Chances are great you've encountered crab cakes dining at a steakhouse. Dainty and deluxe, they consist of lump crab meat and bread crumbs bound together with eggs and mayonnaise and formed into palm-sized medallions before frying to a golden finish. Typical presentation includes flavorful sauces for dipping such as aioli or remoulade. As appetizers, they're a low-commitment way to incorporate fish into your chophouse experience. Delmonico's, the storied Manhattan chophouse, had been around for over five decades by the time Thomas J. Murrey penned the culinary text titled "Cookery with a Chafing Dish" (1891) that is credited with introducing the crustacean-based delicacy in ink.
Whether you're a Marylander craving a taste of home or just feel like indulging in something luxurious, a chain steakhouse will be your best bet for crab cakes. But which one to go for a memorable appetizer? We've fished through feedback provided by diners to see what places rack up praise -- or alternately, plummet to the bottom of the ocean. Keep reading to find out where your favorites fell.
14. Hoss's Family Steak & Sea
Catching a meal from Hoss's Family Steak & Sea, mainly based in Pennsylvania, won't require a reservation or the finest tux in your closet. The vibe is much more casual, with a budget-friendly menu to show for it. Steaks are just the tip of the iceberg, since in addition to hamburgers and comfort entrees, visitors can load up their plates at an extensive salad bar. The Maryland-Style Crab Cake entree includes the full all-you-can-eat spread for $23.99 as of January 2024, although customers wanting to save can simply skip the salad, receiving two sides with their platter instead.
Though cheap-ish, Hoss's version is fishy on the quality score. Reviews from the customers who've discovered it the hard way say the excessive amount of filler and bland taste don't make much of a case for ordering. "It was below average and salty," stated one unimpressed visitor on Tripadvisor, while another reviewer who dined with their wife reported getting crummy stuffing with no crustacean to show for it (unsurprisingly, the experience garnered one measly star). The absence of Old Bay was also a problem for some, considering it's not just any old crab cake, but "Maryland-Style."
13. The Palm
The Palm embraces loftier standards in pleasing its clientele, a skill it has honed for almost a century. Part of the experience includes serving high-quality steaks, seafood, and pasta dishes in tune with the founders' Italian roots. True to the typical chophouse however, the appetizer lineup features a Jumbo Lump Crab Cake that's served with an Old Bay aioli sauce, a fitting nod to the hors d'oeuvres' popularity around the Chesapeake Bay.
Any upscale environment can lull our brains into believing an appetizer nearing the $30 threshold is justified. Yet the negative feedback shows to not give in to this temptation. The patties contain inadequate amounts of crab compared to the breadcrumbs. This provoked one OpenTable reviewer's ire — they referred to the cakes as "actually inedible." The paltry portion was predictably upsetting, considering the price is just a smidgen below the many entrees on the menu. Reviewers mention that there's a lot of Old Bay seasoning too, and while that's not normally out of place, it simply dominates the palate to an unpleasant degree. Another visitor displeased with the execution complained on OpenTable that "it distracted from the taste of the crab in a big way."
12. STK Steakhouse
Cigar-puffing businessmen hashing out deals is where our brains usually take us when picturing steakhouses. STK Steakhouse, alternatively, cultivates a more youthful atmosphere for savoring its prime Wagyu chops, dry-aged beef, and seafood specialties with an upscale bent. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, listed as an appetizer, definitely fits the clubby ambiance. However, much of the negative feedback confirms what we suspected upon seeing the (current) $41 price tag, and that's this: style overrides substance once again.
Certainly, a single fritter accompanied by "whole grain mustard cream" with chili strands and a pickled salad is bound to evoke envy from neighboring tables. But taste matters most, and according to diners, these crab cakes are extra-heavy on the breading with the skimpiest amount of fish. Per a diner on Yelp, the cakes tasted of "fried dressing/stuffing" and a Tripadvisor review says the seafood was "shredded to a paste." Practically double the price of other swanky establishments, STK Steakhouse's crab cakes aren't worth it. By all accounts, the starter sounds like a poor man's frozen fish stick.
11. The Keg Steakhouse + Bar
At the time of this writing, The Keg Steakhouse + Bar offers crab cakes for just $19. That's shockingly cheap for a delicacy of this caliber. However, loads of reviews hash out the ways this rendition misses the boat, leaving some paying customers unsatisfied. You might be spending less money, but it may still not be worth it. You're essentially forking over your dollars for sparse crab and heavy breading, and patrons are understandably unhappy. The measly proportions were also a source of consternation among the underwhelmed parties.
Diving into the menu description shows The Keg uses panko crumbs, which are very crunchy and should be ideal for any egg-based binding. Many low ratings, unfortunately, cited soggy stuffing without much flavor, with the bread crumbs outweighing the moist fish. Per one harsh assessment on Yelp, the patties contained "too much filler for the price they are charging." The accompanying lemon dill sauce, though a fitting choice for garnish, failed to complement the crab cakes -- as another poor Yelp review pointed out, the herby flavor overpowered the whole plate: "The crab cake was mushy and only tasted like dill."
