Yes, you should eat crab when you go to Maryland's Eastern shore. But there's a whole lot of other food you also need to try.
Visiting Maryland—especially the Eastern Shore—without eating crab is like skipping the croissants in Paris or touring Napa without any wine. Sweet blue crab is the Chesapeake Bay’s culinary crown jewel (though there were allegations earlier this summer that “Maryland” crab actually swims upstream from Virginia!).
True origin aside, you’ll find steamed crab, crab cakes, and soft-shell crab on nearly every Maryland menu. And, wherever it was hatched, it’s worthy of all the heart eyes Emoji.
That said, some of the Eastern Shore’s best bites come without claws. Think: a nationally ranked ice cream stand or a farm-to-table scene to rival any major city…minus marathon waits and price hikes, plus bay views and small-town charm.
Sound like your idea of a good time? Savor the last bites of summer at this tasty East Coast getaway spot. Calm down, Virginia. You still win at ham.
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Grab a porch seat at this converted Victorian in Easton’s historic district, where the old-school vibe is as memorable as the New American menu. Start with the fat, fragrant mussels, whose spicy white-wine broth makes an A+ dunking sauce for spears of golden-brown crostini.
Salads are crisp and hearty, a deep-dish quiche rotates daily, and yes, this is a fine place to satisfy that crab cake craving. The sandwich roster features updated classics like a fried green tomato BLT and a po’ boy stacked five inches high with local oysters. Finish with a slice of Smith Island Cake, a nine-layer coconut confection and Maryland’s official state dessert.
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In the style of French-meets-anything-goes, this bistro nails the classics like escargot (do it!) and steak frites (uh,obviously do it). Don’t overlook the vegetable dishes—Brussels sprouts are a hipster menu mainstay, but until you’ve had them deep-fried in anchovy-caper butter, you simply aren’t living your best life.
Those with light appetites will delight in mussels prepared three different ways; a salad of hothouse cucumbers, grape tomato confit, crispy chickpeas, and ample feta; and eggplant-tahini purée. Live music and indoor-outdoor bar areas make this an excellent pick for Friday or Saturday night.
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Nothing ruins an otherwise tasty meal like a hovering waitstaff desperate to turn tables. That's not a problem at Out of the Fire, where a lounge behind the dining room lets you order from a squashy armchair and linger over a “take one, leave one” stack of books.
The farm-to-table ethos is strong here, meaning the menu rotates often and the specials are worth trying; on a recent visit, frizzled shisito peppers went down like candy and a wood-fired pizza topped with burrata and August tomato was somehow better than the sum of its parts. Save room for seasonal desserts, like a Belgian waffle topped with roasted peach ice cream.
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Speaking of ice cream, this bayside shack in Oxford is making waves as one of TripAdvisor’s top five cream shops in the U.S. It’s your typical boy-meets-girl-and-co-masterminds-lifelong-passion-project situation—the kind you’d feel good about supporting even if the ice cream didn’t make you weep (though it might).
Dig into a novelty flavor—a Fourth of July special was mascarpone ice cream laced with blueberry pie filling and raspberry compote—or keep it classic with lush, appealingly freckled vanilla bean. Either way, be sure to hoist your cinnamon waffle cone over the water for an Instagram pic. It’s the American way.
Fixing to eat some seafood with a view? It’s all here, from conch fritters to peel-and-eat shrimp to sandpipers perched 30 feet from your food (don’t worry, they’re shy). Eat outside your comfort zone: The seafood is fresher than Beyoncé and the generous portions are perfect for sharing.
If you can appreciate a salad that’s understated in its awesomeness, their signature—topped with fried cornbread croutons, sweet corn vinaigrette, and lump crab—is an excellent way to pay your respects to Maryland (...or Virginia.) If you time it right, you’ll be able to watch the sun set over the water and really feel like you did the thing right.
Oh, you want to do something other than eat? Here are a few ideas:
- Sun yourself and cross-train via swing set at Oxford Park.
- Pick up eco-friendly souvenirs from local artisans at The Green Phoenix, or kitschy kitchenware at Chef & Shower.
- Catch a show at the Avalon Theatre.
- Get thrifty at Frugalicious or Easton’s prolific Goodwill.
- Drool over swanky home furnishings at the many galleries and antique shops—prime hunting grounds for fancy DC types.
- Cruise Harrison Street to swoon over colorful tudoring and fish-scale shingles.
- If all else fails, grab a drink at the Tidewater Inn.
...Is it snack time yet?
This story originally appeared on Food52