I knew Lexington Market is on the sketchy side (after being robbed in Canada–yes, Canada!–over a decade ago, I now pay heed to online naysayers even if I suspect they're exaggerating the level of danger and I feel like a know-it-all New Yorker). And I also knew that every time I've been to Baltimore I've missed the well-known crab cake at Faidley's (or is it just Faidley–it's spelled both ways all over the place) within the Lexington Market because I never get into town before Saturday closing time (5pm) and it's not open Sundays (a surprising number of businesses in this town aren't).
So, I got my crab cake this time, right alongside all the other camera-toting tourists standing up against the tall chairless tables exclusive to the restaurant. Jumbo lump, a little mayonnaise and mustard for binding, some cracker crumbs too, I imagine (though not much) and a packet of Saltines. Purist. I like a few shakes vinegary Tabasco to cut the richness. A can of Natty Boh rounds out the experience.
* * *
A trip to the public restroom, though, can add a whole other layer to the experience. Now, I knew better than to use the bathroom at Lexington Market, but after being in the car for hours, this was our first pitstop; I really had to go, busted or not. I imagined it would be like a Port Authority bathroom might be in the '70s but with fewer runaways, and I got my wish and then some.
The No Bathing, No Shaving, and many other Nos sign, immediately tipped me off to the scene. I saw boobs, I saw bellies. There were a lot of flesh-exposing bathing suits, despite our not being near a beach. A woman asleep in a wheelchair was apparently waiting for another woman in a wheelchair to vacate the handicapped stall. Hair was inexplicably wet. The line, which I was only third in, wouldn't budge until angry women of all ages began spilling out into the hall. The nearest stall contained a passed out woman. A polite pregnant woman had everyone in the tight quarters yelling at the passer-outer and pounding the door on her behalf (I'm equal opportunity and wondered why no one was mad at the woman in the handicapped stall who'd been taking up space just as long). Security was brought in. I had flashbacks to the women's prison-esque Lucille Roberts, the first gym I ever joined, on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border where ladies with neck tattoos would threaten anyone taking too long in the bathroom, "You'd better not be changing in there because you ain't got nothing I've haven't seen before!" To bring this back to food, McDonald's meals were also frequently eaten in the locker room.
I peed in 30 seconds and hightailed it out so fast (no, I did not wash my hands) that my skirt got caught up in the back of my underwear, and was told so by two women as I was about to head outside into the world. And I wasn't even remotely embarrassed.
But the clincher was that James, who was waiting outside the bathroom, had been approached by some of the angry mob. "You're with a white girl?" they asked. "She needs to get her ass out of that bathroom." I love that he was racially profiled, whether or not he seemed like someone who'd be with a middle-aged junkie or not. But more disconcertingly, he believed that I was the trouble-maker in the bathroom. As if that's my typical M.O. when just trying to get a crab cake in another city.
So, good crab cake, meatier than most, but not necessarily worth the trouble in a city where crab cakes aren't exactly hard to come by. I'll stick with Duda's where we went immediately afterward and got another one because day trips are for crustacean-filled gluttony.
Faidley's * 203 N. Paca St., Baltimore, MD