Angry Rant From a New Yorker: Take That Crap off of my Crab

By Ben Adler

Sorry D.C. boosters, but my attempts to be more positive in my blogging are being temporarily sidetracked. Amanda has pointed me to the crabs at Art and Soul, a fancy spot on Capitol Hill. If you click on the link, what’s wrong with the picture? The crabs are covered in some sort of red dust! I first encountered this nonsense at the charmingly rustic Quarterdeck bar and restaurant in Arlington. A friend told me it was a bastion of crabs and cheap beer and we went one day last summer after work.

One thing that the “Mid-Atlantic” region does have to offer is famous crabs from the Maryland Bay, and I’ve had some good crab cakes in D.C., so I thought this would surely be a good experience. I was wrong. The crabs were smothered in a salty seasoning that got all over my hands. It tasted like the powder that comes with Ramen Noodles that you mix in. Except it wasn’t mixed. That, it turns out, is Old Bay, a local Mrs. Dash-like seasoning that Marylanders inexplicably put on all kinds of things. Ben Miller once made surprisingly excellent buffalo wings, and then decided to waste a bunch of wings by putting Old Bay on them. He also likes Old Bay flavored chips. Apparently, if you are from Maryland, using Old Bay is like saying “wicked” if you hail from New England.

While I’m not a big fan of Old Bay chips or fried chicken, I don’t think those things taste that bad either. After all, potato chips are supposed to be salty and dry. Fried chicken wings often benefit from an added flavoring. Crabs, on the other hand, are supposed to be creamy and subtle. When cooking fresh shellfish, everyone knows that less is more. Lobster comes completely unadorned, as do crabs in most places. You get some butter, some lemon, and that’s it. If you are having stone crabs served cold, then maybe you’ll get a sauce to dip it in, sort of like shrimp cocktail, but at least the dipping is optional. Not so with Old Bay, they just shmear it on there like it’s olive oil on arugula. What have they got to hide? If the crabs are so good and fresh why can’t they speak for themselves?


22 responses to “Angry Rant From a New Yorker: Take That Crap off of my Crab

  1. i wholeheartedly agree, to the chagrin of my inlaws and also service people at crab shacks in annapolis. it’s been my experience that people in this region tend to smother all their otherwise good-tasting food with too much sugar, salt, syrups, sauces, etc.

  2. As we head to the Potomac River next week, I look forward to picking some crabs. My family there always steams crabs with a dollop of old bay, then rinses and cleans them before we pick. You get the delicious flavor of the crab that way! I never got the Old Bay style. What a mess.

  3. Eating steamed blue crabs with drawn butter is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Lol.

  4. The Maryland Bay? I’m not familiar with that one.

  5. 1. Maryland bay?
    2. A good crab shack doesn’t just throw Old Bay on and call it a day; the seasoning’s got more than that (which I think makes it worse by your less-is-more logic, but oh well)
    3. Old bay is delicious
    4. I never thought much of the flavor actually penetrated the meat; the primary benefit for me is making the finger-licking portion of crab picking more enjoyable. The actual meat tastes like… steamed crab.
    5. Get corn with clarified butter on the side to satisfy your shellfish+butter craving

    I haven’t been here too long; the only thing that’s still a mystery to me is why crabcakes are so expensive.

  6. Yes. The seasoning does not penetrate the shell. It gets on your fingers, which then subtly flavors the meat as you eat it. I would argue this is actually much less overpowering than dipping something in cocktail sauce or whatever.

  7. Badler, you are just plain wrong. If the Old Bay is too spicy for you, you could always wash it down with some nice cold apple juice punch.

  8. Wait, this is crazy talk. Too much Old Bay is no good, sure, but Old Bay is delicious.

  9. For those as distressed as I am about this blasphemous description, I laid down the law here:

  10. oh no. noooooo.

    I will listen to “Angry Rants from New Yorkers” regarding: bagels, pizza, the like. I will laugh and find you silly when you rant about things like…. crabs.

    (Note, Old Bay seasoning shouldn’t really be “red dust,” though, so having never been to Quarterdeck, I can’t speak to their goods. )

    Also, the flavor shouldn’t penetrate the meat, like Zach mentions. If it’s too spicy or hurts your delicate fingers…. well, I don’t know what to say.


  11. I’m sorry, but you are a jackass.

  12. Pingback: About that Old Bay « The Internet Food Association

  13. You remind of someone. Who was it…oh yes. Myself.

    When I went to the Bahamas for the first time with my partner (then-BF), he and all his relatives were singing the praises of the Bahamian national seafood delicacies, conch fritters and conch salad. Relatives went out of their way to take us to places that served up the “best” of each of these. And I was frankly nonplussed. I couldn’t see the appeal of chewy, rubbery shellfish battered and deep fried–it was like getting something off the children’s menu at Applebee’s. Conch salad was even worse–a bland, undressed mixture of chopped fresh conch and cabbage.
    But you know what? On subsequent visits, I’ve had these things again and again. And I’ve come to enjoy them, and even to sample them in different places and rate their quality along with the Bahamian relatives.
    Why do I keep eating the conch delicacies? BECAUSE IT’S THE LOCAL CUISINE. And I’ve begun to enjoy it. Enjoyment of the conch is one of the few things that will rev up conversations among the generally reserved Bahamian people.

  14. verplanck colvin

    When cooking fresh shellfish, everyone knows that less is more. Lobster comes completely unadorned, as do crabs in most places. You get some butter, some lemon, and that’s it.

    Let’s just ignore fried lobster, stuffed lobster tails, lobster rolls, lobster chowder, etc. etc.

    You’re from NY. I can see this rant coming from someone from another coastal region, but your homeland has no cultural contribution to shellfish preparation aside from manhattan clam chowder.

    Your old bay hate has piqued my curiosity for maryland-style crabs.

  15. Pingback: Angry Rant From A Real Brooklynite: Ben Adler Has Jumped The Shark « The Internet Food Association

  16. PROTIP: avoid boiled crawfish if you ever make it to Louisiana. Bonus: watch everyone laugh at you for being a whiny sissy who sucks.

  17. Who the hell dips blue crab in butter?

    I’m assuming this post is a parody…

  18. This is all just ridiculous. Maryland-style crab is great. Old Bay is great. Conch is not as described above….and is also great.

  19. Pingback: On its 70th Birthday, Old Bay Spices Up My Life | Food & Think

  20. I would like to point out that it is not the “Maryland Bay.” It is the Chesapeake Bay.

    Enjoy your other crabs any way you’d like, but if it is Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus), then the only way it should be consumed is with Old Bay. Sapidus means savory in Latin, and it perfectly describes the way a Blue Crab tastes. The savory and slightly spicy taste of Old Bay seasoning is a perfect compliment to the natural crab flavors.

  21. How about: get my crab out of that crappy guy’s hand.

    ugh. man, this is disgraceful. get this adler guy out of my face.

  22. Pingback: About that Old Bay |

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