King Crabcakes

FEATURES September 2010

King Crabcakes

In a never-ending quest for the best in Hampton Roads, we are happy to present our current favorites in the crustacean campaign.

Bookmark and Share Compiled and Written by Patrick Evans-Hylton


A few years ago, I was at a restaurant and the chef walked over to my table, grinning from ear to ear, and brought me a beautifully presented plate with two large orbs, golden brown on the outside and accented with a drizzle of remoulade and a smattering of microgreens.

“Here,” he said, “are the best crabcakes in Hampton Roads.”

“Really?” I asked, not to be rude, but wondering if there was merit to it, other than the fact that he had prepared them to his liking. I sampled the dish—grandiose circles filled mostly with jumbo lump crabmeat and little filler—and enjoyed them. But were they the best? I still can’t say to this day.

In Hampton Roads (and the entire Mid-Atlantic) crabcakes are a hotly-contested foodstuff. Many folks like fillers and binders, others just want crabmeat and nothing else. Some favor fried, while others like broiled. The list of particulars goes on and on.
Ever since that crabby encounter with the chef, I have made it a point to try crabcakes most places I go; even if I order another entrée, I often try to get an appetizer with crabcakes or a crabcake on the side in my never-ending quest for the best.

It isn’t an easy task, because sometimes I am in the mood for a crabcake more in the old school fashion—chocked full of crab, but also of cracker, pressed down into a patty and griddled golden on each side. Other times, I look for more of a modern take, like I had at the restaurant that started my crustacean campaign.

Over the past five years, I have, by estimation, eaten more than 200 different crabcakes. I’ve used my training at culinary school to analyze each bite. I’ve taken notes. I’ve taken photos. I’ve talked to the chefs who prepared them, prodding for any trade secrets. And I am still no closer to telling you who has the absolute best crabcake of them all.

But I can tell you a few of my favorites, or at least favorites of the moment, since this is one delicious journey that, thankfully, is without end.

The Meat of the Matter
Claw meat - meat from crab claws, usually dark and rich; often used in soups, stews and crabcakes.

Jumbo lump -large nuggets of meat from the body cavity; often used in sautéed crab, crabcakes, salads and garnishes. Smaller, but still whole nuggets, are called lump.

Backfin - large pieces of white meat from the backfin cavity, smaller than jumbo lump; often used in crabcakes, sautéed crab, salads and garnishes.

How do we define “crabcake”? Glad you asked:
Crabcake - a formation of crab and, usually, a binding ingredient such as egg or mayonnaise; filler such as bread crumbs or crushed crackers; and seasoning such as black pepper or Old Bay; into patties that are then fried, broiled or sautéed and served as an entrée or on bread as a sandwich.



A. W. Shucks Raw Bar & Grill
2200 Colonial Ave., Norfolk

The Dish Crabcakes with Sherry-Brown Butter Onions

The Deal Two crabcakes per entrée, with a choice of seven different sides

The Cost $21.95

Crabmeat Jumbo lump

Binder Mayonnaise and egg

Coating No breading; pan-sauteed

Seasonings Fresh green onions, celery seed, salt, pepper and a spoonful of honey

Cooking Method Customer’s choice: sautéed or fried

Sauce A sherry, onion and brown butter compote

Other information “At A.W. Shucks, I try to use the freshest possible ingredients to let the food speak for itself.” —Tom Pittman, owner.


Bardo Edibles & Elixirs

430 West 21st St., Norfolk

The Dish Bardo Seared Jumbo Lump
Crab Cake with Boursin Ginger Drizzle

The Deal Each crabcake is served with shredded red cabbage and a fried wonton crisp and topped with boursin-ginger drizzle

The Cost $9.88

Crabmeat Jumbo lump

Coating None

Cooking Method Pan-fry with a little oil and finish in the oven

Sauce A combination of boursin cheese, ginger and Sprite

Binder Duke’s mayonnaise and Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

Seasonings Old Bay Seasoning
and lemon

Filler A touch ofpanko

Other information The serving size, flavor and presentation echo the offerings of Bardo’s Asian-inspired, small plate menu.


Eastville Inn
16422 Courthouse Rd., Eastville

The Dish The Eastville Inn Crab Cake

The Deal Entrée with salad, local potatoes, local vegetables and sweet potato biscuits.

The Cost $21.95

Crabmeat Backfin and lump

Binder Duke’s mayonnaise

Sauce Tartar sauce

Coating None

Seasonings Blend of Cajun-style spices

Cooking Method Broiled Filler Breadcrumbs

Other information “... I am extremely fortunate to have a lady named Miss Libby that picks (crabs) for me twice a week. She is a one-gal operation and her product is some of the best I have ever used.” —Charles Thain, chef/owner.


