From chefs to civilians, Marylanders agree on a few basic principles. The crab cake should be mostly crab, with just enough binder (white bread or saltines) to hold it together. Old Bay is non-negotiable, and Worcestershire sauce is optional. Before dangerous declines in crab stocks, most Maryland natives agreed the crab meat must come from the Chesapeake Bay, but these days, most restaurants acknowledge that's not possible in the off-season (December to March). Even the best restaurants source crab from out of state, typically North Carolina or the Gulf of Mexico (but occasionally Vietnam). The style of a Maryland crab cake is the same regardless of where the crab is from.
Let's get this out of the way: I am a native Marylander. I spent two weeks every month in the summer growing up on Chesapeake Bay's eastern shore, catching crabs off a dock with a rotting chicken neck tied to a string. Summer isn't complete without at least one O's game and one backyard crab feast. I have lived in Baltimore for over a decade, and I have some strong opinions about what makes a Maryland crab cake. Here are 12 places in the Baltimore area that deserve your time and money. Each of these has a reliably excellent crab cake. You may have to travel outside the city limits, but only just, and it's worth the trip for the joints on this list.
When it comes to longevity, Faidley's is number one. Founded in 1886 by John W. Faidley, Sr., this Baltimore landmark has been holding down its corner of Lexington Market for 137 years. They offer crab cakes of backfin or jumbo lump — some Marylanders prize jumbo lump for the massive chunks of sweet, delicate meat, but the backfin crab cake is just as delicious. Both are a generous 6.5 ounces, made with Old Bay and minimal filler. Faidley's is also unique in that they don't use eggs in their crab cakes (and their bread product of choice is saltines).
Order a jumbo lump platter and eat it standing up at one of their high tops. The presentation isn't fancy; styrofoam plates and plastic trays are the serving platters of choice. If you prefer, order online and get them shipped across the country. And while you're at it, throw in an order of their meatballs (also famous), or treat yourself to a complete dinner for four that includes four crab cakes, Maryland crab or cream of crab soup, and two types of salad.
203 North Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Show up after six any time during crab season, and be prepared to wait for dinner from this legendary crab cake spot. In fact, without a reservation, you might not get in at all. Koco's Pub prides itself on its humble, family-based origin story and focuses on great food made simply. The restaurant is the bright yellow centerpiece of the Luaraville neighborhood, and crab cakes are the main attraction.
At a hefty 11 ounces, these are a complete meal on their own (you can also get "junior" crab cakes that are half that size). As with the very best crab cakes, this one has very little filler and is all jumbo lump crab meat, and it's served simply with crackers and a pickle. Old Bay is present but subtle enough so that the sweet crab shines through. Koco's ships their crab cakes nationwide, uncooked and individually packaged.
4301 Harford Rd. Baltimore, MD 21214
Pappas Restaurant And Sports Bar
If you need a recommendation, Oprah's got one for you: Pappas crab cakes. This Baltimore native routinely orders crab cakes from this Parkville restaurant and stops by whenever she's in town. But don't just take it from Oprah — Pappas routinely wins accolades in local polls as one of the best places to get a crab cake in Maryland.
A Pappas crab cake is made from always fresh, never frozen crab meat and is available in three sizes: 4 ounces, 8 ounces, and 10 ounces. The binder is minimal and uses bread cubes and the ubiquitous Old Bay at the perfect level of spice. Gluten-free diners have options, too, with a gluten-free version of a crab cake.
As with most restaurants on this list, Pappas ships their crab cakes nationwide, packed raw in individual half-pint cups (with cooking instructions included). For in-person dining, you have four locations: Glen Burnie, Cockeysville, Parkville, and Bel Air.
1725 Taylor Ave., Parkville, MD 21234
Thames Street Oyster House
Seafood reigns supreme at this Fells Point staple that caters to locals and tourists alike. Located along the waterfront in one of Baltimore's historic neighborhoods, the ambiance and the view enhance the dining experience.
Thames Street is one of the newer restaurants on the list, with just over a decade in operation, but their crab cakes are a standout item on a menu full of delicious options. The atmosphere is distinctly upscale, and their crab cake plate is not just a ball of crab served on styrofoam. With a focus on seasonal, local food, the sides complement the star attraction and differ weekly.
