by Heather Vecchioni | Contributing Writer
You might be a Marylander if your first thought when the temperatures rise and the days become longer is crabs.
Smothered in Old Bay or other seasoning of your choice, steamed blue crabs are a must-have for parties, weekends and basically, any time or day of the week.
Most Marylanders and seafood aficionados agree that blue crabs are far superior to other types. The meat’s sweet taste and soft texture sets them apart from other species of crabs. Their unique flavor is likely due to the different seasons the crabs experience in the Chesapeake Bay, living in cold water that then changes to warm.
Their amazing flavor is also attributed to hibernation and the fat that crabs store during that long rest. It gives them a buttery taste that is distinct and unforgettable.
Fortunately, the crab season is shaping up well this year and lots of local crab houses and seafood companies have just what you need in stock. The mild winter prevented many crabs from dying this season, which means more crabs for the consumer. Here are some of your local crab houses.
Wild Seafood in Jessup serves up crabs all year long. Selling about 100 bushels each week, this crab house credits its special seasoning and steaming technique for its popularity.
“Everyone seems to like my homemade seasoning that we’ve used for years, and my technique,” said general manager Dave Webb. “Some people steam the crabs for too long, and when they are steamed too long, the meat sticks to the shell. I’ve been steaming for over 40 years, so I know exactly how long to steam them.”
Wild Seafood gets its crabs locally during the Maryland crab season. Crabs are delivered from Louisiana and Texas in the winter. Customers are able to purchase crabs in just about any quantity, ranging from half a dozen to a few bushels.
For decades, the Pikes Cinema Bar and Grill, known as “The Pikes,” has been the only business that sells steamed crabs year round in Pikesville, said owner Will Reich.
“We get crabs from Texas and Louisiana out of season and crabs locally when they are in season,” he said.
Will orders, steams and sells his crabs daily so they are fresh for his customers.
In Owings Mills, CJ’s Restaurant has served up live and steamed crabs for more than 30 years. This popular seafood house offers crabs shipped from Louisiana and caught locally.
President and co-owner Terry Sanders said the secret to his business’s success is its spice blend and cooking technique.
“It’s our own custom blend of seasoning,” said Terry. “And we don’t pre-steam; everything is fresh. Some businesses pre-steam their crabs because they don’t want them to die before they can use them. We take our chances and buy our crabs a day ahead of time.”
Seaside Seafood “The Carry-Out” in Glen Burnie, is one of the most popular places in the area from which to purchase crabs. In the crab business since 1977, this local landmark sells anywhere from a few crabs to a few bushels and has crabs available all year long.
“We take pride in serving the best crabs we can find for our customers,” said general manager Brittany Young. “We season the crabs to perfection, and when customers pick up, their crabs are nice and hot!”
The Crackpot Seafood Restaurant in Towson serves up crabs in just about any quantity for eat-in or carryout all year long.
Delivered daily from early morning to early evening, the crabs are trucked to the restaurant from wholesalers who obtain the seafood out of docks in Maryland or Louisiana.
“The Crackpot has been serving steamed crabs since 1972,” said Neil Smith, owner of the restaurant for 35 years. “Our seasoning formula has not changed in 45 years. We are one of the four original crab houses in Baltimore. It’s this track record that makes the Crackpot and its steamed crabs so special.”
Emmerts Seafood in Laurel gets its seafood delivered daily from local watermen. Customers can purchase anywhere from one crab to several bushels.
Owners Jimmy and Lori Emmert are veterans in the seafood business and for them, providing locals with the delicacy is a family affair.
“Our family has four generations of commercial watermen,” said Lori Emmert. “Jimmy has held a commercial license for 40 years himself, we have been married 30 years this year, and we are now training the sixth generation the family business.”
Now that you have your crabs, having a feast requires some planning. Lay down brown roll paper or newspaper before spreading out your crabs. A knife and mallet are helpful when digging out the meat, unless you are brave enough to go without. And make sure you have cold beer, soda or water, corn on the cob (preferably in the husk), extra seasoning, vinegar and melted butter for dipping, and lots of paper towels.
—Editor Therese Umerlik contributed to this story.