New and classic crab dishes + more: Dundalk, MD’s Costas Inn

If you think that Maryland crab season ends at Labor Day, you’re wrong. They’re here and if you’re looking for best of the best in a cornucopia of styles, head straight out to Dundalk, MD’s Costas Inn! I was happy to be hosted to experience this family restaurant.

If you’ve ever spent time by one of Maryland’s beaches, you’ll know that crush drinks — with juice and alcohol — are super popular. On special the night I was there was a Deep Eddy (well regarded flavored vodka brand) crush with peach, pineapple and orange juice for $6. It was refreshing and juicy, not overly sweet.

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They’re known for their frozen drinks and you can order them without alcohol, if you prefer. One of many small, but significant touches, is they serve the drinks in a chilled, frosted glass.

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For you non-Marylanders, Crisfield is a tiny town in Southern Maryland and the source of a good deal of our seafood. Crisfield Deviled Eggs are creamy deviled eggs with a lump of the finest crab on top! They come with a beautiful presentation, almost an hors d’oeuvre sized Greek salad.

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Now, this isn’t a crab dish — it’s an oyster dish — but it’s too damned good not to write about! I’ve never known anyone to taste Costas’ Oysters Rockefeller and declare how much they’d make a fine dinner, any day, any time. Instead of the more bitter, savory herb flavor of the traditional recipe, made with Parmesan and Pernod liqueur, they do it differently. They use sweeter, almondy Amaretto and Provolone cheese and lots of it! Baked with big, plump oysters, they’re kind of amazing. For more of that in a vegetarian way, get the family style creamed spinach as a side.

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Steamed crabs are a fun dinner that this state masters — and Costas is one of the heads of the pack at that. First, they’re sourcing the finest, sweetest blue crabs. They steam them perfectly (no water-logged ones here!). Costas also has a flavor profile that you won’t find anywhere else, because they make their own seasoning. To my palate, it has a spicier/cayenne flavor — not black peppery — a good bit of sweetness and toasted onion. Delicious!

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Have you heard of Flavored Nation? It’s a gathering open to the public where the iconic dish from each of the 50 states are selected, with the best chef to cook those dishes are invited to prepare them for sampling. Costas just had a wonderously successful weekend at their Columbus shindig and has been invited to the next one in Chattanooga for their Maryland crab cake. I have some very vintage Maryland and Southern cookbooks and the Maryland crab cake has been beloved for centuries.

Costas has a Monday night special where they have a HUGE crab cake with your choice of choice of two side dishes for under $19! Whaaaaa?! By the way: their mac and cheese is the cheesy baked kind that’s crave-worthy. Also popular is the Maryland crab cake dinner: 2 5 oz. crab cakes with 2 side dishes. People also like it to have a tasty lunch for the next day! So, as you can see by the pic here, the moist, flavored filling is throughout the sweet jumbo lump crab (the best, for those of you outside the state). So many crab cakes have some seasoning on the outside and are blah on the inside. You can get them broiled or fried.

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Some restaurants will feature a given food and then, forget about everything else. Costas Inn gives love and attention to dessert, too. They make several in-house and a couple of the recipes are family secrets! After a rich meal, the peach Melba with vanilla ice cream is light and refreshing. Did you know the peach-raspberry dessert was invented by Escoffier at the luxurious Savoy Hotel in London for opera singer Nellie Melba? Another house creation is their caramel apple pie a la mode. It’s a deep dish apple pie, filled with apples, with a rich caramel flavor and sugar-crunch crust. A perfect dessert for the beginning of fall!

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