The crab cakes are precisely as they should be: simple and bursting with crab. They are seared and served in a cast iron skillet, topped with house-made remoulade (unnecessary, in our humble opinion, but still incredibly delicious). This is a date-night, special occasion restaurant that's not to be missed.
1728 Thames St, Baltimore, MD 21231
G&M Restaurant And Lounge
Located just on the south side of 695, this is one of those spots that requires some travel -- but it's worth it. G&M wasn't always a crab cake destination (it was founded as a pizza joint in 1974), but its reputation as the place to get a simple, high-quality crab cake has grown since it turned its hand to seafood in 1993.
The beauty of this 8-ounce crab cake is its simplicity. The ingredients are listed right on the website and are a master class in what a Maryland crab cake is: jumbo lump, white bread, mayo, white pepper, and seasoning (and yes, they use Worchestershire). The resulting crab cake is uncomplicated, unfussy, and delectably sweet and decadent.
Their prices are exceptional, too, likely due to their location outside of Baltimore City. But no matter where you live, you can have G&M any time you'd like. They deliver nationwide from their full menu.
804 Hammonds Ferry Road, Linthicum Heights, MD 21090
Avenue Bar And Restaurant
Avenue Kitchen and Bar is a new entry to the crab cake game, with a funky vibe and an eclectic menu. This relatively new Hampden hotspot is one of the only acceptable places in the city to get a slightly adapted version — Executive Chef Audiel Vera adds touches of Mexico, South America, and the Mediterranean to his plates, producing a deft fusion cuisine that pairs beautifully with mid-Atlantic seafood and other local products.
Chef Audiel's crab cake doesn't stray too far, though. The crab is fresh and sweet, and the binder is minimal. The restaurant sometimes runs specials where its 8-ounce crab cake is just $15 (sides are extra). But if you want one right now, head to the restaurant and grab a platter with a Maryland crab soup first course and a crab cake platter that includes house-made coleslaw and fries.
Fair warning: If you're looking for an intimate date spot, this might not be the place, especially on weekends. The food remains delicious, but the atmosphere gets decidedly clubby. Music spills out into the capacious outdoor seating area, too. If you crave an Avenue crab cake on the weekend but need a more chill hangout, opt for takeout.
911 W 36th St, Baltimore, MD 21211
Full disclosure: Costas Inn ships its crab from out-of-state. Although many Marylanders would turn their nose up at this practice (and some restaurants try to hide it), this family-owned and operated restaurant makes some of the tastiest crab cakes in the city. It's worth a trip outside the Beltway to give them a try. And locals in the know are keeping the Costas Inn busy. They go through over 11,000 crabs a week, year-round. Many of those crabs make it into their 5- and 8-ounce crab cakes and crab cake platters. The crab cake is all jumbo crab meat, with a binder that holds it together just enough to get on a fork.
These dishes aren't fancy, and the atmosphere at Costas is decidedly down-home. This matches the crab cake's status as Baltimore comfort food, though. The prices are also reasonable, which means you can still get a great crab cake on a tight budget. You can even get them shipped to your door.
4100 Northpoint Blvd., Baltimore, Maryland 21222
Jimmy's Famous Seafood
Jimmy's Famous Seafood is often ranked across the country as the best crab cake in Maryland. The shop opened in 1974 but is known from sea to shining sea through its appearance on food programs like "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and "Beat Bobby Flay."
What makes this cake so iconic? Dimitrios "Jimmy" Minadakis, the founder, is one reason, with his commitment to his community, but most of the glory rests in the crab cake itself. It's the size of a softball and is held together with just a whisper of filling mixed and poured over lump crab meat. There are no fussy touches like chopped green anything (pepper or scallions, but a hint of finishing parsley often makes the plate). The crab and the sauce are gently mixed to keep large pieces of crab intact. Crab cakes are formed and then coated in butter and Old Bay before being baked and browned in the oven.
