The Chesapeake Bay: Maryland’s natural crown jewel and its top source of delicious crabs and oysters.
I’ve always been a seafood fan, and I’ve made it a personal goal to explore all Baltimore has to offer in terms of its classic shellfish. Thanks to its prime location by the bay, Baltimore is full of amazing seafood joints of varying prices and aesthetics. Stand and slurp $1 oysters off of a plastic plate outside Slainte Irish Pub in Fell’s Point, or splurge on an exotic dinner at the dimly lit Thames Street Oyster House.
Baltimore has many seafood options to choose from. To help you get started, here are my three favorite restaurants.
1) Captain James Crabhouse
If you’re into local vibes and beautiful views of the harbor, look no further than Captain James Crabhouse. The restaurant is located in Canton, a neighborhood bordering Fell’s Point. The crab house has long been locally famous, but it earned national acclaim in 2014 when Oprah visited!
I recommend going when the weather is warm, so you can enjoy your meal on the dock. However, if you’re dying for crab in the dead of winter, the boat-shaped Captain James Landing, owned by the same brand, is right across the street from the crab house.
Order steamed crabs by the half or full dozen, and pick a size. Alternatively, you can opt for two hours of all-you-can-eat from Monday to Thursday. Waiters roll out a giant brown paper cover for your table, strap it on, and hand you a bucket (for crab shells) and mallet to crack those suckers open. Enjoy the view while awaiting your tray full of freshly steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay.
I will admit, there’s a bit of an art to eating whole crabs. It took awhile for me to master it, but the effort is so worth it. The crab meat just melts in your mouth.
Accompany your crabs with delicious sides like hush puppies, corn on the cob, cream of crab and more. If that’s still too much work, fear not, because Captain James’ 8 oz. crab cake will leave you plenty satisfied too.
2) Lee’s Pint and Shell
This one’s a bit out of the way, so taking an Uber is the only realistic option. If you get a group for the ride, it’s a chic, lively joint and a great getaway from the Hopkins bubble. This dim-lit sports bar/restaurant is where I celebrated my birthday, and I came for one reason: 50 cent oysters.
That’s right. Oysters normally cost around $3, sometimes $1 at happy hour or “buck a shuck.” Lee’s Pint and Shell is one of the few places that cuts an even better deal during happy hour.
The oysters were fresh and juicy. For those unaccustomed to the taste of raw shellfish, here’s my tip: Top them with a bit of lemon, cocktail sauce, horseradish and a drop of Tabasco. You’ll be slurping away and watching those shells stack!
In fact, Lee’s is so obsessed with oysters that it puts them in cocktails. That’s right. For those 21 and over, try the restaurant’s classic oyster shot! Because what better to put in tequila or a Bloody Mary than a raw oyster?
3) Lexington Market
If you’re looking to grab a bite and buy some decently-priced fish for home, the famous Lexington Market is probably Baltimore’s finest.
Take the Purple Route to Fayette Street and then catch the CityLink. Or just walk to the Market like we did and enjoy a scenic stroll. Inside you’ll find a bazaar of raw bars and vendors where you can sample all sorts of fish and global cuisines.
My favorite dish was the crab cake from Faidley Seafood. Faidley has been serving up local specialties since 1886 (including oddballs like raccoon), so needless to say they’ve mastered the crab cake. Chat with friends over a mouth-watering, golden crab cake at this standing-table only joint. It’s one of the most authentic Baltimorean things to do.
Bottom line: There are tons of amazing, mouth-watering places for seafood in Baltimore, and this list is definitely not exhaustive! These are just my favorite restaurants and getaways so far. Ultimately, what I love most about eating oysters, Old Bay crabs and crab cakes is the connection I make with the city. A place’s food is its expression of character, and nothing is more Baltimorean than its shellfish. Cheesy as it may sound, slurping $1 oysters at a local bar just makes me feel a bit more connected to this city.