fresh regional oysters.

                                                      Show Hidden Posts