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Where to Indulge in Delaware's Tastiest Crab Cakes

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You’ll spot a crab cake, be it a sandwich, slider, salad topping or entrée, on almost every menu in Delaware. You’ll find them prepared with classic French techniques or patted together with crushed Saltines. They’re served on a plate with a swirl of sauce or slipped on a bun. The variety invites discussion. “Everyone has a different opinion as to where to find the best crab cake,” says David Leo Banks, executive chef of Harry’s Hospitality Group. It’s a given that a crab house will deliver the goods, so here are a few non-crab house versions to try, from the affordable and old faithful versions to fancier takes. (Note: Prices can change based on the market or menu changes.)

 

Tried, true and old school

Banks began making crab cakes en masse as a young cook at the iconic Rusty Rudder, where they’ve been a specialty for nearly 40 years. As a sandwich, the broiled crab cake is served on a potato roll with a lemon wedge and Old Bay mayo. ($15). Lettuce, tomato, a pickle and a bag of chips are on the side. The entrée of two crab cakes is $30. •• 113 Dickinson St., Dewey Beach, 227-3888

For another crab cake with a water view, visit Harpoon Hanna’s, where the crab cake ($14.99) comes with tartar sauce. Or opt for the sliders: three mini crab cakes with American cheese and bistro sauce ($13.99). • 39064 Harpoon Road, Fenwick Island, 539-3095

Several of the beach-area’s SoDel Concepts’ restaurants serve crab cakes with a dash of nostalgia. At Catch 54 Fish House in Fenwick Island, for instance, the crab cake sandwich is dressed with tomato and lettuce accompanied by coleslaw, salt fries and house pickles ($16). The similarly dressed crab cake sandwich at Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany Beach uses colossal lump crabmeat ($18). Cocktail and tartar sauces are the condiments of choice. At Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes, the crab cake sandwich has jumbo lump ($17), while at Fish On in Lewes, you’ll find classically prepared crab cakes (no bun) with Old Bay fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce and a wedge of lemon (market price).  Visit sodelconcepts.com for information on each restaurant.

Longtime customers of Two Seas can’t do without the third-floor view of the ocean and bay and the crab cakes, which are baked in the oven, then broiled on top (market price). • Van Dyke Avenue and Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach, 227-2610

Gilligan’s Waterfront Restaurant & Bar’s building on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal might be brand new, but the award-winning crab cake remains the same—an 8-ounce ball of jumbo lump dusted with panko and flash-fried. The sandwich is $18. The entrée, served with hush puppies and coleslaw, is $25. Happily, you can still dine on the deck for a view of the marina.  134 Market St., Lewes, 644-7230

Buckley’s Tavern serves crab cakes two ways, and both will appeal to traditionalists. The sandwich (16.95) includes a Kaiser roll with cocktail or tartar sauce. The entrée ($25.95) features broiled crab cakes with champagne-mustard sauce, vegetables and smashed Yukon gold potatoes. In both cases, the cakes are formed to order, so they require less binding to keep them intact. • 5812 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 656-9776

 

Savoir Flair

For Harry’s Savoy Grill and Harry’s Seafood Grill, Banks developed a recipe with the expected ingredients: bread, egg and mayonnaise, onion and lemon juice. But the luscious extra is jumbo-lump crabmeat. He mixes the lumps with everything else, then folds in colossal crabmeat for texture and presentation. The crab cakes ($30.95) are the same at both locations. • 2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000; 101 S. Market St., Wilmington, 302-777-1500

The Back Porch Café’s memorable recipe was developed by the late chef Leo Medisch, who was fond of the classic techniques. Chef Tim McNitt has stayed true to his mentor, and he exactingly makes a key ingredient: a shrimp mousse that gives the cake a luscious soufflé-like character as it cooks. Accompaniments change each season. The dish is $38.  59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674

 

Finishing touches

When it comes to entrées, a little special sauce, remoulade or aïoli often distinguish the dish. Champagne mustard, with a little white wine, brings finesse to the crab cakes at the Bayard House ($33), which come with fennel-and-carrot salad and crispy fingerling chips.  11 Bohemia Ave., Chesapeake City, Md., (410) 885-5040

Remoulade and aïoli abound at many restaurants. Consider the sundried-tomato remoulade at Michele’s in the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, which serves twin jumbo-lump crab cakes ($36).  1131 N. DuPont Hwy., Dover,  674-4600

Chili remoulade turns up the heat of the crab cakes at Salt Air, which come with a bacon potato salad ($27).  50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth, 227-3744

Skipjack serves crab cakes with tomato fondue and roasted garlic aïoli ($17/$34). • 401 Louviers Drive, Newark, 456-1800

Spanish chorizo and a saffron-lobster nage give Mediterranean flavor to the crab cakes at Krazy Kat’s, ($20/$38), which also come with a fava bean succotash.  528 Montchanin Road, Montchanin, 888-4200

