Olivia Dish

Why So Crabby?

In Baltimore, Restaurant on February 21, 2011 at 10:02 pm
Luna Del Sea Bistro

Would it be crazy to think they have, say, crab on the menu?

Dear Baltimore, I’m sure your residents don’t eat crab three times a day. Or do they?

I just arrived here for an overnight assignment, after so many delays I feared my return flight might leave before I even landed.  Tired though I was, the prospect of my hotel’s restaurant wasn’t too appealing. I wanted to venture out into Baltimore, if only a half block.  With the concierge’s help, I did.

“I was hoping for some place I can walk to,” I told him.

“Do you like beer?” he asked.

I hesitated. Was this a trick question?

“Yes,” I said.

He handed me a card for a free beer and directed me to Luna Del Sea Bistro.  I admit, I did think he said “lunacy” at first, and that suited me just fine.  “It’s the place with the white lights in the trees,” he instructed me.  A bistro and white lights.

And of course, that was followed by, “They have excellent crab cakes.”

Luna Del Sea bar

A free beer was the perfect complement to my expense account.

Which takes me back to:

Dear Baltimore, I’m sure your residents don’t eat crab three times a day.

Or do they?

I once spent a week here for a conference. I did eat crab three times a day. It was served at every meal.

I have strong memories of visiting Baltimore with my father. He was always keen to go to a place called Haussner’s, a restaurant that had fine crab cakes, but that I remember more because they had covered every inch of wall space with gold-framed oil paintings and kept a giant ball of string on the lowest floor.

Seafood Trio

The seafood trio--shrimp, scallops, and what was that third item? Oh yes....

My father, a great fan of the crab cake, had many theories about where to find them around these parts. He often insisted we go to some small town on the Maryland shore for the sole purpose of eating crab cakes for lunch.  (He also insisted that many of the people he saw around Baltimore were doubled over with syphilis, which we also scoffed at. Not long after he made that observation, a CDC report revealed he was right.)

How, exactly, did crab become the “unofficial mascot” of Baltimore?  Was crab responsible for the wild creativity of city resident Edgar Allen Poe? For instance, did crab at every meal inspire his famous “nevermore”?

Since I have no answers to offer, let’s turn back to the Luna Del Sea, which was a fine place for a crab cake, made with “95 percent crab meat,” my very good waitress Katya assured me in English spoken with an Eastern European accent.

I had the seafood trio–broiled shrimp, scallops, and a crab cake–along with a side of vegetables and a free Sam Adams beer.  The crab cake was plenty crabby and topped with a light cream and capers sauce, made even better when I gave it a good squirt of lemon.

Luna Del Sea interior

The view from my banquette

The atmosphere was old school, comfortable and a little kitschy. I enjoyed my seat in a banquette, with plush pillow behind me.  Maybe locals come here. Maybe they don’t. It wasn’t among the restaurants on my Baltimore dining wish list, true. But it was the perfect antidote to a long day of travel, almost as convenient as dining in the hotel–but better, no doubt, and slightly more adventurous.

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