Chesapeake Bay Seafood Guide

If you are visiting Baltimore for the first time, then you surely cannot explore the city’s epic food culture without indulging in its seafood. Connected to the Chesapeake Bay by the Harbor, Baltimore is brimming with the freshest fish and seafood, including Maryland’s world-famous blue crab. While crab is king in Baltimore, there are other seafood favorites that cannot go overlooked. Baltimore is also famous for its buttery steamed mussels and tender raw oysters.

The city has an abundant of restaurants and local markets to choose from. Thus, figuring out where to try the best seafood dishes and buy the freshest catch can be a bit overwhelming. Below are some of the top standout restaurants and markets in Baltimore. Visit these delicious crab shacks and you will quickly discover why Maryland is one of the top seafood-producers in the U.S.

A Local’s Favorite

There are roughly more than 300 million blue crabs in the Bay and approximately 2.7 million humans in the city. That’s more than enough crab for generations to come. Not only is this species essential to the Chesapeake Bay food web serving as food for fish, birds and other blue crabs, but it is a Baltimore specialty and every local’s favorite.

Many locals boast about the delicious crab meat served up in a variety of ways. Some would even go as far to say it is superior to any other crab in the world. The most traditional method includes steamed crab seasoned with the savory Old Bay seasoning. Most locals pair this crab feast with a buttery corn on the cob and crisp cold beer.

Pronounced Ol’Bay, Old Bay Seasoning was created in Charm City in 1939 in part with the booming crab industry. Today, it remains a household staple in many Baltimore homes. While steamed crab and crab cakes are many locals’ favorites, they are not the only finger-licking foods found at sea. Other popular Chesapeake Bay seafood include oysters and rockfish, also known as striped bass.

Seasons for Seafood

Maryland’s crab season begins in April and runs through December, with June and August being the best times for eating crab. However, blue crabs are at their peak from April through October and are the most popular during summer months. September and October are the most favorable times for finding the biggest and meatiest hard crabs at the best prices. As for Maryland’s delicacy, soft shell crabs are usually at their peak from mid-May to September. For fish lovers, Rockfish season starts in mid-April and ends in December. Oysters can be harvest from October 1 to March 31.

Restaurants Serving The Freshest Plates

Baltimore is widely known for its crab houses dishing out some of the tastiest blue crabs. From delicious crab cakes to Old Bay-seasoned steamed crabs and creamy crab chowder, your taste buds will be in heaven. Baltimore’s seafood dives offer up only the freshest of the fresh, each adding their own unique twist to the blue crab.

Then there are seafood restaurants that are popular for other seafood favorites, taking on their own rendition of the lobster roll and steamed mussels. To try some of the best seafood in Baltimore, check out these hot spots:

  • Al’s Seafood: Named the “Best Bargain Seafood Restaurant” by Baltimore magazine, this family business offers delicious crabs at a reasonable price. There’s no need to be fancy here. Just roll up your sleeves and get to cracking.
  • Bo Brooks: As one of the oldest crab houses in Charm City, there is a reason Bo Brooks remains a local favorite. Located along the water in Canton, this restaurant offers traditional Maryland Style Blue Crabs, as well as a seafood-heavy menu consisting of crab soups, fresh oysters, fried shrimp and fish tacos.
  • Obrycki’s: What started as a bar in the city’s historic Fells Point neighborhood, is now the crab house for the best steamed crabs and freshest crab cakes. The restaurant prides itself on serving authentic dishes, even using its own blend of seasoning for the crabs (step aside Old Bay).
  • Bertha’s Mussels: This quirky seafood joint has been serving the best mussels and crab cakes in Fells Point for more than 40 years. Stop in for a pint of beer and enjoy one of Bertha’s many variations of steamed mussels dipped in mouth-watering butter.
  • Faidley Seafood: Known for their award winning crab cakes, this seafood establishment also serves the most delicious deep fried Coddie. This is another must-try traditional Baltimore food consisting of deep-fried cod and potatoes. Faidley’s menu also includes steak fish, lake trout and catfish.
  • Thames Street Oyster: For the best lobster rolls you will ever have, visit this classic oyster house located in the historic Fells Point. Its raw bar is exquisitely divine, serving at least 10 different kinds of oysters daily.

Local Seafood Markets

If you are looking for quality fresh fish, Baltimore is home to some of the best seafood markets. You can take a fresh catch home to cook for your family or sit down for some freshly prepared seafood. Here are some of the best local seafood markets in Baltimore:

  • Wild Fresh Seafood: For the freshest and highest-quality seafood, visit the “Ultimate Seafood Market.” From salmon and shrimp to sushi grade and lobster, Wild Fresh has it all. To ensure freshness and safety, the staff consistency checks their fish temperatures.
  • Lexington Market: This market is home to a variety of vendors serving fresh meats, seafood and international cuisine. Here you will find Cho’s Sea Garden, which serves a wide range of whole fish, including grouper, catfish, flounder and sea bass. Lexington is also proud to host recognizable vendors, such as Harbor Fish and Kim’s Seafood.
  • Sal and Sons: This establishment is both a restaurant and a seafood market. You can count on good steamed crabs that are juicy and flavorful. The market has a variety of fish and shellfish out for display and the team will properly clean and cut your seafood.
  • Shore Seafood: Not only does this seafood market offer fresh choices, but it provides its customers with the history of seafood and valuable information on a variety of fish. Visitors can take home fresh seafood or try crispy and well-seasoned fish.