Although we don't actually write about crab very often, it's very much a part of life here in Washington, D.C. Crabcakes are on menus everywhere, and at least once a year -- especially if we're with friends in Baltimore or with Zach's sister and her family in Annapolis -- we'll partake in a big crab boil, with heaping bushels of fresh steamed crabs spiced with Old Bay.
So last fall, we got a somewhat unusual opportunity that was right up our alley. Zach was asked to freelance a magazine article about Maryland crab shacks for Endless Vacation magazine. The assignment: Find the best crab shacks on the lower part of Maryland's Eastern Shore.
We jumped at the chance! When else might we be able to spend an entire weekend in a crab-eating frenzy?
Our home base for the weekend was Cambridge, Maryland, and we booked a room at the lovely Cambridge House B&B. The innkeepers, Jim and Marianne Benson, were chock-full of crab advice, helping us to narrow down our list. We aimed to hit 10 crab shacks during our visit.
What resulted was 36 hours of a crab-eating frenzy, where we hit nine crab shacks (sadly, one of the 10 was already closed for the season) between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, plus a few B&B breakfasts thrown in the mix, too. Zach's story, featuring seven of the shacks we visited, is now available online. Pick yourself a crab shack and head to Maryland (though we may not recommend tackling the full list in 36 hours).
Below, we've included a rundown of some images from the weekend, and few thoughts about eating crabs.
But first, we'll do something the article doesn't do, which is tell you which was our favorite crab shack. We know, we know, it's not nice to pick favorites. But in this case, we definitely had one. On Sunday, just before we headed back to D.C., we decided to make one final stop in Oxford, Maryland, to visit Schooners. The sun was just about to set. It was still warm, but there was just enough cool in the air that we needed long sleeves -- one of those magical, late-summer moments that brims with the promise of fall.
We got to Schooners and sat down at one of the wooden tables on the deck overlooking the water. A tray piled high with Old-Bay dusted crabs arrived, and we sat there in the late-day sun, happily picking away at them. Our server even introduced us to the waterman who had caught the crabs earlier that day, who happened to be having a drink (or six) at the bar. Was the crab at Schooners actually better than all the other crabs we ate that weekend? Probably not, although it was mighty tasty. But the moment and the experience was a magical mark to the end of summer.
Check out some photos and stories from our crab adventures below -- and we hope you give Zach's article a read, too!
We had two kinds of meals over the course of this weekend: steamed crabs and crab cakes. Whenever possible, we ordered steamed crabs. They nearly always arrived like these, on trays, dusted with Old Bay (or a custom Old Bay-like mix created by the restaurant). We typically ordered the smallest batch of steamed crabs available, and whatever else the server thought we shouldn't miss, which led to us ordering fried chicken and Smith Island cake at one stop -- whoops!
For the most part, though, we didn't get that full at each place. Crabs don't have a ton of actual meat in them, and we mostly skipped sides like potatoes and corn. So we had plenty of room for another bushel of crabs at the next place!
We visited a crab processing facility just behing our B&B in Cambridge. Marianne, one of the innkeepers, encouraged us to stop by the place, a company called J.M. Clayton. There, we met Joe -- his grandfather started the company way back in 1890. We learned a lot from Joe, which Zach captured in a seperate blog post for Endless Vacation.
When you're on the Eastern Shore, good crabcakes never have any filler. They're just crab meat, a little creamy house sauce, and spices. This one from Suicide Bridge Restaurant, in the town of Hurlock, was one of our favorites -- simply broiled and sweet and delicious.
More crabs. So. Many. Crabs.
At most crab shacks, you can specify whether you want your crab cakes fried or broiled. These were fried, and they were absolutely delicious. (Those house-pickeld beets in the background were awfully good, too.)
This was one of the more unusual crab cakes we ate, which was very loosely put together with a sauce and lightly broiled.
Anyway, the whole weekend was lovely. We poked around some terrific small towns, and we toured through some beautiful rivers, inlets and coves.
And honestly? We could go for some crab about right now....
A few links for your crabventures:
- Related: 24 Hours on Tangier Island, feature an adventures 24 hours we spent on a remote island for Spencer magazine.