10 Classic Maryland Seafood Dishes for Your Restaurant Menu

by | Apr 24, 2024

Are you looking for the best, most iconic seafood dishes in Maryland to serve your customers? You’re in the right place. Crabs, clams, and oysters (oh my!) – Marylanders couldn’t be prouder of their local seafood fare. From the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, millions of pounds of blue crab and other species are harvested for tables across the states every year. Maryland even boasts of having the “Crab Capital of the World” — Crisfield, Maryland, a quaint town that celebrates its title with a National Hard Crab Derby.

Want to bring the best of Maryland’s most famous seafood dishes to your table? Keep reading to learn more about the history of seafood in our state, plus the top 10 best Maryland seafood dishes to serve your guests! 

NOTE: The most important first step of any seafood dish is to get your fish fresh — find a supplier that you trust! We at Schenck Foods been supplying DC, MD, PA, VA & WV with fresh fish since 1928. Learn how Schenck Foods can elevate your seafood platters! 

History of Seafood in Maryland

The history of seafood in Maryland can be traced back to the American Revolutionary War. English settlers in the 18th century enjoyed oysters, shad, and herring from the Chesapeake Bay in their regular diets. From there, the crabbing industry boomed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, forever solidifying seafood’s hold on Maryland’s heart. 

Though pollution and overfishing have taken a toll on Maryland’s stock, efforts to double down and protect these species through sustainable fishing efforts have resulted in an explosion of sea life over the last few years. This has made seafood an even greater staple of Maryland diets. 

Today, local Maryland restaurants (like yourself, perhaps!) continue to use locally harvested crabs, oysters, and fish, and incorporate favorite Maryland dishes in their menus as a tribute to the state’s heritage. 

Need a bulk order of only the freshest fish? Take a look at our catalog and reach out to us about ordering ingredients and supplies from Schenck Foods. 

10 Most Popular Seafood Dishes in Maryland 

Now that you’re probably getting hungry reading this, here are a few of the most popular dishes to grace Maryland restaurant menus. 

1. Maryland Crab Cakes

Nothing screams “Maryland!” more than a crispy crab cake, made with only the best jumbo lump blue crab. While everyone and their great-grandmother has an opinion about what makes the best crab cake, Richard Gorelick (author of the Chicago Tribune article, “Crab lovers: Can you get over the lump?”) gently reminds readers of its humble origins: a hodgepodge of leftover ingredients in the fridge, pan-fried to perfection. 

True Maryland crab cakes are usually prepared with breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and other seasonings (and, of course, a generous amount of Old Bay®). 

Check out this recipe for a truly authentic Maryland crab cake. 

2. Fresh Rockfish

This delicious, tender, flaky fish can be served grilled, blackened, or baked. However it’s prepared, fresh Maryland rockfish is sure to impress. Affectionately known as the “rockfish” in Maryland rather than its more common name, “striped bass,” this fish is one of Maryland’s most important commercial and recreational fish species. It’s also the official state fish of Maryland! Serve it as a lunch special on toasted ciabatta bread with pico de gallo, or as a dinner entree that’s pan-seared with lemon and capers. Just make sure to finish cooking it in the sauce to soak up those delicious juices!

Check out this recipe for a pan-seared rockfish with lemon and capers that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

3. Soft Shell Crabs

Soft shell crab season runs from May to September, a crabbing heyday for Marylanders. At this time, hard-shelled crabs molt, shedding their exterior layer to grow a new one, where they are retrieved and monitored before they can grow their new home. Soft-shell crabs can be consumed whole (shell and all). 

Serve them up battered and deep-fried or with a delicious buttery garlic and herb sauce. Either way, this dish is like summer on a plate.

We love a fried crab, but also check out these ten ways to prepare soft shell crab to further inspire your culinary senses this season.

4. Cream of Crab Soup

In the crab vein, a true Maryland seafood spread wouldn’t be complete without a decadent bowl of cream of crab soup

While most of the ingredients in this soup are kitchen staples like chicken broth, flour, heavy cream, and potatoes, the true queen of the hour is the few tablespoons of dry sherry to add depth to the dish. Make sure to serve with oyster crackers on hand for that oh-so-delicious crunch! 

A tip from the chefs: fresh crab wins with this dish! Pasteurized or canned crab meat will give the soup a fishy taste. 

Check out this recipe for a rich Maryland cream of crab soup that will make you laugh at the canned stuff.

5. Raw Oysters

Did you know that Maryland is in the middle of an oyster boom? In fact, the Department of Natural Resources recently “recorded a remarkable year for juvenile oysters” during their fall oyster survey, “finding prolific numbers and a widespread distribution throughout many regions of the Chesapeake Bay.” 

Why? As a part of a huge restoration effort, Maryland doubled down on repopulating wild oysters, planting more than 7 billion in 2014. 

Take part in the boom! Raw oysters are the perfect appetizer for any restaurant – serve them on ice with a squeeze of lemon juice, and they’ll be a favorite on the menu. 

Check out this recipe for oysters on the half shell with a cucumber mignonette that will make you swoon.

6. Crab Imperial 

This classic Chesapeake Bay dish pays homage to the Maryland blue crab, a mouthwatering combo of all of the classic tastes of Maryland with an imperial sauce (a rich mixture of mayonnaise, whole eggs or egg yolks, and seasonings). Simply add Worcestershire, dijon mustard, Old Bay®, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese… and You’ll have a dish fit for a queen! 

Check out this recipe for a Maryland jumbo lump Crab Imperial that’s so decadent it’s unfair.

7. Clams Casino or Stuffed Clams

Bored of that calamari appetizer? Try Clam’s Casino instead. This Maryland hors d’oeuvre is an excellent opening act for any dinner, fusing clams, breadcrumbs, bacon, and peppers. A tip from the chefs: make sure to purge fresh clams thoroughly to remove as much sand as possible. 

Check out this recipe for Clams Casino that will be a showstopping appetizer.

8. Old Bay® Steamed Shrimp

No seafood menu would be complete without shrimp, a surf staple of many American dishes. Though shrimp is typically found further south of Maryland, there has recently been a rise in shrimp population off of the Ocean City coast. What really makes this dish a Maryland delicacy? Old Bay® Seasoning, of course. This Maryland staple was created in Baltimore. The mixture of celery salt, spices including red pepper and black pepper, and paprika came together to make a household staple that has made quite the name for itself today. 

Check out this recipe for 15-minute Old Bay® steamed shrimp — we love a quick dinner!

9. Crab Dip 

What party-goer ever went wrong with a crab dip? This consistently sharable side pays homage to the Maryland blue crab and will shine on any menu. Get creative and serve it in a bread bowl, in a skillet, or with a side of crusty baguette, crackers, celery sticks, hot pretzels or pita wedges. The possibilities are endless. 

Check out this recipe for a hot, creamy crab dip that will make you the life of every party ever. 

10. A classic Maryland-style crab boil

The long-standing classic of the Maryland seafood scene is the crab boil. You can get creative and make your boil with your rules — it doesn’t have to be just crab! We’ve seen boils that include sausage, shrimp, clams, and more.

Check out this recipe for a seafood boil where you can get it all. 

The fish and shellfish featured in this article can all be found in our product catalog. Want to partner with Schenck Foods as your local wholesale food supplier? Contact us today!