Bertha’s Restaurant & Bar, Baltimore
What to expect: An institution in Fells Point, Bertha's is legendary for its many delicious variations on steamed mussels. Heed the ubiquitous T-shirts and bumper stickers: Eat Bertha’s Mussels.
Check it out: 734 South Broadway; 410/327-5795 or berthas.com
The Wharf Rat, Baltimore
What to expect: With great fish-and-chips, excellent craft beers, nautical decor, and an air of elegance gone to seed, this cozy place in Baltimore’s funky Fells Point neighborhood has it all.
Check it out: 801 South Ann Street; 410/276-8304 or thewharfrat.com
Price’s Seafood Restaurant, Havre de Grace
What to expect: Dig into a pile of steamed crabs dumped onto your butcher paper–covered table. But don’t neglect the steamed shrimp, the lump crab cake, or Dad’s Crab Chowder. Cash only.
Check it out: 650 Water Street; 410/939-2782 or pricesseafood.com
Capt. Billys Crab House, Popes Creek
What to expect: Wonderful views of the wide Potomac River estuary and the 1940-vintage Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, plus terrific crabs.
Check it out: 11495 Popes Creek Road; 301/932-4323 or captbillys.com
Waterman’s Crab House Restaurant & Dock Bar, Rock Hall
What to expect: A classic Chesapeake Bay crab house on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, recently renovated but still unpretentious.
Check it out: 21055 Sharp Street; 410/639-2261 or watermanscrabhouse.com
Stoney’s Seafood House, Solomons Pier, Solomons
What to expect: Marylanders know their crab cakes. So this thriving dive, part of a four-restaurant chain, is clearly doing something right. The appeal? Softball-size cakes, light on filling, with meat so fresh it tastes like a whole new food group.
Check it out: 14757 Solomons Island Road South; 410/326-2424 or stoneysseafoodhouse.com
Town Dock Restaurant, St. Michaels
What to expect: At Sunday brunch, you'll want to savor every spoonful of the rich crab bisque before your shellfish-laden eggs St. Michaels arrives. We also love the chunky hash browns with red and green bell peppers.
Check it out: 125 Mulberry Street; 410/745-5577 or towndockrestaurant.com
Red Roost, Whitehaven
What to expect: The red-painted building began life as a chicken house. These days, steamed crab rules the Roost. Prefer not to dig out that armor-protected meat? Go for the broiled seafood platter, which includes a terrific crab cake.
Check it out: 2670 Clara Road; 410/546-5443 or theredroost.com
Faidley Seafood, Baltimore
What to expect: Among the produce and food vendors at rambunctious Lexington Market, Faidley sells crab cakes so packed with subtly spiced crabmeat that you won’t mind having to stand at counters to eat them. We can’t decide between the lump and backfin versions; try both.
Check it out: 203 North Paca St. (Lexington Market); 410/727-4898 or faidleyscrabcakes.com