Ash Wednesday is coming up. Lent tends to put a crimp in the deportment of the devout—meatless Fridays, giving up something dear like movies or alcohol or (gasp!) chocolate for the duration. For forty days and forty nights, we Christians are supposed to suffer a little to keep our minds on the sacrifice of Christ.Which, in Maryland our Maryland, we can accomplish with crab cakes. They are legal for Lent. So we are way better off than people in say, Oklahoma, where the wind comes whistlin’ down the plain and there are no crabs anywhere, no how, not even for ready cash.
Boy, are we lucky. Imagine Lent in Kansas—not much of a seafood industry there. Your choices will have all been handled by the Gorton’s Fisherman or Mrs. Paul. Not pretty, not pretty at all.
Here’s a little rundown of really excellent places you can go to observe the strictures of Lent so you can head to confession with a clear conscience—dietarily, at least.
There are several places that serve great crab cakes for around $15-$18. For a diner atmosphere, head over to Laki’s, 3928 Eastern Ave., corner of Grundy Street. The crab cake is massive and made of jumbo lump and liberally seasoned with Old Bay. For further deprivation try the shrimp salad ($8.95), which rivals the Bay Café’s, or the gigantic crab pretzel for $8.95.
For a great congenial corner bar atmosphere, try Sharky’s, 2817 Eastern Ave., across from the Pulaski Monument in Patterson Park. It’s a friendly place, you can discuss sports or community stuff to your heart’s content and the crab cake is delightful. And the beer, assuming you have not renounced it, is cold. Over in Locust Point, the crabcake is big and tasty at J.R.’s, 1229 Hull St., and there’s a pool table. Across the street at Hull Street Blues, there is plenty of fish, shrimp, clams and oysters to be had and there’s shuffleboard.
It’s hard to imagine since the bar is renowned for its burgers, but there is one of the best grilled tuna steak sandwiches around at the Poncabird Pub, 1719 Poncabird Pass right where Ponca St. sweeps under I-895 and becomes Holabird Ave. It’s a beautiful piece of fish and you can get it grilled to order, an unbelievable deal at $8.99.
Or splurge and get the bronzino at Zorba’s, 4710 Eastern Ave. The chef takes a whole fish (scaled and gutted of course) and places it directly on the white hot coals of the grill. When done the skin is crisp and the flesh is soft, flaky and perfectly delicious. The dish ranges from $22-$25 depending on the market price of the fish.
And if you want to go for the most self-indulgent penitence, there are some of the best steamed crabs around at Canton Dockside, corner of Boston and Clinton streets. There’s a waterside deck and a big dining room for your crackin’, chewin’ and chattin’ pleasure.
Churches start serving up their coddies, crab cakes, quiches and such Friday. Check our community calendar for listings and updates. Keep in mind that just about any pub, carryout or restaurant will serve Maryland crab soup, and there are lots of oyster po’boys and raw bars to be sampled. Have a tasty Lent, hons! Forty days and forty nights will go quicker than you imagine…