While Baltimore is synonymous with steamed crabs and crab cakes, the overall seafood scene, in my humble opinion, is unparalleled. Local restaurants expertly bring the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay to your table, and they do great work with seafood from all over. Here are some of the most delicious culinary creations from our local Baltimore chefs that don’t have the region’s famed blue crab meat.
Thames Street Oyster House — Lobster Roll
1728 Thames St., Baltimore
It’s no secret that one of my favorite bites in Baltimore is the New England lobster roll from Thames Street Oyster House. In fact, I had to go get one right after finishing this list. Made with hot tail, claw and knuckle on a split-top bun, the roll magically melts in your mouth (the side of beurre monté definitely doesn’t hurt). If there’s one dish on this list that you don’t want to miss, it’s this.
Loch Bar — Shellfish Tower
240 International Drive, Baltimore
Whether it’s a special celebration or a sunny Sunday afternoon, it’s always a good time for a seafood tower, especially when stone crabs — which often aren’t available at Baltimore restaurants — make it on the menu. But even if they aren’t available, ordering the seafood tower at Loch Bar is always a luxurious experience, especially in the summer on the patio with a few glasses of champagne and a couple of your foodie friends.
Ekiben — Tackle Box
You probably know Ekiben for their Taiwanese curry fried chicken bun known as the Neighborhood Bird. But don’t sleep on the Tackle Box, crispy catfish seasoned with a Cantonese dry rub and tossed with fresh herbs, roasted aromatics and brunoise onions. It’s served over jasmine rice and seasoned with sesame dressing, and, according to owner Steve Chu, “the best part … is mixing the rice up and letting all the herbs and crispy bits come together in one bite.”
The Local — Charred Octopus
1918 Belair Road, Fallston
When a stunning photo of The Local’s charred octopus appeared on my Instagram feed, I immediately thought it had to be from a restaurant in New York or D.C. But when I saw that it was from this Fallston eatery, I was pleasantly surprised and had to go try it for myself. Braised in Spanish red wine, the tender octopus is served with locally sourced Grand View Farm chorizo, shaved Brussels sprouts and gigante bean hash, roasted ras el hanout dusted butternut squash puree, and confit meyer lemon squid ink emulsion.
Ammoora — Salmon Kebbeh Mojarmashé
751 Key Highway, Baltimore
One of Baltimore’s newest restaurants is serving some of the most impressive dishes. Ammoora, which means “loving, beautiful, and overly captivating” in Arabic, is certainly living up to its name, offering various spreads, hot and cold mezze and mains. I enjoyed every single dish that hit the table. One of my favorites was salmon kebbeh mojarmashé, salmon tartare served with burghul frakké (a mixture of bulgur with fresh and dried spices), sour labneh and toasted cumin bread sticks.
The Oregon Grille — King Crab Macaroni and Cheese
1201 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley
While there may have been a worldwide shortage of king crab earlier this year, there’s certainly no shortage of king crab in the macaroni and cheese at The Oregon Grille. You can also indulge in classic dishes like wild-caught Dover sole served with almond brown butter and lobster tagliatelle with black truffle and lobster butter. But whatever you choose, I recommend starting out by sipping a martini and ordering caviar service at their caviar bar.
The Urban Oyster — Chargrilled Oysters
Operates as a pop-up
Whether raw or roasted, the oysters from The Urban Oyster are absolutely worth slurping. Owner Jasmine Norton made history when she opened the Baltimore business, the very first Black-female-owned oyster restaurant in the state. Right now, you can only find Norton’s beautiful bivalves at pop-ups around Baltimore. Fortunately for us, she will soon be opening a new brick-and-mortar location in Hampden!
True Chesapeake Oyster Co. — The Chef, The Shucker, The Farmer
3300 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 400, Baltimore
True Chesapeake brings the flavors of the Eastern Shore directly to your table, and is one of my favorite spots to order a full-out seafood platter. Aptly named The Chef, The Shucker, The Farmer, the dish comes with steamed and roasted shellfish, oysters Rockefeller, Old Bay roasted oysters, clams, mussels and gulf shrimp. Just be sure to request a few extra napkins.
Dylan’s Oyster Cellar — Butter-poached Hake
3601 Chestnut Ave., Baltimore
Go for the oysters, stay for the fresh fish dishes! Dylan’s Oyster Cellar is a Hampden favorite, shucking a unique and rotating selection of oysters from around the country. And while they claim “oysters and booze” are their specialty, Dylan’s also offers tasty fish dishes with a twist, including a whole fried sea bream, fried scallop roll and butter-poached hake served with peanut romesco, fingerling potatoes and haricot verts.
Chris Franzoni is a Baltimore native, resident, food fanatic and “Eater-in-Chief” of @EatMoreBeMore, which he started eight years ago with two goals — eating his way through the city and shining a positive light on the Baltimore-area restaurant and hospitality scene.