Restaurant: Tidewater Grille
Location: 300 FRANKLIN STREET, HAVRE DE GRACE, MD 21078 410.939.3313
Date: April 18, 2011
Cuisine: Eastern Shore American
Rating: Real crab cakes!
One of the great things about the greater Washington DC area is the proximity of authentic Eastern Shore crab (and hence crab cakes!). Technically this is a “guest palette” as my brother was the one doing the eating. So the text and pictures are by Mitch Gavin.
An unassuming coastal frontage but a surprising beautiful find. My parents have been going to this spot for a decade or two. We used to go to a restaurant up the street with a reputation for great eastern shore crab cakes and fried chicken. I think I remember a s a kid getting a lot of bacon and dipping it in apple sauce. To be discussed at a later date. But in the recent past 2 decades M & D have been talking about this place. I finally went one recent visit driving from DC to Philly to see my cousins.
To start: Maryland Blue Crab Soup. Hands down my favorite soup and most scrumptious! Vegetable base with chunks of tomato, corn, green beans I think and loads of crab meat. Just crab. Followed by a spicy seafood seasoning. Something that reminds you of the beach and spiced vinegar fries. Hot! I tried to squeeze a bowl in because it’s going to be a year before I taste something this good again.
Now onto the crab cake! Tidewater is the best crab cake east or west of the Mississippi. These things are just so truly American, harder to find and worth savoring every bite. Again you don’t find this in many places, it’s almost pure crab meat, very large and seared in a pan just right. The taste of crab is so distinctive and Maryland stands alone at the top, athough Louisiana might get the Blue Crab too and be a closer runner up. Arguably better tasting than the more expensive Maine Lobster this sandwish melts in your mouth. The chips at Tidewater are unique — just simple strips of baked potato –and great! The lettuce and tomato are unnecessary because additions just mask the special taste of the meat, so I recommend just lemon and bun. No tartar was added to this sandwich. 🙂 [ although Andy adds that he loves tartar sauce because “fat == flavor” ]
After a few iced teas, a cup of soup and the oh so lovely crab sandwich the total was only $24. Sandwich $14, Soup $4 and tea $2.5.
True tidewater country.
Here is another example, this one from Washington area restaurant Clydes.
Clydes crab cake was surprising lovely too, especially after closely visiting the Tidewater as acomparrison. It was a little more seared and smaller but very tasty. They even simplified the platter for you with no lettuce or tomato, annoying not to be given the choice, especially since they have over the past 30 years. And I’m not kidding people I’ve been going to this restaurant over 30 years; I even had my Bar Mitzvah there in the bright room upstairs in 1987!
Now the true pride in a restaurant in my opinion is not changing something that’s good. Over the years, Clyde’s has managed to maintain the absolute best Chili I have ever had, and they have been doing so since before 1985. It’s dark, molassesy, tangy and damn freaking good. Seriously I’ve had other “great” chili’s but the tang and flavor of this one keeps me coming back year after year (when home on holidays!).
Dad had to leave early so I ordered the Blondie Brownie Sundae (not pictured), which I liked as a kid for mom and I. The thing used to come in a tall Sundae glass, have a great grandma blondie brownie with carmel and great vanilla bean ice cream, nuts and everything but when the server brought it out on a flat plate the Blondie Brownie had no brown in it at all. It was disappointing as a too sweet flat white pastry looking thing with some vanilla ice cream, whip creme and thick brown chocolate sauce all over it that wasn’t good, maybe some nuts, the ice cream was similar but in short supply. Thumbs down and unfinished between two. That doesn’t say much that we then decided we didn’t need the unnecessary calories. But on a positive note I’ll be back to Clyde’s again for that Chili, Crab cake and a lot of other stuff. Clye’s gets a thumbs up.
Some other good crab cakes can be found on the west coast at Houstons or, surprisingly, at Capo. But they aren’t quite the same.