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Posts from the ‘Maryland’ Category

Bo Brooks

1/2 This wouldn’t be the first time that my out-of-town eating plans were thwarted by the vacations of others. Taking time off during summer? Restaurateurs don’t make a habit out of warm weather breaks in NYC. Uglesich’s (before it closed for good) and a handful of other places were shuttered when I was last in New Orleans, and like every tapas place on my list was out of commission the week I was in Barcelona two summers ago.

It didn’t occur to me that my first place crab house choice, Mr. Bill’s Terrace, might have the entire week beginning July 4th off. It’s a shame because I was liking what I was seeing on the way to Essex (I’m not sure if that’s a neighborhood or township): Teenagers with carp moustaches and non-ironic fedoras topping long frizzy locks. I spied timewarp youngsters that could out-hesher the best the Northwest has to offer. Scrawny Jack Sprat men in denim cutoffs and (once again, non-ironic) trucker hats with enormous wives were not rare either. I saw more wheelchairs in Baltimore in two-and-a-half days than I’ve practically seen in a decade in NYC (I’ve never understood what the big deal with using the handicapped stall was because no one here seems to be in need of them, but at a Nordstrom bathroom there were two disabled women waiting to use one). And cats just sit in the middle of the road, not even flinching when drive up near them (I would never hit an animal—we drove up on a belligerent feline to try and figure out why it wouldn’t move. It seemed that it simply didn’t want to).

And I liked what I saw when we arrived at the windowless box of a restaurant. I could smell peppery-sweet Old Bay in the air. I imagined Keno, pitchers of beer and the lingering stench of cigarette smoke despite a half-year indoor ban being in effect. But everything was locked up tight. We only found out that they were closed for the week when a woman in the parking lot told us so. No, I never call ahead when trying new restaurants.

I racked my brain for choice number two, Costas Inn, which I didn’t think was terribly far from where we were (nothing in Baltimore seemed a great distance from each other). We weren’t making the same mistake again and called to confirm they were open for dinner on Independence Day. They were, but uh, they didn’t have any crabs. I was starting to lose hope.

Dramatically, a severe thundershower struck adding a literal dampening to my already floundering spirits.
I had ignored James’s favorite Baltimore crab house, Obrycki’s, because it’s some weird tradition he has with his family and I hate family traditions. I wanted to do my own thing and at 6:30pm it didn’t seem likely to get in without reservations.

The only other option I had stored in memory was Bo Brooks. It was the dead opposite of Mr. Bill’s. Some places you have to look past the dump to admire the food. Here, you had to get over the cheesy vibe. I kind of knew it would be touristy but didn’t realize how much so, like a chain, maybe Margaritaville (even though I’ve never been to one), sterile, corporate, but with a good view of the harbor (it was the only one with outdoor seating, not that I ever choose alfresco over air conditioning) and substantial crabs.

Bobrooks crabs

Certainly, the fact that they serve crabs all year long when the other eateries don’t is telling. Not that I have any locavore tendencies. I couldn’t tell the difference between imported Asian crabs and Chesapeake blue crabs in a million years.

Crabs are not cheap anywhere—there aren’t bargains to really be had short of catching them yourself. Bo Brooks had large, extra large, jumbo and colossal. Our extra large dozen set us back $75. They certainly were hefty, dwarfing the crustaceans at Brooklyn’s Clemente’s (scene of last year’s birthday—2008’s is rapidly approaching and that doesn’t sit well with me).

 Crabs are a strange food. For me, it’s next to impossible to get even close to full because I spend so much time messing with the shells. I’m still learning cracking strategies and managed to cut up my fingers and bloodied my pinky. I think I’d starve to death on an all-crab diet. But eventually I managed to extract pristine white nuggets that actually required a few chews.

Even James, the crab snob between the two of us, conceded that these were good. And I was inclined to agree. I think heavy is the term for crabs where the proportion of meat is high. And 11 of this 12 fit that definition.

