Crab cakes: Them’s fightin’ words!

September 14, 2017

When the (fish ‘n) chips are down, it always comes down to crab cakes here at the beach. Followers of seem to feel the need to share their every restaurant experience with me, and I love it: it gives me a street-level cross-section of local trends and what’s “in.” Crab cakes are always “in.”

Show of hands: How many of you grew up around Baltimore? Yup, I figured as much. Charm City is militant about crabs, so who’s the best? Not so fast! Crab cakes are like pizza and barbecue. They vary geographically, and everybody swears by their favorite. Lump, backfin, a shredded combo of both (horrors!), spicy, not so spicy, fried, broiled, with filler, no filler, round, flat – each is somebody’s favorite. But, local trends have emerged and must be acknowledged.

Top spots include, in no particular order (I DO have to live here, y’know), the broiled orbs at Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill where Jimmy O’Conor whomps up small batches of his secret recipe. Just north of the Nassau Bridge is The Surfing Crab whose jumbo lump gems will set you back about $27. And they’re worth every penny.

Another place that touts themselves as the best is Gilligan’s Waterfront Restaurant in Lewes. Cheryl Tilton’s creations are almost pure meat; barely held together with anything. They’re especially good out on the newly remodeled deck of her newly remodeled restaurant. Just a block away is Jerry’s Seafood (also originally from Maryland) with their Crab Bomb. Other than Baltimore’s sadly long-gone Gunning’s Seafood (ahhh, the fried crab cakes!) and the legendary Faidley’s in Lexington Market (they’ve been doing it for 128 years), Jerry’s is one of the biggest I’ve seen.

Relatively new kids on the block Don and Lori Allen dish up a very respectable crab cake at Beaches Seafood next door to B&B Music. No discussion of seafood is complete without mentioning Henlopen City Oyster House. They pan-sear their cakes to a slightly buttery crunch. This is not a bad thing. Salt Air and The Crab House both dish up a tasty crab cake (Norm Sugrue’s own recipe, by the way). And the new 99 Sea Level in Bethany Beach impressed me a few weeks ago with a nicely spiced pair of all-lump cakes.

Bluecoast in Rehoboth, Fish On and Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes all serve up tight and meaty cakes with a deliciously spiced yet surprisingly light filler. Leave it up to Chef Doug Ruley to get it right. And by the way, Fork + Flask at Nage adds a New Orleans touch to their crab cake sandwich.

Step away from your email box! I know there are more good crab cakes out there, but Beach Paper allows me only so much ink. So check these out and tell me your favorites. I will be waiting, fork in hand.

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