Maryland-style crabs in a tropical setting

July 01, 1999|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,Special to the Sun

I wasn't at Mariner's Landing more than a few minutes when I was kidnapped by a conga line and forced against my will to shake my body to an island beat. Well, perhaps I only half-heartedly objected. I'm a sucker for a steel drum.

A calypso band plays on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons on the man-made beach at Mariner's Landing, formerly known as Bahama Mama's. This seafood restaurant and bar in Dundalk sits right on Bear Creek, where people can dock their boats to come ashore for a meal.

Picnic tables with umbrellas are nestled in the sand next to coconut-laden palms and bright pink hibiscus. It's a wonderful tropical setting for eating Maryland-style steamed crabs. Service can be slow but, in such a pretty place, it's easy to show patience.

Owners Steve Goff, Randy Holofcener and Susie Hemingway opened the restaurant last September. They've instituted a system where crabs are categorized by weight, not size, and it works. All our $38 medium/large crabs from North Carolina were sweet and heavy with crab meat. There wasn't a disappointing crab in the bunch.

The crabs are not, however, steamed to order. Covered in a rock salt and crushed red pepper blend, they arrive on the table manageably hot, not stingingly hot from the steamer. I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat a heavy crab that's warm than one that's hot but light.

Crab meat gets a good turn in other dishes, too. The crab cake is made with lumps of crab held together with little filler in a creamy base. We had ours as a sandwich with potato chips for $9.95, but it's available as a platter along with other seafood dishes on the restaurant's full menu.

The cream of crab soup is wonderfully buttery -- thick but not artificially so. The Maryland crab soup is smoky and spicy, with chunks of potato and lots of other vegetables. Both soups could use some more crab meat, though, particularly the cream of crab, which costs $3.75 a cup.

The only crab we didn't like was our soft-shell, which had been fried to the point of incineration and was greasy. We had problems with other fried foods as well, such as the basket of dark, limp french fries, and the coconut shrimp on our appetizer sampler plate. On the whole, we liked these fried shrimp coated in coconut flakes, but they were darker than they should have been. We also like the plate's shrimp wrapped in bacon and barbecue sauce.

Our least favorite shrimp on the sampler, called jammers, were coated in crumbs and stuffed with cheese. They tasted like something that came out of a bag. Small cups of orange marmalade and a fluffy honey-mustard sauce that looked like lemon curd were served on the side for dipping.

Those same sauces came with our appetizer of jerk chicken. Boneless strips of grilled chicken were given a dry rub of jerk spices -- thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper and lots of salt. It may not have been the most authentic jerk-chicken rendition, but it was a healthy alternative to chicken fingers.

Our advice is to order the soup and steamed crabs, with tangy, barely dressed coleslaw on the side, and finish with something from the extensive menu of homemade desserts.

If you're too full for cake or pie, nibble a few squares of homey fudge as the sun goes down on the water. Sitting outside is key at Mariner's Landing. Inside, the walls painted battleship gray, the worn vinyl padded bar and the stale smell of cigarette smoke are less than inviting.

Want to suggest a restaurant for reviewing? We welcome your input. Send e-mail to kathhigham@aol.com or write to Kathryn Higham, Newsroom-Fifth Floor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Mariner's Landing

601 Wise Ave., Dundalk

410-477-1261

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major cards

Prices: Appetizers, $1.75-$13.95; entrees, $4.95-$26.95; crabs, $25-$65 per dozen

Food: **1/2

Service: **

Atmosphere: ***

Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *

Pub Date: 07/01/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.