We started with bottles (classy) of Natty Boh and quickly moved onto a pitcher of Hoegaarden (only because it was the special). We were initially dismayed at their pitcher-less drink menu until we realized that pitchers are a given in Baltimore, rather than something requiring an explicit mention.

Bobrooks aftermath

This was only a fraction of the aftermath.

Bo Brooks * 2701 Boston St., Baltimore, MD

Charm City

Well, that was a short and sweet mini-vacation. Unfortunately, I spent over seven hours in a car yesterday attempting to get back to NYC. I’m still not sure how we got to Baltimore on the 4th, itself, traffic-free in half that time. I always forget why it’s wise to just stay home during three-day weekends, but the concept of a “staycation” makes me want to hurl. I will not be a tourist in my own city, thanks.

I really just use out-of-town excursions as an excuse to ignore my reluctant sugar and starch avoiding regimen. I have the logic that somehow Tastykakes, cheap beer, fried potatoes and bread baskets don’t count as long as I’m not on my home turf. But really, how much damage can be done to one’s constitution in 48 hours?

Baltimore is the type of place where you just feel less self-conscious. NYC feels guarded and judgmental, but perhaps I’m just guarded and judgmental. Overall, I would say that people are friendly and they drink heavily. James, who went to college there, attributed the latter to alcohol being so inexpensive. I think it’s the culture in general. For instance, I don’t see people doing shots much here (though I was offered one a few weeks ago at South Brooklyn Pizza and that was highly unusual). Maybe it’s simply the difference between $12 and $5 cocktails and $5 cocktails, sipping vs. slamming.

I was turned on to the charms of National Bohemian, a.k.a. Natty Boh, and was reminded how sad it is that NYC lacks a crappy cheap regional beer. Yes, PBR is a universal, but that doesn’t count.  In Portland we had Rainier (r.i.p.). I don’t think such a beast exists here. I’m 99% sure I’ve never seen $1.50 cans of beer in NYC bars, either.

I also discovered a tasty creature called a crab pretzel at a Phillips Express tucked inside a Maryland rest stop. There’s nothing particularly pretzely about it; this is a blob of baked dough topped with crab dip and cheese, then broiled. A perfect marriage of fat and starch.

More Chesapeake goodness to come. Meanwhile, here are some admittedly random photos. Picture-taking has never been my strength.

LP Steamers


I had no idea I'd end up eating crabs in Baltimore Memorial Day Weekend. In
fact, I didnt even know it until about two hours before it happened. The
original Saturday plan involved getting up early and heading to Adamstown,
PA “Antiques Capital USA.” But the antiques capital is mostly
closed on Saturdays, Sundays are when its all wheeling and dealing. Who

So, after hitting Reading and checking out the strip mall scene we
decided to just keep heading south. Instead of dinner in nearby Philly where
weve been a million times, why not Baltimore? It was Jamess college stomping
ground, and I'd never been at all. The perfect impromptu long weekend plan.

The only trouble ensued when I tried web searching on a stupid
Blackberry for places to get steamed crab. I get car sick if I even read for
five seconds in a moving vehicle. I so don't get the allure of handheld
devices (I still don't own a cell phone). I know web surfing isnt a
Blackberrys raison detre, but it was painfully slow and cumbersome. It took
me the entire two-hour drive to come up with the random LP Steamers and we
had no idea if it was even a good bet.

But it all turned out well. Even with my perpetual well be too late
paranoia, 9:30pm was ok. There was an empty table on the upstairs outdoor
patio. Normally, I'm no fan of al fresco, but it was just right. A dozen Old
Bay encrusted crabs, fried oysters, a pitcher beer and we were good to go. I
loved the cheap prices, rampant cigarette smoking and convivial crowd (crude
could be a better descriptor, but I'm not put off by lewd stories. The table
next to us had a loud mouth girl who couldnt stop with the dirty talk, which
prompted another table to semi-jokingly tell her to keep it down while they
were trying to eat).

We only spent about four hours–8:30pm to 1am–in town. I need to see
the city in the daylight for a better assessment.

LP Steamers * 1100 E. Fort
Ave.,Baltimore, MD