River Stone Chophouse
1885 Governors Pointe Dr., Suffolk

The Dish Jumbo Lump Crabcakes

The Deal Two crabcakes with
Salt ’n Vinegar Potato Salad

The Cost $28

Crabmeat Jumbo lump

Coating None

Cooking Method Broiled

Filler Breadcrumbs

Sauce Green Goddess

Seasonings Old Bay Seasoning, mustard, scallion and horseradish

Binder Mayonnaise and egg

Other information “Our crabcakes are delicious and available at River Stone Chophouse, Vintage Tavern (also in Suffolk) and at The Blue Point (in Duck, N.C.).”
—Cindy McGann, co-owner.

Rudees on the Inlet Restaurant & Raw Bar
227 Mediterranean Ave., Virginia Beach

The Dish Crabcake Dinner

The Deal Two crabcakes with vegetable medley, steamed new potatoes
and a dinner roll

The Cost $20.95

Crabmeat Backfin

Filler None

Binder Mayonnaise and egg

Seasonings Old Bay Seasoning

Sauce Cocktail and tartar sauce

Cooking Method Customer choice - fried, broiled or blackened

Coating None

Other information “This is our original recipe that we opened up with 27-1/2 years ago, and these are our top sellers on the menu.” —Carter Turpin, owner.


Salacia Inside the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel
3001 Atlantic Ave., Virginia Beach

The Dish Jumbo Lump Crabcakes

The Deal Crabcakes with roasted potatoes and vegetables

The Cost $26.95

Crabmeat Jumbo lump and lump

Cooking Method Customer’s choice: sautéed or fried

Coating Broiled-none Fried-seafood breader

Filler A touch of cracker meal

Seasonings Old Bay Seasoning, lemon chives, Texas Pete hotsauce, Worcestershire sauce and parsley

Sauce Tomato jam and mustard butter

Binder Mayonnaise and egg

Other information “All of the crabcakes are made in small batches; we find that is the best way to keep the lumps of crabmeat whole.” —Pete Stine, executive chef.

Swan Terrace Restaurant Inside the
Founder Inn

5641 Indian River Rd., Virginia Beach

The Dish Citrus Basil Crab Cakes

The Deal Two crabcakes served with an arugula salad and an avocado coulis

The Cost $28

Crabmeat Jumbo lump

Coating None

Binder Mayonnaise

Filler A touch of panko

Cooking Method Customer’s choice: sautéed or fried

Seasonings The crabmeat is tossed with orange supremes, fresh basil and fire-roasted red peppers; it is seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper

Sauce The avocado coulis is a puree of avocado with sour cream and fresh lime juice

Other information “Being from Maryland and making crabcakes all my life, I think the most important thing to remember is prepping in small batches. The more crabmeat in the mixing bowl ... the more you move (it) around ... the more you break up the lumps.”
—Eric Doarnberger, executive chef


Crab fast facts

Market forms: live or steamed whole; fresh, frozen and pasteurized crabmeat.

Seasonality: Available year round; crabs are meatier in the summer and fall months due to increased feeding activity in warmer waters.

Nutritional value: per 3.5 ounces — 83 calories; 18.1 percent protein; 1.1 percent fat; .32 percent Omega-3.

Harvesting: Caught in baited crab pots in the summer; often dredged in the winter when crabs lie in a semi-dormant state in bottom waters.


Virginia Marine Products Board;

Get HRM food editor Patrick Evans-Hylton’s exclusive and unique recipe: Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes with a Twist,
by clicking the the

Note: the information included is provided by the restaurant. In some cases, restaurants offer a crabcake appetizer or sandwich in addition to the entrée; it is the entrée only that is highlighted in this article, as sometimes methods vary with other variations.

Readers Poll

Best crab cake entrée in
Hampton Roads

1. Vintage Tavern, Suffolk
2. Fire & Vine,
Virginia Beach
3. Flip Flops Grill & Chill, Virginia Beach

Best crab cake sandwich in
Hampton Roads

1. Joe’s, Portsmouth
2. Surf Rider, Virginia Beach (and other locations across the region)
3. Vintage Tavern, Suffolk

Best crab cake side dish in
Hampton Roads
(examples: slaw, hushpuppies, fries, etc.)

1. Hush puppies
2. Sweet potato fries
3. Coleslaw

Best crab cake sauce in Hampton Roads
(examples: cocktail, tartar, remoulade, etc.)

1. Tartar
2. Remoulade
3. None (tied with) green tomato
pico de gallo

Best meat for crab cakes
(types: lump/jumbo lump, backfin, claw, or combination)

1. Jumbo lump
2. Lump
3. Combination

Best filler for crab cakes
(types: bread crumbs, saltine crackers, buttery crackers, other or none)

1. None
2. Bread crumbs
3. Saltine crackers

Best binder for
crab cakes
(types: mayonnaise, egg, reduced cream, other (specify) or none)

1. Egg
2. Mayonnaise
3. Egg and mayonnaise

Best seasoning for crab cakes
(types: Old Bay, salt and pepper, hot sauce, herbs, combination, other or none)

1. Old Bay Seasoning
2. Salt and pepper
3. Hot sauce nHRM



For more articles like this one, see the September 2010 issue of Hampton Roads Magazine