Bo Brooks Is Cracked Crab Heaven in Charm City
I trained it down to Baltimore for one reason. My friend Pam Scott, VP of Communications for Red Lion Hotels, told me her company had just opened a new hotel, and I wanted to check it out. Well, maybe there were a few other reasons too, namely, that Baltimore is a fun city and I wanted to try eating cracked crabs.
Last night we piled into the HotelRL Baltimore’s 1973 Volkswagen Bus, which is tricked out with limo-style seating and a new diesel engine (still four cylinders!) and drove over to Bo Brooks, an unscale crabhouse right on the harbor in Canton. The table was covered with a big brown paper, to make cleaning up all of that crab mess a snap.
Before the friendly server brought out our mountain of blue claw crabs, the restaurant’s manager shared some tips and details about the crustaceans. This time of year, he said, they come mostly from the Gulf of Mexico, so we wouldn’t be eating Chesapeake crabs. Those are available only in the summer.
At Bo Brooks they steam the crabs in gigantic steamers, in up to five layers. They chill down the crabs on ice so they won’t try and fight each other when they stack them up. They douse them liberally with a special spice rub (not Old Bay), kosher salt and black pepper. Then about 25 minutes of steaming in beer and water and voila the big mound is dumped in front of us.
We were handed the requisite bibs and wooden mallets, along with some small containers of garlic butter, vinegar and we set to work. First we pulled the little tab at the bottom of the male crabs, then wedged our knives in to flip open the shell. With a quick and deft maneuver, you crack the thing in half and then begin digging out the while lump crab meat from inside. For something that does not have that much meat, it was surprisingly filling–after we’d all had about three each, the mound was still pretty big but we were full. I think it was the many appetizers we began with, not just the crab pile that made us so full!
I asked our server if most people choose this labor-intensive manner of dining. He said that some people just order crabcakes, since they don’t want to fuss with it. Others he said, have crab shucking contests and can consume as many as a dozen at one sitting. With a delicious bisque made half cream of crab and half Maryland crab, a few crabmeat-stuffed avocados, corn on the cob and Chesapeake toast, were had a true crab feast in front of us.
Lots of boaters eat dinner every night at Bo’s. Their location, with yachts tied up right outside, makes it a great stop for yachtsmen, or just locals who swear these are the best crabs in the city.