Just about every Baltimore pub-grub joint has crab dip. A little cheese, less crab, lots of Old Bay, big whoop.
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Ah, but Barracuda’s crab dip ($9), now, that’s a different story. It is crabbier than it is cheesy, and it does indeed have a whiff of Old Bay, but the other thing it has, and the thing that makes it distinctive and delicious, is fresh basil.
Oh, and mascarpone, a soft Italian cheese that is slightly sweet. And a teeny bit of sherry.
There is enough basil to make the dip distinctive, but not enough to make it cheffy and New Yorky. It maintains its Baltimore soul while offering an interesting twist to a familiar dish, and it’s really good stuff. It’s kind of like a cross between she-crab soup and crab dip, with a sweet Italian accent.
It comes with toasted slices of baguette, which are themselves pretty tasty, and it comes from under the broiler molten-hot with a nice toasted skin on top.
Barracuda’s, at 1230 E. Fort Ave. in Locust Point, is a corner bar with seriously good food. There is a long, comfortable bar in front with a couple of TVs, and tables in back. We chose the bar, and decided to run through the appetizer menu while watching the British Open and chatting with our friendly bartender Kathy.
We’re going to get to the surf ‘n’ turf nachos and the excellent pizza in a minute, but first: Barracuda’s has some unusual liquors on the bar. Did you know there is such a thing as cotton candy flavored vodka? and that it is made in France, the international home of wine snobbery? There is also whipped cream flavored vodka. We tried a short shot of the cotton candy stuff, and it does indeed smell and taste like cotton candy.
Kathy says the whipped cream flavor makes a great creamsicle shooter.
It’s going to take a while to get my head around the existence of 70-proof cotton candy. The world of food and drink owes a great deal to the French, but I am not sure about this concept.
Anyhow, if the idea sounds good to you, Barracudas has it, along with some more traditional offerings like sangria and rum punch. The rum punch looked very good, with plenty of fresh fruit, and the sangria comes both red and white.
Back to the food: The Surf ‘n’ Turf Nachos ($12) are enough for two—a mountain of crisp tortilla chips topped with grilled round steak, little shrimp and big lumps of crab meat, plus lettuce, tomato, onion and cheddar cheese. Some of the chips came out naked, but they were good for scraping up the last of the crab dip.
The “Hippie” pizza ($7) has a crackling crisp thin crust topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fresh arugula, the peppery-strong green. The tomato sauce is laced with basil and Barracuda’s also has a white pizza, a pizza Margherita (tomato sauce, basil and fresh mozzarella), and some specialty pies like the Luau, which is topped with ham, cheddar and jack cheese, tomatoes and pineapple salsa.
Barracuda’s does not have beer on tap, but they do have an impressive bottled beer list, and their wine list includes selections from California and France.
Barracuda’s is a congenial place to pass a few hours with a beer or wine, or cotton candy shooter, and some very excellent noshes.
The tavern, at 1230 E. Fort Ave., is open daily, 11:30-1:30 a.m. There are daily specials and $5 lunch boxes on weekdays. Call 410-685-2832 for info.
by Jacqueline Watts