As befits a brewpub, White Iron Wit beer gives Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant’s remoulade a punch. The crab cake entrée also comes with Old Bay wedge fries, frisée and a sweet corn salad ($27).  147 E. Main St., Newark, 266-9000; 620 Justison St., Wilmington, 472-2739

For a real old school experience, pull up a chair in George & Sons’ Seafood Market, where cases of fresh fish are on one side, and the bar is on the other. In between is the market, which added a raw bar and increased menu items after it moved in 2014. It’s a low-key experience, but the food is impressive. The crab cake entrée ($23) features snowy white chunks of crabmeat that have been gently patted into a ring and baked so they’re still pristine white when they hit the table. Don’t forget to start with oysters on the half shell.  1216 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 239-7204

 

Bargains on a bun—or plate

You don’t need to spend a fortune to eat a crab cake. It’s now a headliner at several quick-casual and casual restaurants. There are two Famous Crab Cakes locations in Delaware. Here you’ll find a 4-ounce cake for $5.99, a 6-ounce crab cake for $8.49 and a half-pounder for $10.99. You can also buy prepared crab cakes to cook at home.  651 Naamans Road, Claymont, 746-7820; 428 E. Main St., Middletown, 376-3555

In Selbyville, the Crabcake Factory Bayside sells 5-ounce, all jumbo-lump crab cakes for $15. Get a choice of two sides and the crab cake for $17. Make it two crab cakes and two sides for $29. Or go wild with the half-pound “crab bomb” for $25 (with a choice of two sides). The restaurant is an offshoot of the original Ocean City location, where the libation of choice is its legendary Bloody Mary and not a beer.  37314 Lighthouse Road, Selbyville, 988-5000

The award-winning crab cakes ($15.50) at Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill are a sweet deal because of the size and the quality. The plump orbs are all jumbo lump, and the recipe is straight from Maryland. (You can get it with crackers instead of a bun.)  1904 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 260-9945

The Charcoal Pit found fame for its burgers, but the crab cake sandwich is a close second. Made with backfin crabmeat, it became so popular that it moved from the list of specials to the menu at the original North Wilmington location and the Prices Corner restaurant. The sandwich is $8.50 in Wilmington; $8.95 at Prices Corner, where it comes with fries and coleslaw. • 2600 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 478-2165; 714 Greenbank Road, 998-8853

 

Have it your way—or many ways

In Wilmington, Feby’s Fishery offers Maryland-style crab cakes made with jumbo lump and backfin. The traditionally made patties come with a twist: Choose blackened, fried or pan-seared. ($25 as an entrée.) • 3701 Lancaster Pike, Wilmington, 998-9501

Big Fish Grill restaurants (there are now three in Delaware and one in nearby Glen Mills) let patrons jazz up an entrée with a crab cake (around $11 extra depending on the location). The secret ingredient is the company’s own imperial sauce.  Visit bigfishgrill.com for each site’s menu.

Trolley Square Oyster House is part of the Big Fish family. There you can get a crab cake on a salad ($10 extra), broiled crab cakes with a Brussels sprouts-and-apple salad ($24) or a sandwich with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on a potato bun with Cajun coleslaw ($16). • 1707 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 384-7310

Go big or small at Jerry’s Seafood, “home of the Crab Bomb”—10 ounces of jumbo lump baked and seasoned with Old Bay—and the Firecracker Bomb, which is rolled in dry mustard and cracked black peppercorns. (Both are $35. A 6-ounce version is $28.) The regular crab cakes are a manageable 4 ounces. Get one on a sandwich ($17) or a pair as an entrée ($30). • 108 Second St., Lewes, 645-6611

At David Twining’s Nantuckets, the sandwich and the entrée each boast a different pop of flavor with “secret” recipes. Nanny’s crab cake sandwich—also available at Lobster Shanty, Nantucket’s sister restaurant—gets a boost from garlic aïoli ($15.89). The entrée gets a kick from caper remoulade ($29.89).  601 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-2607

 

Hidden gems for snowy nuggets

Seafood restaurants justifiably tout their crab cakes, but Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware has been quietly racking up accolades on travel sites for its version. In fact, chef Mark Chopko has won awards for it ($13 for a mini; $26 for an entrée). •• 400 David Hollowell Drive, Newark, 737-0900

The crab cake dishes at the Hilton/Wilmington Christiana are also a happy surprise. Pepper bacon, sliced avocado, tomato relish and an avocado-citrus aïoli dress up the sandwich ($17). The entrée ($33) comes with the aïoli, roasted tomatoes and grilled asparagus.  100 Continental Drive, Newark, 454-1500

A remoulade made with local Obis One black garlic distinguishes the crab cake at River Rock Kitchen, which also includes jumbo lump and claw crabmeat ($15). (Some say the claw is the tastier meat.) At the farmers market on Rodney Square, the restaurant has sold crab cakes with tomato confit and Sriracha aïoli.  Westin Wilmington, 818 Shipyard Drive Wilmington, 397-5518

Happily, you don’t need to check in to these hotels to check them out.

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