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Where to Get Great Maryland Seafood

Where to Get Great Maryland Seafood

As spring transitions to summer and Maryland’s crab season surges into full swing, all I can think about is seafood. Traditional Maryland seafood, most of which comes from the natural wonder that is the Chesapeake Bay, is abundantly diverse and a fixture of the culture, traditions and celebrations of life in this region. 

Maryland’s seafood industry contributes $600 million to the state’s economy each year, and contrary to popular assumption, all that cheddar isn’t just crab. When it comes to iconic seafood in Maryland, there’s a lot I haven’t tried yet that I’m eager to get my claws on (pun intended). After all, I’ve called Maryland home for two years and still haven’t had that quintessential experience of eating crabs on a table covered with butcher paper, a tin of Old Bay and a cold Maryland-brewed beer nearby. I consider this the ultimate baptism to become a full-fledged Marylander. That said, here’s my list of some of the most notable and recognizable Maryland seafood dishes I can’t wait to try this summer.

Feast on Maryland blue crabs on an island in the bay

Harris Crab House on Kent Island promises to turn a bucket-list meal into a culinary road trip, with ample outdoor seating and iconic Chesapeake views on the waterfront.

Photo Credit: Harris Crab House

It even hosts a roster of live music. This legendary crab house at the gateway to the Eastern Shore is my pick for kicking off the summer season the Maryland way.

Savor delicate rockfish caught fresh in Southern Maryland 

Rockfish is Maryland’s state fish, and the most popular fin in the Chesapeake Bay. Most seafood establishments throughout the state will offer rockfish in a number of ways, most of which include Old Bay or J/O seasoning, of course.

Rockfish stuffed with crabmeat and topped with creamy white sauce. Photo Credit: Courtney’s Restaurant

I’m eager to try Courtney’s Restaurant in St. Mary’s County, which serves fresh rockfish caught daily straight from the Chesapeake. You can’t get fresher than that!

Satisfy your hunger with the working man’s lunch in Baltimore 

Fans of The Wire will remember the classic scene where Lake Trout, Baltimore’s Blue Collar lunch favorite, is compared to Egg Creams in New York. “No eggs, no cream,” says McNulty. “Exactly—no lake, no trout,” says Bunk, who later says it’s all just marketing as to why it’s called that. It must work because it’s ubiquitous among Charm City carryouts, and I, for one, cannot wait to try the deep-fried, bone-in fish (typically Atlantic Whiting) served with a vinegary hot sauce and two slices of white bread. Among all the corner markets sure to have it, Happy Times in Baltimore is a much-buzzed-about, no-frills seafood joint that’s a reliable go-to for lake trout and just about anything else on this list. 

Discern your palate with a classic Maryland crab cake in Westminster

Everyone has an opinion on crab cakes in Maryland. It’s basically a pastime for Marylanders wherever they are to find every crab cake within sight and judge it according to their Chesapeake standards.

Photo Credit: RockSalt Grille

Among the best-loved crab cakes in the state by this discerning crowd are those to be had at RockSalt Grille in Westminster. The establishment is a love letter to every kind of food celebrated from the Atlantic Coast to the Inner Harbor. A trip to Westminster is imminent in my quest to find crab cake Nirvana.

Bite into pure nostalgia with coddies in Baltimore 

For many Marylanders who keep Kosher, or who have shellfish allergies, or for whatever reason can’t get crabby with the state crustacean, there’s another cake in town—well in Baltimore anyway—that’s been around long enough to be a nostalgic symbol of yesteryear. That’s the Coddie, a fried cod fish cake mixed with potatoes and onion served with mustard and small enough to eat like a sandwich between two saltine crackers.

Photo Credit: Attman’s Deli

Famed Attman’s Deli still sells this old drugstore “delicacy,” but Faidley’s in Lexington Market also offers a fresh, upscale version.

Relish the delicacy of soft shell crabs in Silver Spring 

Since 1945, a veritable seafood institution in Silver Spring named after the crab capital of the world—Crisfield, Maryland—has reportedly had the same cook for more than 50 years. One review of Crisfield Seafood started, “If you know, you know,” and now, well, I desperately want to know! The menu is a tried-and-true bounty of all kinds of delicious-looking seafood. With a name like Crisfield Seafood, you know crab in all its forms is going to be the star. I called to see if soft shell crab was on their menu yet, since that’s another one of Maryland’s iconic seafood dishes—and a rite of spring for seafood lovers I’ve yet to try. I was told they’d be available in May. 

About the Author

New to exploring Maryland, Joseph is always searching for that unexpected gem in unassuming places. From forgotten corners in big cities, to hidden historical markers in the middle of nowhere, he wants to find them all, and hit up every small town, museum, craft brewery and point of interest in between.

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