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Crisfield Seafood, in Silver Spring since 1945 - The Landis Family on Georgia Avenue and East-West Highway


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I will be going there tommorrow to satisfy my craving. Thanks for the info
Did you make it to Crisfield's? Did you have the pan-fried chicken?

Haven't had it there for over a year and wonder if it's still as good.

Thanks,

Kevin

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Why don't you both save yourselves the trouble and go to Colorado Kitchen for Gillian Clark's magnificent Lilliputian Fried Chicken? (Actually a cornish hen).

Also, I believe that Ray's The Classics is deep-fried, not pan-fried.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I remember first eating Crisfield's fried chicken in the '50's when my mother would order it: you had to allow at least 30 minutes if not more because it was fried to order in Crisco/Fluffo (?) in a cast iron skillet that I remember being told dated to when the restaurant first opened and had never been washed with soap. (Could they possibly still use the SAME cast iron skillets?) Crisfield's had long been known for crab imperial stuffed flounder, seafood Norfolk style, etc. but my mother always thought that their best dish was fried chicken. Sometime in the '70's Calvin Trillin wrote about "Silver Spring's great fish house, Crisfield" and noted that the fried chicken there reminded him of Stroud's in Kansas City.

Well, I've been to Stroud's. Several times. And it does. In fact it tastes damn near the same. I should mention that when Trilling called Arthur Bryant's "the single best restaurant on the face of the earth" he noted that Stroud's was "in the top three" primarily for its fried chicken. (he also mentioned Winstead's for their hamburgers and milk shakes but I disagreed with this: after all, how could the three best restaurants on the face of the earth ALL be in Kansas City? Of course I deeply respected his hometown chauvinism since I thought the three best restaurants in the world were in D. C...)

Growing up Silver Spring was a lot closer to Takoma Park than Kansas City.

I haven't had the fried chicken at Crisfield's in a few years but I can't imagine that it's changed that much. Phyllis Richman once wrote about Crisfield's chicken but I never saw it mentioned anywhere else. Still, to this day, with all due respect to Ray's (which, again, I've never had) if Crisfield's is still as good as it used to be it would be difficult to beat. The Eastern Shore of Maryland is known for more than just seafood: it is also known for chicken. Pan fried chicken. It should be expected that Crisfield would justly have great pan fried chicken.

Edited by Joe H
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Thanks so much, Joe!! Will look at these places and get ourselves to Suicide Bridge as well as Palm Beach Willie's. I saw very strong recommendations for Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton and we'll go there. If you have any other recommendations for Easton, would love them - very casual is fine. We don't eat hard-shell crabs, but I love soft-shells and crab cakes, and the rest of my family loves rockfish and other fresh fish.

Genevieve, the crab-stuffed rockfish at Crisfield was one of my top 10 dishes of 2012. Given how simple it was, it was just about perfection. A huge order that's a bargain at the price, this was one of the best "classic" seafood recipes I've ever eaten. Call over before you go, and see if they have it fresh on the day you want it.

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Maybe this isn't the thread, but the story of good seafood restaurants in DC is worth telling. When I first arrived here over 30 years ago, there was Crisfield's and there was Vincenzo -- high end Italian seafood -- and not much else. Then in the 1990s we had Bob Kinkaid. And then somehow the floodgates opened with Blacksalt, Tackle Box, PassionFish, Hank's Oyster Bar, Johnny's Half Shell and quite a few others. Not quite at the level of Le Bernardin, but we sure came a long way since the '80s....

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FWIW In the '40's the Maine Avenue waterfront had a half dozen or more seafood stands including Benny's (an employee from this started Boyd's on H st and later moved to Horace and Dickey's before he sold it and the name was changed; Horace and Dickey's today-despite all the press-has little in common with Benny's where potatoes were fried in lard for french fries; fried perch was the definitive sandwich) and others where hundreds of people would queue on weekend nights for fried seafood. On Pennsylvania avenue O'Donnell's was the standard at, I think, across from the Warner. I remember planked wooden floors and seafood "Norfolk style" which eventually moved to Bethesda, later to Gaithersburg. I grew up in Silver Spring and we would go to Crisfield's because it was a cheaper (yes) version of O'Donnell's downtown. There was no Bay Bridge then, only a ferry, so it wasn't quite as easy to drive to the Eastern Shore and compare Crisfield to any restaurant in the namesake original. Nor did it have water outside the door-only Georgia avenue and a Krispy Kreme next door. But Crisfield did have the food of the Eastern Shore. And, whatever our image of that was, Crisfield live up to it. And Maine Avenue.

