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New to Baltimore / Steamed crabs. Portions? Prices?

We're doing a day and a half in Baltimore, staying at the Mount Vernon Hotel.

We really want to try some honest-to-goodness Chesapeake Bay crab.

1) What's a normal adult portion for dinner? A dozen?

2) Does any place stand out as being less expensive? I'd love to save a few bucks, our budget is tight.

Thanks! Any advice is appreciated.

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  1. When are you coming to Baltimore? If you're here soon, you won't eat Chesapeake Bay crabs. I think the seasons starts April 1, and the Gulf and North Carolina crabs will dominate for a while. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

    This is a request common enough that it often doesn't get a great response. I can't help on restaurants because I tend to buy crabs at a fish market and eat them at home. But look for some prior threads and a 2009 City Paper pick:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/511463

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/711673

    http://citypaper.com/bob?issueDate=9/...

    4 Replies
    1. re: HowChowBlog

      Thanks, we'll be in Baltimore April 12 and 13.

      1. re: wantonstoup

        You can get Maryland crabmeat now, but that won't do you any good. As HowChow said, you'll get steamed Gulf or NC crab but it will be cooked Maryland style with the spices we use, so it will be fine. No, it will be Great!

        If you'll have a vehicle, check out Gunnings in Hanover Md (not far from BWI airport, www.gunningsonline.com) They will have steamed crabs, great Maryland crab soup, etc and the prices are as reasonable as you are likely to find anywhere. Very casual place. There are many places but Gunnings is our go-to place for company and also to go out with friends when we want a no-fuss crab dinner.

        1. re: ivysmom

          Thanks for the info. Isn't anybody concerned about the oil in the Gulf crabs? They're finding BP oil in all sorts of Gulf seafood right now. I assume the restaurants are generally honest about telling you where the crab is from?

          1. re: wantonstoup

            Most places with tell you where the seafood comes from just ask or call ahead

    2. portion: depends on the person and depends on the size of the crabs. If you get colossal crabs you may only be able to eat 2-3, jumbo crabs- 3-5 per person, Extra large 6-8. Some people can sit down and finish 1-2 dozen. You may want to get other dishes such as crab cake, crab soup, soft shell crab, steamed clams, oysters on the half shell , fries, cole slaw, corn on the cob, sliced tomato etc so your crab consumption will depend also on what else you eat!. we always try to get the biggest crabs available but some people prefer the small ones and like to sit for hours eating dozens of the little ones
      price: depends on supply and demand. varies weekly.
      check out the other blogs on crab houses. everyone has their fav and there is a lot of debate. We like Gunnings, Cantlers (annapolis) Reiters (reisterstown), crossroads tavern (dayton,MD) and Obrycki's
      Make sure you call ahead to make sure the place has crabs and reserve them if you can!

      1. Try Kahler's in Rosedale but call ahead to make sure they have crabs. IMO, they have the best and cheapest crabs. If not, go to Gunnings. Obrycki's is too touristy for me, but you're a tourist so you might like it (and that is not an insult, I promise) and they tend to be higher priced.

        As for portions, it's tough to call. A dozen is a lot for a single, non-crab eater and you may end up spending a lot more than you want to (if you have extras though, I'll take them!) and not eating what you buy. But you really can't buy a single crab. If I were you, I would go for small males because they're cheaper, they don't taste different than large males, and it would be more than enough to split between two people. Plus, if you decide you love them and want another dozen or want another dozen in a larger size, you can always order more. The larger males have more meat on them but, if you're just trying them to say you've had them, then go for the smalls. It'll save you money in the long run and the experience will be the same. Females are cheaper than males but I'm not sure if you can get them this time of year and personally, I much prefer male crabs (though lots of people will argue with me on this).

        Do you know how to pick them (it seems everyone has their own opinion and their own way to pick a crab)?

        It's a shame you won't be here next month because then you could try a real Baltimore delicacy- a soft crab. They may be on the menu at whatever seafood restaurant you choose but DON'T be tempted. These have been frozen from last year and pale in comparison to the real, fresh, in-season soft crab.

        Good luck and enjoy Charm City!

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        Charm City Cafe
        Baltimore, MD, Baltimore, MD

        1 Reply
        1. re: adcarter1

          Ask the wait staff for help picking if you get steamed crabs. It will only take a minute and it will save you from eating some of the weird parts like the gills (don't ask - grin). Don't be embarrassed.

        2. A couple closer in places to consider are Canton Dockside and Bill's, both on the east side of town Probably 10-15 minutes depending on traffic.

          Price-wise, mediums will run you about $45-$50 a dozen and the jumbos will go about $55-$60. Keep in mind that these are ranges and will vary from place to place and through the season. It may be a bit more since you are coming when they are not in season.

          I agree on getting an appetizer and/or side. If you aren't used to eating blue crabs, then you might want to share a dozen with a couple folks.

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          Canton Dockside
          3301 Boston St, Baltimore, MD 21224

          1 Reply
          1. re: ohbilly

            Canton Dockside is a great go-to, for good crabs, a view of the water, and a great beer selection. My understanding is that they source Gulf crabs exclusively though, even in season.

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            Canton Dockside
            3301 Boston St, Baltimore, MD 21224

          2. Chances are you will not get 'honest-to-goodness Chesapeake Bay' crabs. Blue crabs pretty much taste the same wherever they are from, and this time of year I doubt they'll be from the Bay. Also, it is not a budget-conscious restaurant meal, even at a bare-bones place, so you really have to determine if it's worth breaking your budget for. Last time I went, jumbo crabs were $77 per dozen, which was good for three of us. YMMV.

            If you have a car, I suggest calling Bill's Terrace Inn for an 'only-in-Baltimore' experience. They open at 4pm, and the lines form quickly. You can always ask where the crabs are from, if you're concerned about that.

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            Bill's Terrace Inn
            200 Eastern Blvd, Essex, MD 21221

            1. So many choices. Here's a budget conscious one.

              If you find yourself in Federal Hill on a Tuesday, Ryleigh's, a nice bar and OK restaurant has $2 steamed crabs. Check out their Facebook page.

              Full name is Ryleigh's Oyster.
              36 E. Cross St.; 410-539-2093

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              Ryleigh's Oyster Bar
              36 E. Cross Street, Baltimore, MD 21230