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Aug 29, 2012 10:45 AM

Are crabs still in season in Baltimore?

Coming for the weekend and looking for a "crab shack" to get the real deal.
Here in Seattle we have different crabs and you folks seem to have a lot more fun eating yours so I want to give it a try.
Not looking for anything fancy.
And can you explain the "Old Bay" attraction? Do you get a lot, or a little, or none at all?

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  1. JayDK - yes its still blue crab season. Dungeness crab be there is nothing like a blue crab, beer and fresh corn. Depending on the crabhouse some use their own spices instead of Old Bay its a personal preference just like Coke and Pepsi

    Here is a thread to look for crab house in Baltimore which ever one you select go early because it will be busy this weekend

    1. Height of the crab season and crabs should be heavy because it's a full moon this weekend. Maryland styled crabs are steamed in a spice mix..sometimes old bay but usually each place has it's own style. Local places include Costa's, Bills terrace inn, LP Steamers, Bo Brooks, Captain James, and near bwi airport is Gunnings. Near annapolis is Cantler's. My advise spring for jumbo or extra large. Will be expensive but you don't eat as many and don't need to clean as many will be easier for a novice. Also supplement with Maryland sliced tomato, steamed corn on the cob, crab soup, steamed shrimp etc and you won't need as many crabs. With jumbo's if you supplement count on 4 to 6 crabs per person. Of course the beverage of choice with crabs is cold pitchers of draft beer. Enjoy the land of pleasant living and one of the great food experiences anywhere! And crab houses are never fancy. Shorts and t shirts, sandals or sneakers are perfect. If you dress up you will look foolish and get dirty!

      4 Replies
      1. re: dining with doc

        I echo going for the jumbo+ size. You know how people who are used to King and Snow gripe about how much picking Dungeness take? multiply that and those cracked blue shells are sharp.

        but it is a good time. and yeah the more casual and dumpier the patio/deck, the better.

        1. re: dining with doc

          It looks like the Crackpot is the closest to JHU Homewood.
          Baltimore Magazine leads off their review with, "The dark-wood dining room is looking it age in this decades-old restaurant in a strip-shopping center."
          After that intro I almost didn't read further.
          But seeing as it's on your list...

          1. re: dining with doc

            I didn't realize there was a season for crabs (from Tennessee). We will be passing through Baltimore the second week of November. We will be visiting Monticello then driving through Middleburg, Va for the night. Then on to Baltimore for about 24 hours. Our son-in-law wants some good crabs. We will be staying between downtown and the inner harbor, but have a car. Any suggestions? The next day we can either have lunch in the city or on our way to Rehoboth Beach for a wedding. If there is a good place to eat between Baltimore and Rehoboth, that would be great!

            1. re: Byrdie

              Re: a place to eat on the way to Rehoboth ... check out the cream of crab soup at The Narrows (Kent Island). It's incredible. Their crab cakes are also excellent.

              Annie's also has excellent, but very rich, cream of crab soup -- you need to request that sherry be served on the side. Warning: this bowl of soup is large (one size only) and more than makes a meal for one person. Don't make the mistake of ordering the soup plus an entree.

          2. Dining with Doc and Hill Food both have it right. My only quibble is with their choice of size . . .I prefer mediums to large over the big guys.

            In my experience sometimes you get the big guys - and the crab hasn't grown into the shell yet, so you are paying a premium for a light crab. (I know that there is the same chance that the smaller crabs have just molted and are light too . . . but I don't feel as disappointed.) On the positive side the meat come out a little easier if the crab hasn't fully filled out its shell.

            I don't know what, if anything, you accessorize those Dungeness monstrosities with, but for Bay Blues most folks just let the "old bay" and crab guts stuck to their fingers do the trick.

            Some people like a little dip in cider vinegar (there will be some on your table), and often there will be an extra bit of dry "old bay" brought with your crabs just in case you really like the stuff.

