By Staci Wolfson
When an old friend from high school came to visit, we decided a good bushel of steamed crabs were in order. Not only is she now living in Chicago, but she and my roommate worked in a crab house in high school, so the expectations for a proper Baltimore crab feast were high, and the bar had been set.
Of course we have our favorites, but we wanted to stay in Canton, our neighborhood. The weather was nice, and Canton Dockside with its casual atmosphere and outdoor seating is in walking distance, so we had settled on it as our spot.
I had been to Dockside before but had never had the steamed crabs, advertised (like so many other local restaurants’ crabs) as Baltimore’s best.
The thing about crabs is that it’s never really about how good they taste. Sure, you’ll scoff if the crabs are light or poorly seasoned (neither of which was the case at Dockside), but a crab feast is really about the experience. On this front, Canton Dockside delivers.
We sat outside on the picnic table benches with a view of the water and its boat yards as the sun went down. Along with our Maryland blue crabs, we dove into a pound of steamed shrimp and buffalo-style onion “rings of fire” and caught up on life as we methodically picked the dozen large crabs.
What Canton Dockside provided – in addition to an appropriately heavy dose of Old Bay seasoning and quality service – was an authentic atmosphere with paper on the table, buckets in the middle, mallets and knives.
It was almost nostalgic — the burn of the seasoning in the little cuts the shells make in your fingers and the way your hands smell like crabs for hours. I don’t remember learning how to pick crabs, but when you’re born and raised in Baltimore like the three of us were, it’s something you don’t escape learning and something you never forget.
Eager to prolong the evening, which flew by as quickly, we decided to order dessert, something Dockside calls its chocolate crab cake.
A dense chocolate sheet cake shaped like a crab complete with pink eyes and strawberry sauce wasn’t the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had, but it was delightfully whimsical and reminded me of pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse ears.
Everything about the meal was reflective of a Baltimore summer – simple, easy to savor, and far too quick.
3301 Boston Street, Suite 102 (Canton)
Baltimore, Md. 21224
Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri – Sat 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.