No list of what makes Baltimore great would be complete without a nod to the food made famous by Charm City's favorite crustacean: the Maryland crab cake. Crab cakes and football are what Maryland does, after all. They're part of who we are.
Historical records suggest crab cakes have been around since colonial times, though the moniker "crab cake" is a relative newcomer. Its first appearance in print is in the "New York World's Fair Cook Book," written by Crosby Gaige in the 1930s; he called it a "Baltimore Crab Cake."
Even if Baltimoreans in the years prior to Gaige's book called their crab cakes something else, they probably weren't all that different from today--which means, of course, that Baltimoreans have probably been bickering for centuries about who makes the best crab cake in town.
On this subject, we'll say is that if the crab is fresh and plentiful, the filler is minimal, the spice is right, and the cake doesn't include any egregious ingredients (we're looking at you, green peppers), we'll happily tuck into that meal.
But what we won't do is order a crab cake anyplace outside the Chesapeake Bay region. If an out-of-state menu claims its crab cake is "Maryland-style," don't believe the hype. Even if the restaurant gets the overall recipe right, there's little chance the crab in question actually hails from Maryland waters. Even worse, that crab might be pasteurized. Ew.
We like to spread our crab cake love around, but we do have some favorites here in the city. Some of our crew's picks include Faidley's Seafood (can't beat the history or the Lexington Market experience), Koco's Pub (another tried-and-true cake beloved for its huge chunks of backfin), Friendly Farm (worth the drive to the country) and Conrad's (where we trust that the crab is always local).
Those are just a few of our go-to cakes--and the list is always growing.