            More often now than when I was a kid, I am seeing butter either brought with the crabs or sometime offered by the server. Bay Blues don't need butter; it masks the flavor f the crab, so I would pass on it.

            Frankly, I think the butter thing comes from the confluence of people who are not from the Mid-Atlantic moving to the area having grown up eating those King/snow crab legs at Red Lobster - and the fact that, if available, folks will sometimes have a bucket of Manos (soft shelled clams) on their table to eat as a part of their crab feast - and the melted butter is the second dip in the two dip process of eating the clam.

            2 Replies
            1. re: drewpbalzac

              I have to agree about this butter thing. I've lived in Maryland for all of my 54 years and melted butter was never served with steamed crabs. It really isn't part of how a traditional crab feast is served, but I've noticed that it is creeping into restaurants as an option. I also make a little dip of beer, cider vinegar and Old Bay, but only dip about every fourth bite in it. That's what I grew up with.

              I also have to agree with those that suggest getting the larger crabs for newbies. Picking crabs is a learned experience, and I know from experience that newbies do better with larger crabs because the chunks of meat are larger and easier to pick. While I can damage a dozen regular "#1s", I probably would do well with 6 of the bigger guys. Halving that for a new picker, at least at the start, might be good advice.

              1. re: drewpbalzac

                Full moon this weekend and crabs shed on the full moon so crabs sold this weekend will be those caught just before the shed and will be heavy and full of mustard.

              2. Looks like sun or mon we will have time to get out of town for crabs- looking for a good place in the country. Your recommendations? (Near ish Baltimore.

                16 Replies
                1. re: JayDK

                  Need to be more specific as to where near Baltimore.south, east west or north of Baltimore.

                  1. re: dining with doc

                    Hey Doc, how about North or Northwest of the City, in the Hunt Valley ara or somewhere on the drive there from NYC near I-95?

                    1. re: Rich D.

                      We have a car, so is there a place within an hour drive? And thanks a lot! North south east or west it doesn't matter to us.

                      1. re: JayDK

                        Reiter's in Reisterstown, S&j Crab Ranch or Crackpot in Towson, Costa's in Dundalk. Call ahead to reserve crabs and check availability, price. Have fun

                          1. re: JayDK

                            So where did you go and how was it?

                            1. re: dining with doc

                              Sad to say we didn't get the crabs!
                              Long story time.
                              Highlights of the trip were:
                              Woodberry Kitchen - did have the softshells which were pricey but tasty. This place is a favorite of ours and always top notch. (except for the fries which were a little more limp than I like)
                              Tried their new place, Atrium which is still working out the kinks but worth a try.

                              Di Pasquales in Highlandtown for a sub with everything - I'll definitely go back for other items. Was in this neighborhood to go to Hoehns Bakery for their peach cake. It looks a lot better than it tastes but I wish them luck. I fear that when the old crowd dies out that supports this place they'll close. So go before they close for an old fashioned bakery experience. After the bakery got a beer at the Laughing Pint and the bar maid told me about Di Pasquales. God Bless her! This neighborhood seems marginal for tourists but I wouldn't count it out.
                              Other highlights: The Thames Street Oyster House. Really good. Had the lobster roll which is non existent in Seattle, so I've got nothing to compare it to but was quite yummy; the calamari which might have been the best I've ever had, and the fish salad which again was the best I've had. Good fries too. Really top notch all of it.
                              Finally, Attmans at which I'm a regular for their corn beef - and a bargain at $6.99. The people there are always so nice.

                              So next time it'll be crabs. The Sue Island place sounds like it's worth a trip for in town and still looking for a place in the country.
                              Thanks to everyone for the recs. And if you are ever in Seattle...

                              1. re: JayDK

                                Call Sue Island before going. They will tell you if their crabs are MD crabs or NC crabs that day. Other than crabs and corn, I would avoid the rest of the menu. They are heavy on the J.O., even when requesting "light" seasoning, so if I'm not in the mood for saltiness, I ask for seasoning on the side.

