What to Eat (Other Than Crab) on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

September  3, 2015

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!). 

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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.

The fried green tomato BLT at Mason's. 

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. 

Brasserie Brightwell
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.

Out of the Fire
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.

Photo courtesy of Darren & Brad via Flickr.

Scottish Highland Creamery
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.

Shrimp and salad at Masthead.

Masthead at Pier Street
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?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • bmorecharmer
  • Chef Devaux
    Chef Devaux
  • allyeats
  • Gary Saluti
    Gary Saluti
  • cricket1952
Vagabond. Baker. Hot mess maker.


bmorecharmer May 18, 2016
I hate to break it to you, but there is absolutely no coconut in a Smith Island cake. While it would be delicious to add coconut in some capacity, it's a vanilla cake with chocolate icing (albeit delicious as it is).
Chef D. November 27, 2015
why eat anything else than crab, crab is amazing!
allyeats October 7, 2015
I used this article to help plan a mini-break with my husband and our two-year-old son, and I wanted you to know that we had a marvelous time!
Gary S. September 24, 2015

You forgot to mention The Bartlett Pear Inn. One of the finest farm to table dining experiences this side of New York.
cricket1952 September 23, 2015
Wonderful focus on one of my favorite places to get away from DC! But I need to point out that the classic Smith Island cake is not a "coconut confection" but a chocolate confection! Yes, you can get newfangled variations such as coconut, but the traditional multi-layered yellow cake is all about chocolate icing between the layers (see the photo at the link you gave above).
Jackie P. September 5, 2015
It all sounds so delicious! Can't wait to head to the shore for some ice cream from Scottish Highland Creamery!
Wendy P. September 5, 2015
Glad you ejoyed The Masthead Signature Salad! We appreciate the praise! We hope to see you again in Oxford!
Wendy Palmer
Alison L. September 4, 2015
Those are all great suggestions... but there is a lot more to the shore than Talbot county!
Embry R. September 4, 2015
Oh fo sho! Please share your favorites -- I adore Easton/Oxford for a quick trip, but I'd love to know more about what's good elsewhere.
liz A. September 3, 2015
i had no idea we were gonna have a piece about food on the shore! ... easton, maryland is my hometown :P grew up going to those spots.