10. Steak 48
Whether or not Steak 48's crabcakes capture the Chesapeake in its full glory is hard to say, but the high-end chophouse offers a halfway decent attempt anyway. Costing $56 at the time of this writing, the Maryland Style Lump Crab Cakes are rolled and fried in butter-soaked breadcrumbs and dusted with Old Bay seasoning.
Diners' experiences with these cakes have been uneven. For some, the fritters contained hefty clumps of crab that were adequately rounded out with the breadcrumb mix -- a promising sign. Others weren't so lucky, experiencing fragile patties that crumbled apart easily due to the flaky meat. A visitor docked points in their Yelp review because the mouthfeel was "too mushy" for their liking. This was echoed by another's feedback on the cakes remaining "soft and not held together." The hearty proportions are a step in the right direction, but even so, Steak 48 still manages to overdo it on the filler, as a one-star Yelp reviewer was frustrated to find out.
9. Ruth's Chris Steak House
Ruth's Chris Steak House has made crab cakes a signature. Swimming in luscious lemon butter, the Sizzling Crab Cakes deliver on the spectacle, but not without a prized recipe to back up the showboating.
To fans, the crab cakes are a signature for good reason. Many visitors find the crab meat unquestionably bountiful, and the dining establishment takes pains to cook them to a healthy brown. A happy customer declared on OpenTable that they're "pricy, but worth it." Diners will find they stand out in a sea of choices. However, we've lowered their place on the scoreboard to account for the excess stuffing, reported by some diners, not to mention the boatload of butter that leads to grease overload. A less-enthralled visitor reported on Tripadvisor that the seafood staple was passable but lacked the components necessary to send it over the top. "Some lump crab on the top and too much filler buried below," they wrote.
8. Morton's The Steakhouse
Morton's has been slinging steaks since 1978, inviting indulgence with an unparalleled spread of chops and shareable side dishes. The Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes remain a fine example of the chophouse staple. The recipe starts with a mix of juicy lump crab and seasoned bread crumbs that is browned and embellished with a mustard-mayonnaise dressing that's splashed with horseradish, Worcestershire, and dijon. It's a classic appetizer, but crab lovers should venture to the "chef's selections," where, alongside Maine Lobster Ravioli and Chicken Christopher, there's a dinner-sized portion.
Judging by customer feedback, hungering for Morton's crab cakes seems to be a fairly common occurrence. One couple celebrating a birthday said on Tripadvisor that the starter harbored hefty morsels of crab meat -- "tasty and delicious," they added -- while another diner praised the flavor, referring to the taste as "moist and a little sweet." Additionally, the robust spices incorporated into the binding and garnish earn approval for enhancing the taste. If we had to offer suggestions, the chain steakhouse could increase the size and ensure the proportions don't favor the filler. "Did it shrink?" one review asked, adding that the crab cake needed to be "a bit bigger."
7. Smith & Wollensky
Did you know Smith & Wollensky and TGI Fridays share the same founder? Alan Stillman, the entrepreneur behind both establishments, launched both restaurants in the Big Apple about 15 years apart from each other. Of course, S&W won't sling potato skins or quesadillas like Fridays, but you can still keep your hunger at bay with top-tier finger appetizers ranging from battered shrimp and salmon tartare to a nice, succulent crab cake.
The classic sign of a poor crab cake, we've demonstrated thus far, is more stuffing at the expense of precious, flaky fish. Thankfully, visitors attest to the crustacean being the star in every bite at S&W. Juicy hunks of meat are rolled and fried into every bite, and add-ons like ginger sauce and Cognac-infused mustard bring a gourmet flair to the plate that's delicious and memorable. One Yelper ranked it very highly, even attesting to booking another table just to savor the starter dish once more. "One of the best crab cakes I have ever tasted in my entire life," they gushed. The seafood appetizer received similar hype from a different visitor, who called it "the biggest surprise" of their meal: "A must try," they declared.
6. Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
As a major titan of all things beef, it's a given that Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar prioritizes carnivore-heavy fare. That being said, don't sleep on the seafood. Spanning lobster tails and Chilean sea bass marinated to perfection, the chain's seafood selections are prepared with care. Does this explain, then, how its crab cakes send customers clawing for more? Maybe so. The steakhouse, not content to settle for another remoulade, garnishes its crab cakes with a lime-infused butter sauce with roasted red pepper. At 700 calories per order, it is an indulgence well-justified.
Forget posting this appetizer to your Instagram feed -- one Yelp reviewer was already inhaling it before they could pick up their cell phone, gleefully raving about how "it had to be 90% crab and 10% filling." Further testimonies echoed this level of satisfaction, with multiple guests remarking on the generous meat undisturbed by the breadcrumb binder. Still, some were more critical of the crab cakes. Although one diner commented favorably on the array of spices, they weren't really won over by the method of preparation, admitting "I personally would not get this again" (via Yelp).
