Crabs Don’t Just Come in Shells

By Amanda Stark

Have you ever wondered how to make a delicious crab cake? Sure, you’ve enjoyed plenty of these savory specialties, but what is the chef’s secret? What holds the cakes together? What keeps them so moist? Most of the crab cakes you have tasted are coveted family recipes that have been passed down for generations, and the holder of the recipe is usually quite reluctant to reveal the golden formula. But we’ve tracked down a few chefs who are willing to share their secret!
Cantler’s Riverside Inn, on Forest Beach Road in Annapolis, is a hidden gem off the beaten path of the historic Annapolis town center. The narrow roads snake through quiet neighborhoods, leading to the well-known crab house that rests right along the water. Here, crab aficionados can take in a tranquil sunset on the outdoor deck, even in the winter! (Of course, accompanied by the warmth of several outdoor heaters.)
The owners were kind enough to share the recipe for both their regular crab cakes and their jumbo lump cakes. For both,, the chef prepares a base of mayonnaise, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and parsley. In the jumbo lump crab cake, only jumbo lump crabmeat is used. For five pounds of jumbo lump meat, only four tablespoons of this base is folded into the crabmeat, and just a scant amount of breadcrumbs are combined with the crab to hold the cakes together. The restaurant’s other crab cakes, known as the “special crab cakes,” are made with the same wet base, in larger quantities, and back fin and lump meat are used instead of jumbo lump. Also, more breading is added to these cakes to keep them moist and flavorful.
Cantler’s maintains a reputation of quality and freshness. During Maryland’s crab season, the restaurant uses all fresh Maryland crabmeat. In the offseason, the chef prepares the crab cakes using local, pasteurized crabmeat or fresh crabmeat from the southern coastal states.

Another recipe comes from the former chef of the once-iconic Pimlico Hotel Restaurant in Baltimore, which closed in 1991, much to the dismay of its many loyal customers. Although the Pimlico Hotel crab cake recipe is still kept confidential, former chef of the Pimlico Hotel Restaurant Greg Gaskins provides a few tips for making the perfect crab cake. He says it is important to use only the freshest and sweetest all jumbo lump crabmeat and all other fresh ingredients. The secret, Chef Gaskins claims, to a moist, well-balanced crab cake is to very gently fold the delicate white clumps of crab into the wet ingredients, and then to add just enough breadcrumbs to hold the cakes together.

Baltimore’s Pimlico Hotel Restaurant boasted one of the state’s finest crab cakes during its time, and today, some of Maryland’s best offerings are found a little closer to the Eastern Shore, particularly in the Annapolis area.

Edgewater Restaurant – 148 Mayo Road, Edgewater, Md., 21037. (410) 956-3202. The Edgewater Restaurant features both broiled jumbo lump crab cakes and lightly fried Maryland back fin crab cakes. Its hours of operation are Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cantler’s Riverside Inn – 458 Forest Beach Road, Annapolis, Md., 21409. (410) 757-1311. Cantler’s menu features, appetizer-sized crab cake sliders, crab cake and jumbo lump crab cake sandwiches, and crab cake and jumbo lump crab cake platters. The restaurant is open Sunday – Thursday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Mike’s Crab House – 3030 Riva Road, Riva, Md., 21140. (410) 956-2784. The chef at Mike’s Crab House prepares broiled or fried lump crab cake sandwiches and lump crab cake dinner entrées. Mike’s is open daily, 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and has varying bar hours.

The Chart House – 300 2nd Street, Annapolis, Md., 21403. (410) 268-7166. The menu at the Chart House includes jumbo lump Maryland crab cakes. The Chart House is open for dinner Monday – Thursday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; and Sunday, 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Dock Street Bar and Grill – 136 Dock Street, Annapolis, Md., 21401. (410) 268-7278. Dock Street’s menu presents a jumbo lump crab cake with whole grain mustard tartar sauce as light fare; a crab cake sandwich on a Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce; and a crab cake dinner platter with a choice of one or two jumbo lump crab cakes served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. The restaurant’s hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.; and Tuesday, 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.
O’Leary’s – 310 3rd Street, Annapolis, Md., 21403. (410) 263-0884. O’Leary’s features a more extravagant lobster-crab cake with sweet corn cream and pancetta bits as an appetizer, and a jumbo lump crab cake with a mustard-lime sauce, asparagus, and scallion-potato salad as an entrée. O’Leary’s serves customers Monday – Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

By | 2016-12-07T07:44:18-05:00 January 13th, 2011|Annapolis Restaurants & Bars, Articles|5 Comments

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  1. Rick January 14, 2011 at 1:05 am - Reply

    great article..cannot wait to try O’leary’s ..sounds wonderful!

  2. ron schwartzman January 15, 2011 at 1:06 am - Reply

    Perfect !!!!!!!!!!!!! be proud of this as it reflects many of your talents..not the least being your ability to transform words to taste..
    Keep up the excellent articles..I look forward to the next one..

  3. Cheri Heidel January 16, 2011 at 1:07 am - Reply

    This is great, I ca’t wait to try them out!
    Good article!

  4. Candy Cangialosi January 17, 2011 at 1:08 am - Reply

    Yum! I can’t wait to try O’Leary’s either! But, they all sound delicious & I can practically taste them. The crab cake photo was pretty yummy as well!

  5. Crab Cake Guy January 18, 2011 at 1:08 am - Reply

    Great article! I havent tried the Doc Street Crab Cake yet, I need to give it a sample. Thanks again for covering Annapolis restaurants focusing on crab cakes.

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