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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
This is arguably the city's most famous crab house. It got its start back in 1944 and has been serving up piping hot jumbo Jimmies ever since. Jumbo Jimmies are big male blue crabs.
Want to see a picture of a live blue crab and find out why they got that name? Click right here. Once they are steamed, they turn bright red just as lobsters do when cooked.
The restaurant is located in a section of Fell's Point that looks a bit on the "iffy" side. In fact a Baltimore resident who dined with us gave me some strange body language after he pulled into the pay parking lot across the street and joined us inside the restaurant. But the evening went just perfectly.
The servers inside the restaurant are very helpful. And should they fail to ask you, the first thing you want to do upon being seated is to reserve some live crabs. Sometimes they have enough to feed an army, other times the catch hasn't been so plentiful. So reserve the number of crabs you think your party will eat before other diners sneak in ahead of you.. We're crab fanatics and usually order a dozen per couple if they're big.
We've enjoyed blue crabs from Boston to New Orleans to Tampa and they're prepared in slightly different ways around the country. In New Orleans they are boiled with spices called "crab boil." It's a pouch of the local favorite brand--Zatarains. When they're boiling away the peppery spices are enough to nearly drive you out of the house. In Baltimore and around the Chesapeake Bay, they are steamed with Old Bay seasoning. Many restaurants go with straight Old Bay but others, like Obrycki's, add extra pepper and I think it makes all the difference.
When you select crabs, your server will completely cover your table in butcher paper because there will be huge piles of shells and crab debris as you devour the little devils. When the crabs are ready, they are brought to the table on a big platter and then scattered on the paper in front of hungry diners. They are so hot that they are still steaming. I start with the claws first and let the rest of the crab cool down to a manageable temp. Then I start to have a go at the lump meat and other body meat.
You say you don't like crabs or that they're too much effort? No problem. Obrycki's offers plenty of other seafood offerings including some of the best crab cakes you'll ever savor. The menu is heavy on shrimp prepared in a variety of ways. If somebody in your party is a seafood hater, they offer hamburgers, too. And be sure to check out the appetizers. Their steamed cherrystone clams are super.
Obrycki's is located at 1727 East Pratt Street in the Fell's Point section of Baltimore. Their phone number is: (410) 732-6399. They've got a great web site here.
PS-If you're lucky enough to live somewhere in the U.S. that sells live blue crabs, try 'em both ways to see which preparation you like the best. Boil 'em in Zatarain's (web site highlighted above) and then steam some in Old Bay spice (web site above, too). And if you're landlocked like we are, you can always arrange to have some shipped. Getting them delivered live can be a problem, however, because they don't travel well. But to me, I'd rather pass on the cooked crabs and take a chance at ordering them live. There's just nothing like a freshly cooked crab.