Start summer with the tastiest seafood: Costas Inn

In warm weather, there’s something just so festive about fresh seafood! Whether fried, broiled or steamed, the light, fresh flavor and piquant seasonings are perfection this time of year. Part of summer also brings a longing for casualness. In Baltimore County, Costas Inn serves the highest quality in a lively atmosphere. There’s a dining room — very family friendly — or the bar area, complete with flat screen tvs and jovial folks. You’d best call for reservations on a Saturday night . . . they’re that popular! This family-owned and run restaurant is renowned both locally and nationally, thanks to frequent appearances on network television. I was happy to be hosted to experience it.

I brought my pal from Nashville, Janice Malone. Costas Inn is a non-touristy place that you just have to bring your tourist friends to! You get the real flavor — if that’s not too bad a pun — of Maryland.

I insisted that Janice share a 5 piece starter of their famous Oysters Rockefeller: instead of using Parmesan and Pernod, they broil oysters the size of your hand with spinach, Provolone and Amaretto. This gives the dish a richer, sweeter and more luscious flavor! Janice kept up the theme with an order of creamed spinach topped with more Provolone. This is simply a don’t miss dish.

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When it comes to the season, why not enjoy a seasonal treat? Soft shell crabs are a local delicacy that you can order as a platter, stuffed or as the classic sandwich. I went classic! They do it with white toast, tomato and lettuce. They’re crispy and flavorful. If you like BLTs, you’ll love this generously sized Maryland favorite.

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You simply can’t come to this area without indulging in steamed crabs! Out this way, on weekends, holidays and celebrations, they’re definitely a dish to share. Eating steamed crabs is a whole form of entertainment in itself: the server wraps the table in craft paper. You open up the crabs just so — I taught Janice how — and crack them open with a wooden mallet. Be prepared to use the stack of napkins left for you! Though sometimes I dip crab into melted butter, I didn’t this time and you don’t need it here: the seasoning is that good. They make their own secret blend at Costas Inn, in order not to overwhelm the high quality, delicate crab meat with Old Bay. I think there’s a little toasted onion in there. At any rate, it has a hint of sweetness and umami.

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