It always helps to have, well, peeps. My business travel again had me traveling to Arlington, VA, and in general that leaves me with two options to get there from NH: I can either fly from Manchester to Reagan National Airport for a lot of money and really inconvenient flight times, or I can fly to Baltimore with good flight times and extremely low cost. The downside of the Baltimore route is that it involves planes, trains, and automobiles, since getting from BWI to Arlington generally requires some combination of shuttle bus, train, and Metro.
But the useful thing is that I know quite a few people that live near BWI, and have often used this as an opportunity to have them pick me up for a meal before I catch the train to DC. Last time, it was the Paper Moon Diner. This time, my friend Betsy picked me up, and we decided to try G&M for some crabcakes.
G&M is one of the more venerable purveyors of crabcakes in the Baltimore area, they’ve been serving them up roughly as long as I’ve been alive. And they are the sort of place that comes up in virtually every “Best Crabcake in Baltimore” list that you find online, although they don’t always take the number one spot on the list. However, they’ve obviously got a following, and a long track record, so we decided to give them a try.
First thing I noticed upon entering the restaurant is that this place looks like it’s been serving crabcakes up since 1972. The waiting area, dining room, and overall decor are pretty much right out of the 1970s, back when “dark wood paneling” was the rage. After a short wait for a table (we did get there around dinner time on Columbus Day, when most everyone seems to have decided that one good way to celebrate a minor holiday was to eat out), we were taken to a white-linen tablecloth table.
The menu at G&M is basically “seafood”, with enough non-seafood entrees to satisfy the occasional non-seafood eating family member that got dragged along. G&M knows their reputation for crabcakes, since they feature prominently on the menu. For dinner, the major choices are the crabcake platters (one or two, with two sides), as well as various combo plates. Since they are known for their crabcakes, both of us opted for single crabcake platters. I decided to get mine with both the housemade potato salad and cole slaw.
After a brief salad course (of one of those little iceberg lettuce salad places that also seems to be de rigeur for these sorts of places), the waiter delivered our platters. What was immediately obvious upon receiving the plate was that this was definitely a generous portion, since this one crabcake would obviously tide me over until something mid-Tuesday. The crabcake was also obviously just fried, since it was still nice and crispy on the exterior.
Digging into the cake itself, the first thing I noticed was that they weren’t going cheap on the interior, either. Too often, I’ve gotten crabcakes where the interior was mostly breading instead of crab, or the crab itself was in little shreds. Here, the crabcake was almost entirely large chunk of lump crab meat, with just enough breadcrumbs and sauce to, well, hold it together. The results was definitely a crabcake, and not a “crab plus filler” cake. The crab was rather nicely cooked, still tender and not at all rubbery. The sauce inside was substantial enough to keep the crabcake moist, adding a bit of pepper as well. However, I did find something slightly lacking here: the sweet notes of the blue crab came through nicely, but I didn’t get a lot of other crab flavor, I think the sauce on the inside damped out the crab flavor a bit. They did serve it up with tartar sauce and Old Bay as well, but neither of these really fixed that.
Where they did an outstanding job was on my two side dishes. Usually places like this seem to just dish cole slaw out of a giant vat of slaw (usually with some sort of Sysco label on it), but at G&M both it and the potato salad were obviously housemade. The cole slaw was crunchy and tangy with a nice celery seed component that worked well with the seafood. The potato salad was still slight firm, also tangy, and had some nice chunk of green pepper that actually worked well. Both of these complemented the crabcake without overshadowing it.
Don’t get me wrong, G&M certainly had a very good crabcake (one where they didn’t take any shortcuts), but I think I’d agree with most of the other bloggers out there that put G&M at the second or third spot on their “Best Crabcake” list, since I know they could do just a bit better. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back.