                                1. re: bmorecupcake

                                  Are NC crabs not good? Or is a freshness thing?
                                  And what's J.O.?

                                  1. re: JayDK

                                    I think the other places I suggested are better than Sue Island. People say the MD crabs are sweeter although they are the same species. Personally I can't tell the difference. Crab houses routinely buy Carolina, Louisianna, and Texas crabs when local crab availability is poor. And finally, I always chow using the theme of when in Rome do as the Romans. Although you may have had good meals while in Bmore, you clearly missed the boat. You were in the epicenter at peak time for one of the great food experiences around and missed it.

                                      1. re: JayDK

                                        sheesh! dwd obviously thinks highly of his own opinion, huh? Don't worry, JayDK - dwd show his ignorance too often to take any of those opinions with more than a grain of Old Bay....

                                        Looks to me like you got a well rounded sampling over your weekend in Baltimore. I wonder about the Atrium you mention. Did you mean Artifact Coffee?

                                        Another great find in the vicinity of Hoehn's is Chicken Rico, btw.

                                        1. re: foster

                                          Thanks. Nice of you to say. Artifact is the place we went. I'm sure they'll do well.
                                          Do they ever make crabs with black bean sauce? (Asian)

                                          1. re: foster

                                            oh, dwd must have been in a bad mood, usu. the opinions offered are good and this one, to be fair, really was in regards to timing. worded a bit harsh, yes.

                                            but there's always a next season somewhere.

                                            whatta they call people that move with the cold weather, Snow-Birds? maybe that's a new category - "The Crab-Birds"

                                      2. re: JayDK

                                        Personally, I find Carolina crabs as the only acceptable substitute for MD crabs. I'll eat Louisiana and Texas crabs, but I don't prefer to do so in season. Sue Island sort of falls in line with my preferences -- they seem to prefer NC and MD crabs -- now whether that's for business reasons or not, I have no idea. Some other places like Mr. Bill's and Cantler's use a mix of crabs from the Gulf, Carolinas, and MD, even in season. Probably this is because they have no choice due to their volume of business. They say they will mix in MD crabs here and there, but can't provide any guarantees. I have found at least one other place that will serve exclusively MD crabs in season, but I don't have that list with me at the moment.

                                        I also like Sue Island because they are very upfront with me about when shipments come in. I have verified this by calling them multiple days in a row and asking what they have available to see if it corresponds with what they previously told me about when shipments arrive. In my opinion, freshness is even more important than MD vs non-MD.

                                        J.O. is a local seasoning. An alternative to Old Bay, if you will. Some crab houses like Mr. Bills use their own custom seasoning, while others like Cantler's and Sue Island use J.O. I'm always mixing up who uses what seasoning, but I think I got it right this time.

                                        I'm usually all about the food, but Sue Island also offers a wonderful view if you sit outside. A place like Mr. Bill's can be sort of depressing if it's a nice day out.

                                        I don't have anywhere near the experience of dining with doc, however, and I'm mixing up facts in my old age, so please take what I wrote with a huge grain of salt.

                                        1. re: bmorecupcake

                                          Totally agree with you about NC crabs. I'm a MD girl that first learned to pick crabs at the age of 5. Now live @ the OBX in NC. The crabs here are delicious. I'm fortunate to be able to buy them just from the water in here, whereas that wasn't the case in MD. Still partial to MD ones, but I'm just being biased. If I had to do a blind taste test...doubt if I could tell the difference between MD or NC crabs. One more note...Carolina crabs are really getting to be their best right now. Big, fat and heavy....just the way a crab should be!!!

                        1. Had a dozen on a whim today at Capt Pells in Fairfax. Flavor was good but they were light - very light. Pretty sure that Pell's steams and holds, crabs were not hot enough and watery.

                          Skins won though so that bade it all good . . .