But there is a point to this: there is a "Maryland" (DC, if you will) style seafood which dates back sixty, seventy or more years. Certainly to WWII. Today that is represented at Suicide Bridge in Hurlock outside of Cambridge (since the late '20's), Jerry's in Lexington Park (formerly Seabrook) and Crisfield in Silver Spring (late '40's). I doubt that walking into Crisfield today is much different than walking into Crisfield in the late '40's.

Kinkead opened as 21 Federal on L street moving here from Nantucket (or Martha's Vineyard). Vincenzo was up the street from Cantina d'Italia which was its own standard but eclipsed by Roberto on P street. For those of us who grew up here in the '50's and '60's we went to Busch's Chesapeake Inn on route 50 near the (then newly opened) Bay Bridge, Rod 'n Reel in Chesapeake Beach or really went all the way...to Solomons Island. I also shouldn't discount Pope's Creek. I'm old enough to remember slot machines in seafood restaurants in Charles county.

All of the later were a throwback to O'Donnell's and the Maine Avenue wharf where I remember Hogate's and the Flagship from the '50's (which weren't very good). They were also representative of a kind of seafood that is hard to find a really good version of today: fried, Norfolk style, (fish) stuffed with crab imperial, crab cakes, crab imperial. All of these were the original D. C. seafood. And, the fish sandwich which Faidley's in the Lexington Market still does an excellent job of. (Not Horace and Dickey's)

I went to Phillips in Ocean City in 1963 when it was literally a crab house. And served Maryland crabs. At the time I thought it was excellent but Busch's, Baltimore's Chesapeake Inn and Old Original Bookbinders in Philly were better.

Kinkead's, Vincenzo, everything that came after these were different and not the kind of seafood that Washingtonians grew up with. For better or worse. I would make the sincere argument that in the '50's the single best seafood restaurant within 100 miles of D. C. was Busch's Chesapeake Inn outside of Annapolis.

I have the menu.

Today, as much as I love all of the restaurants you mentioned I cannot discount the "Maryland style/DC style" seafood that I grew up with. This includes the crab cake. Crisfield in Silver Spring doesn't have the best crab cake; but everything else from flounder stuffed with crab imperial to Norfolk style is exemplery and reminiscent of the best of D. C. and Maryland from sixty years ago. It also has a great deal of "character."

And, my wife who also was born here and grew up here disagrees with me and says the single best seafood restaurant that she remembers from her youth was Chet's on Wilson Boulevard across from the Arlington Court House. Carol's favorite there were crab cakes and cole slaw. I should also note here that she craved their cole slaw during her first pregnancy (46 years ago) and her ex husband would get carry out cole slaw for her. Today, if we have any discussion of seafood it much include crab cakes. Carol and I agree on this: the single best crab cake we have ever had is at the Narrows on Kent Island.

Or Jerry's Crab Bomb.

And, the old Angelina's on Harford road in Baltimore.

And, the Narrows MUST be included in any discussion of best seafood restaurants.

And Crisfield, the restaurant.

As for Vincenzo and Italian seafood: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/328474

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I had dinner at Crisfield this evening. I defy anyone to find me a better sub-$30 seafood dish than their Stuffed Rockfish ($29) or Stuffed Flounder ($28). A few squirts of their red voodoo sauce, and you have yourself a dish nearly perfect in simplicity - just so, so refreshing to enjoy such an uncomplicated plate of high quality seafood. With fries and slaw, you don't need anything else, although it's tough to steer clear of their Seafood Bisque ($7 for a bowl); with it, however, it's too much food for the average adult.

It's odd that they have Red Hook ESB on tap, but they do.

Crisfield used to be expensive for what it is; it's now cheap for what it is.

This restaurant, which opened in 1945, deserves a James Beard award for being one of "America's Classics."

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Don, have you been to Suicide Bridge?

As I type this I believe that Suicide Bridge preceded Crisfield by twenty years but what it is today has little in common with earlier: it is big. For Maryland style seafood it is excellent but Crisfield is probably better. Waterman's Crab House in Rock Hall is excellent and atmospheric (Cantler's has crabs and is atmospheric but the sides fall down) but Crisfield is probably more "pure" and basic. I'm also inclinded to discount it because, growing up, we went there instead of O'Donnell's downtown (not Bethesda or Gaithersburg).

Carol and I went to Crisfield looking for the inspiration for the Silver Spring restaurant. I wrote about this trip on Chowhound but, truth be told, Silver Spring was better than what we found in Crisfield.

Yes, it SHOULD have a Beard award.