5. Shula's Steak House
Sports enthusiasts know Don Shula oversaw the Miami Dolphins' unparalleled success in the NFL throughout the 1970s. But unless you avidly follow Shula's career, you might have missed that the famed coach opened a line of upscale chophouses during his lifetime. At Shula's Steak House (what other name would it have?) there are three crab cake dishes: an appetizer, a dinner paired with steak fries, and a sandwich featuring lettuce and tomato. Regardless of how they're ordered, the crab cakes stick to the basics with a sauce (a creamy remoulade dressing) that's a score for the tastebuds. "They are so good I cannot believe they are not illegal!!!" remarked a bowled-over diner on Tripadvisor.
These cakes' solid helping of crab meat draws positive feedback from consumers. Its sauce infuses a bright, tangy note into the eating experience. Seafood aficionados can breathe easy, since Southerners have green-lit the chain's interpretation. Per another Tripadvisor reviewer, "wife had crab cakes and stated they were the best she has had, and being from Louisiana that was saying a lot."
4. Stoney River Steakhouse & Grill
Presented with a mango-jalapeño salsa and tart dijon, these crab cakes from Stoney River Steakhouse & Grill could be on par with any fish shack in the Mid-Atlantic. Reviewers took note of the attention paid to the garnishes, which pair majestically with the melt-in-your-mouth crab fried together with seasoned breadcrumbs. One customer assigning them a five-star ranking called them "best crab cakes this side of Charleston" on Tripadvisor.
The best appetizers from steakhouse chains usually attempt to reinvent some aspect of the entree. This helps a restaurant stand out from its competitors and, above all else, excites the palate at the start of mealtime. From our vantage point, Stoney River's decision to pair salsa and mustard -- two popular toppings for crab cakes -- unlocks a whirlwind of flavor potential that diners were wild to share their thoughts on. Another Tripadvisor reviewer was smitten with the dijon mustard pairing, remarking that it "added a bit of pizazz" to the delicate fish.
3. The Capital Grille
Marvelously constructed, the Lobster and Crab Cake may be one of the finest items to ever come out of The Capital Grille's kitchens. The ingenious combination has dazzled customers in droves, cementing its place near the top of our ranking. The offering ought to remain permanent according to one Tripadvisor review that urged to establishment to "never change this recipe."
Suffice it to say that everything about the appetizer is simply harmonious. The fusion of lump crab and lobster meat is mouthwateringly unique, while the breadcrumb binder (made with panko) contributes an excellent crunch and a heavy hit of flavor. A recipe provided by the chain's executive chef calls for many seasonings diners likely have in their cupboards already -- dry mustard, cayenne, Old Bay, and Worcestershire, among others -- but what makes this crab cake worthy of booking a table is the chain's top-of-the-line seafood. For serving, the cakes sit atop a pool of lemon basil aioli that's so tart and luscious it gives remoulade a run for its money.
2. Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse
Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse provides an assortment of hot appetizers to tide over hungry bellies -- think Charred Octopus and Dynamite Shrimp. Seafood fans are sure to drool over Del's Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, demonstrated by the high tide of praise to be -- what else? -- a premium catch. "All killer no filler" applies to its abundance of beautiful crab, browned and bursting from the delicately browned exterior. The Cajun-inspired lobster cream sauce is the sort of embellishment that doesn't dim the menu item's limelight. Creative and savory, it imparts just enough fire to make a scene.
Because perfection isn't possible, a couple of diners have expressed disappointment with the dish. Yet after sinking our teeth into feedback online, we can confidently say the upscale appetizer draws a bigger share of devotees than critics. To one Yelper, it was "a must-try." For another reviewer on Tripadvisor, the stunning presentation demonstrated a true understanding of the regional delicacy: "It was just as good as any I have had in Baltimore."
1. Ocean Prime
Ahi Tuna Tartare and Point Judith Calamari are a couple of appetizers Ocean Prime offers to prepare guests for the excellent seafood and steak entrees. But the pearl of the appetizer menu, according to customers, would be the crab cake. No visit to the scenic surf-and-turf chain is complete without these fried beauties that arrive to the table golden brown and dressed with flourishes that include, at the time of this writing, a horseradish mustard aioli and sweet and sour slaw.
The majority of feedback for this dish is positive, to say the least. One visitor who has toured the East and West Coast alike wasn't afraid to hype up these crab cakes on OpenTable as not only the real deal, but superior to any other they've sampled in their lifetime. Another diner with roots in the Mid-Atlantic cheered on the chophouse's version for nailing the flavors perfectly. "I am from the Chesapeake area and have not been able to find good crab cakes in Arizona," they wrote on Yelp. "These were phenomenal!" Homesick Maryland transplants should take note -- these are as good as they come.
How We Selected Our Chain Steakhouse Crab Cakes
To rank chain steakhouses based on their crab cakes, we chose popular establishments with name recognition and sifted through their respective menus for the dish in question. From there, we sought out customer feedback from an array of platforms, including Tripadvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable, and rated menu items in accordance with personal opinions and preferences.
Read the original article on Mashed.