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Eats and Drinks

Best Crab House

Gunning’s Crab House

3901 S. Hanover St., 354-0085

Posted 9/18/1996

Crab houses do not live by crabs alone. If they did, there’d be little point to this category—the best crab house would be whichever one’s closest (’course, when the crab fever strikes, the best crab house is whichever one’s closest). Everyone’s presumably casting their bread upon the same waters, so to speak, drawing their supply from the same strain of Chesapeake blues, and anyone with a big pot can do the steaming. There are a few major differences—you either go for the more traditional Old Bay–style seasoning or you prefer, say, Obrycki’s singular black-pepper-and-mustard mix (we don’t)—but for the most part the devil’s in the details, and in the details Gunning’s excels.

They get the basic order filled here, and filled right—Gunning’s hard-shells are consistently meaty, well-cooked, and well-seasoned (they pass perhaps the toughest test of a steamed crab—they’re still good cold the next night), and the prices are more or less in line with everybody else’s. We also like the funky Brooklyn ambience, and the dim, roomy dining space, which strikes the proper balance between riverside crab shack and evening-out restaurant.

And we love the fried green-pepper rings, a dish native to the place and to our knowledge available nowhere else in Baltimore. (You can get them at the crab house’s estranged cousin, Gunning’s Seafood Restaurant in Anne Arundel County, which also whips up a dynamite crab imperial but is unfortunately located in a strip-center off a construction-choked I-295 exit.) These thick-cut strips of bell pepper, batter-dipped, dunked in oil, and dusted with powdered sugar, get your crab feast off to a rousing good start and give Gunning’s the edge over the rest of the region’s crustacean palaces.

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Other Awards for Best Crab House:

L.P. Steamers, 9/16/2009

Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn, 9/17/2008

Gunning's Seafood Restaurant, 9/19/2007

Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn, 9/20/2006

Mariner’s Landing, 9/21/2005

L.P. Steamers, 9/22/2004

Costas Inn, 9/17/2003

Bill's Terrace Inn, 9/18/2002

Mariner's Landing, 9/19/2001

Mariner's Landing, 9/13/2000

Gabler's, 9/15/1999

Cantler's Riverside Inn, 9/17/1997

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