"The Famous" uses Maryland crab in season but sources crab from North Carolina and Louisiana in the off-season. They also ship crab cakes (and other menu items) nationwide and have gluten-free crab cakes for seafood lovers with dietary restrictions.
6526 Holabird Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224
Nick's Fish House
Nick's Fish House is located in the newly formed neighborhood of the Baltimore Peninsula. It's tucked under a bridge and can be a tricky spot to find — many visitors find themselves crossing the bridge to Cherry Hill to turn around. Take our advice, and make the U-turn if you pass Nick's.
The deck overlooking the water is the cherry on top of this huge crabcake. Their outdoor dining is spacious and comfortable, perfect for downing a famous orange crush and tucking into the perfection that is Nick's crab cake. Their famous platter comes with one or two crab cakes, perfectly seasoned and served with Old Bay fries, tarter sauce (a forgivable misstep), and coleslaw. Notable is the fact that they are upfront on their menu about sourcing crabs out of state after the Maryland season ends.
You can't order their crab cakes for delivery, but they do offer takeout for locals and are open for private parties and events. Nick's also has live music and hosts game days and other community events. It's an entire experience.
2600 Insulator Drive, Baltimore, MD 21230
L.P. Steamers is perhaps best known for its chill rooftop vibe and its long butcher paper-covered tables littered with crab detritus, but this low-key neighborhood joint turns out a crab cake that's nothing to sniff at. Steamed crabs crusted with Old Bay and cracked next to a pitcher of beer may be the most traditional way to indulge in this Chesapeake Bay delicacy, but if you'd like to get at your crab a little faster (and a little cleaner), opt for the crab cake at L.P. Steamers.
These crab cakes aren't garnished using tweezers or covered in microgreens or fancy sauces, but they come directly from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay whenever possible. They are prepared simply and deliciously with minimal binder and the correct amount of Old Bay seasoning (enough to taste but not so much to overshadow the crab). If you want a traditional crab cake served in a traditional Baltimore style at a restaurant that's located in one of the city's iconic row houses, this is the place for you. But be warned: The rooftop deck is crowded in the summertime, and L.P. Steamers does not take reservations. Head down early or be ready to wait.
1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230
The Rusty Scupper
Overlooking the Inner Harbor from its three-level dining room, The Rusty Scupper provides a more upscale crab cake experience. It's great for tourists interested in a Baltimore experience with less of Baltimore involved. Aside from the atmosphere, The Rusty Scupper makes an incredible crab cake. It's chock full of juicy, sweet crab meat and has an unexpected mustard kick that doesn't overshadow the crab or the required Old Bay. It's served with a house-made grain mustard beurre blanc (a fancy mustard butter sauce) that elevates and complements the humble crab. One of the best options is their build-your-own surf-and-turf — add a crab cake to a steak of your choice and really indulge.
The Rusty Scupper does takeout, but why skip that harbor view? If you need a special restaurant for a treat-yourself moment or just want to splurge on a relaxed dinner with one of the best crab cakes in town, this is the spot for you.
402 Key Highway, Inner Harbor Marina, Baltimore, MD 21230
Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen
No list of the best crab cakes in Baltimore would be complete without mentioning the OG of Baltimore dining, John Shields, and his spot, Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen, located in the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). Shields is one of the leaders of the farm-to-table movement in the state and has continued to prioritize creative dishes made from the finest the Chesapeake Bay watershed has to offer.
The crab cake at Gertrude's is as glorious as BMA's collection. Have a seat in their comfortable indoor area or just outside overlooking the sculpture garden, then get ready to indulge yourself. Shield's crab cake uses Maryland lump and claw meat, plus a perfect balance of mustard and Old Bay seasoning. The result is a luscious crab cake that tastes of the waters from whence it came, succulent and sweet.
Side dishes go well beyond the typical fries and coleslaw (although there's nothing wrong with that). Everything is seasonal and local — you might be treated to black-eyed peas and collards in the fall or fresh Eastern Shore corn in the summer.
Gertrude's does occasionally run crab cake specials in season. One of the best is the $15 crab cake on Tuesdays (call to see if that's a thing that's happening). They offer carryout, but once again, the atmosphere is part of the experience.
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218
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