Crabs. Available only in months without an “R” (May through August), the Chesapeake blue crab is often touted as the most quintessential Baltimore dish. The crabs are typically steamed with heaps of Old Bay seasoning (which you can buy at Hagkaup, too) and served on a table covered in newspaper. Your sole utensil is a small wooden mallet. There’s a science to eating crabs, as the calories you get from eating one crab are usually burned through the effort of opening the next one – you won’t get full unless you’re really efficient. Your “Baltimore baptism” comes when the sharp edge of a broken shell cuts your fingers and that Old Bay seasoning gets in the wound. Feel that burn? That’s Baltimore saying hello. You can get steamed crabs in just about any restaurant during the season, but I would personally recommend getting a dozen from any number of carry-out places near the harbour – the prices are better and, if you tell them this is your first visit to Baltimore, I can guarantee they’ll throw in a few extra crabs for nothing.
Crab cakes. A variation of crab, but not at all the same thing. I once read an Icelander compare them to plokkfiskur, if you fried it. This is blasphemy. Crab cakes consist of crab meat mixed with egg and spices, formed into a patty, and deep fried. I would personally recommend going to Phillip’s, a restaurant at the Inner Harbor where I used to work, so you have my word when I say the crab cake is the best thing on the menu.
Oysters. Available only in months with an “R” (September through April) and not for the squeamish. Raw oysters aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you slurp them down sprinkled with lemon juice and cocktail sauce, they can make a nice albeit sometimes expensive snack. For a treat on the high end, stop by McCormick & Schmick’s near the Inner Harbor (711 Eastern Ave.) and order the large oyster sampler, which features oysters from around the world. For the budget traveller, there’s nothing wrong with the Chesapeake Bay oyster, which has a light flavour and again is available from any number of carry-out places near the harbour.
Lake Trout. This dish is probably more Baltimorean than crabs. Lake trout is available year-round and is typically served batter-dipped and deep-fried, with French fries. It’s a fish with a light flavour, kind of like haddock. Lake trout is everywhere; you get buy it at just about every corner on the west side and, as the recipe doesn’t vary that much from place to place, it doesn’t matter where you buy it.
Malt liquor. Malt liquor is a beer with a very high alcohol percentage typically sold in forty-ounce (about one and half litre) bottles called “forties.” You can buy malt liquor in any city in America, but in Baltimore, the 40 is a way of life. My personal favourite is Olde English 800, and if you want to drink it in keeping with the spirit of the city, you should buy your 40 from a corner liquor store and drink it not only straight from the bottle, but also while keeping the bottle in the paper bag it came in. The bag not only serves to keep it colder for slightly longer than if it were exposed, but it’s understood among cops in Baltimore that you can drink whatever you want on the street so long as you keep the bottle in the paper bag.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!