It’s almost a cliche at this point. We get it.
Maryland loves crabs.
But … it’s for good reason. They’re so good. Eating crabs is not just a meal. It’s a full-blown dining and social experience that is unmatched outside the DMV.
No summer is truly well spent until you’ve spent an afternoon or two or twenty, lazily picking crabs and sipping your cold beverage of choice, sitting at a table lined with thick brown paper, with a backdrop of summer sunshine dancing on the water.
This is not a meal for those in a hurry. Put your phones away because your hands are going to get gloriously messy. It’s about slowing down and savoring the moment. Order up a few side dishes. Maybe corn on the cob or hush puppies to dip in sweet honey butter.
Can you taste it yet?
You’re almost there. We’ll help you the rest of the way because here are five of Maryland’s favorite crab houses to start checking off your list.
Captain Billy’s Crab House
Newburg, Maryland (Charles County)
The best crab houses always have a story. The story of this iconic Southern Maryland destination starts when 9-year-old Billy Robertson caught and sold his first crabs on the shore of the Potomac River. He worked these waters his entire life and became best known as the proprietor of Captain Billy’s Crab House on the shores of the Potomac, where he’d often wander the dining area, offering his signature line: “And how are you today?”
His legacy lives on, and Captain Billy’s this month celebrated its 35th anniversary with formal recognition from the Charles County Commissioners and the governor of Maryland. When you visit, you’ll choose from a full menu of local seafood options and you’ll enjoy an unmatched waterfront crab house atmosphere.
Cantler’s Riverside Inn
Annapolis, Maryland (Anne Arundel County)
Tucked away on quiet Mill Creek, off of the Chesapeake Bay, this is another iconic place that every DMV resident must visit at least once. But we expect you’ll come back again and again. Jimmy Cantler is a 5th-generation Cheseapeake waterman, and in 1974, he and wife Linda opened a restaurant designed to reflect the true Chesapeake Bay culture. Downstairs, by the water, you can see the freshly arrived crabs being sorted by size and gender, ready to be prepared.
Cantler’s proclaims itself to be the place “Where the Watermen Gather” — and they do. This is a crab house where locals, semi-locals and out-of-towners always find a welcoming atmosphere. If you haven’t picked crabs before, don’t worry. Cantler’s will provide a crab opening tutorial upon request.
As the website says, “Be prepared to get messy.”
Fisherman’s Crab Deck
Kent Narrows, Maryland (Kent County)
Next door to the more upscale seafood experience at Fisherman’s Inn, head over to Fisherman’s Crab Deck for a laid-back crab-picking experience. The restaurants are owned by the Schultz family, which opened Fisherman’s Inn back in 1930.
The Crab Deck dates back three decades and has carved its own niche as a destination dining spot on the Eastern Shore, just minutes across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Guests can arrive by car or by boat, and you’ll always be treated to incredible water views and delicious Maryland seafood.
Bo Brooks Crab House
One of the best urban crab house experiences in Maryland can be found at Lighthouse Point in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood. From steamed crabs to crab cakes to grilled sweet corn, Bo Brooks has been a Baltimore institution since 1964.
The restaurant relocated to the Canton waterfront in 2000, and it never skipped a beat. Happy hour is also a popular part of the vibe at Bo Brooks. Plus, when you dine at the Tiki Bar, you’ll enjoy views across the water looking south toward Fort McHenry or north toward the Inner Harbor.
Red Roost Crab House
No, not that Quantico. This Quantico is in Wicomico County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the Red Roost offers a deeply authentic local dining experience with its signature fare of steamed crabs and fried chicken.
The restaurant’s name comes from the building’s origins as a chicken house. In fact, chicken magnate Frank Perdue recalled getting his truck stuck in the mud when he delivered feed to the place in the 1950s. It’s status as a crab house began almost by accident in the 1970s and it has grown to become one of the Shore’s most popular seafood restaurants.
If you’re heading to the beach, it’s 20 minutes from Route 50 — and trust us, it’s worth it!