There is no Maryland seafood restaurant which has won a Beard award for classics. Crisfield really is worthy of being the first. I believe several alternatives are Suicide Bridge, the original Stoney's in Broome island and Waterman's in Rock Hall. Waterman's has incredible ambience-the best of all Maryland crab houses (Cantler's, the Crab Claw in St. Michael's and Popes Creek included) and does a good job with the "basics' of Maryland seafood; Suicide Bridge does perhaps a slightly better job with the basics and has a history that dates to the 20's. The negative is that it is large, as is Waterman's. Still, both are excellent Maryland seafood restaurants with decades of history. Stoney's has a literal floating barge for a dining room with outstanding crab cakes, crab soup, exemplery cole slaw and great pie. Hard shell crabs (jumbos usually available) and fantastic ambience. Plus, like Cantler's it is hard to find unless you come on a boat. And, it is small. A Maryland original.

WE have driven round trip to all three from Reston (260 miles to Suicide Bridge, 180 to Waterman's and 160 to Stoney's) and felt all three drives were worth it.

And then there is Captain's Table in Ocean City. Which literally dates to the 19th Century. Unfortunately it has gone through several incarnations and is now in a nondescript dining room in the Marriott Courtyard on the Boardwalk. But I honestly believe it is the best of all Maryland style seafood restaurants.

Because this latest one opened about four years ago it won't qualify as the others.

Crisfield is another matter. It's my childhood. And I doubt that it has changed much since then: it has character.

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OK, two points come immediately to mind....

First, we need a $40 (or whatever) Tuesday (or whenever) at Crisfield's in honor of its impressive heritage. I'm in.

Second, the last few posts between Joe and Don are kind of what I had in mind when I wrote Middle Eastern Food 101 -- a one-stop once-over of a food theme. Fishinnards did Thai Noodles, I did Middle Eastern Food, Grover has pledged to do Korean Food, and Joe can certainly write the hsitory of Maryland Seafood in DC.

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I had dinner at Crisfield this evening. I defy anyone to find me a better sub-$30 seafood dish than their Stuffed Rockfish ($29) or Stuffed Flounder ($28). A few squirts of their red voodoo sauce, and you have yourself a dish nearly perfect in simplicity - just so, so refreshing to enjoy such an uncomplicated plate of high quality seafood.

Totally agree. Lady KN and I had the rockfish (me) and flounder (her) stuffed with crabmeat, and I do agree these are top-notch dishes.

Rockfish with crab stuffing still a good suggestion! Delicious tonight!

The rockfish is cooked to perfection, and that crab topping is a perfect and rich balance to the fresh rockfish.

And the Genessee Cream Ale, an homage to my college days of many years ago, accompanied the dish nicely.

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A thread on Silver Spring dining with nary a mention of Crisfield's?

Admittedly, living on the Virginia side of the rivers and bridges makes Maryland look like a distant blob of geography to me, but I simply can't imagine traveling through Silver Spring without a plate of rockfish stuffed with crab from Crisfield's....

If you made a list of Top 10 Classic Dishes in the DC area, the Stuffed Rockfish at Crisfield would be on it.

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Great call on the crab-stuffed rockfish. I think I had the only good dish in my party of three (fried chicken included), though I would have gone for the experience even if the food were nothingburgers. I've been hearing about the place(s) since 1989, and I'm glad I finally showed up.

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On 2/14/2015 at 1:13 PM, DonRocks said:

If you made a list of Top 10 Classic Dishes in the DC area, the Stuffed Rockfish at Crisfield would be on it.

Had this last night and it was darn good. Rockfish was a little over-cooked but the crab "stuffing" made up for that.

It's probably been over 20 years since I last ate here. Part of the problem is parking in that area. I circled the blocks around the restaurant twice before giving up and parking up by the Vietnamese restaurant on the other side of Georgia (next to where Jackie's used to be). I didn't realize before then that there is a pedestrian walkway on the railroad bridge over Georgia (I've lived hard by DTSS for over 30 years without knowing). The nice young woman working the register pointed out that customers can use the lot belonging to the tire shop on the corner of Georgia and East-West when they are closed.

Nothing much has changed over the years: the menu, the pictures on the walls, and people waiting for dining room seats (I've always sat at the counter). The beer selection has improved. I think there were 4 taps. I had the always reliable DC Brau IPA.

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13 minutes ago, MC Horoscope said:

If you are heading south on Georgia Avenue to Crisfield take a right at the street just before the restaurant. There's a parking garage and on street metered parking.

I grew up in Silver Spring, and to this day never know where the restaurant is until I'm passing it! (But you can actually take three right turns and loop around.)

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33 minutes ago, MC Horoscope said:

If you are heading south on Georgia Avenue to Crisfield take a right at the street just before the restaurant. There's a parking garage and on street metered parking.

We used to park on that side street almost every visit back in the day. The number of spots was severely reduced when that building with the garage was constructed. About 3 of the on-street spots are now 15-mins only with threats to be towed all day, every day. I suspect these were allocated to serve Crisfield's customers picking up their take-out orders (a big part of their business). 

You have to pay to use that garage, correct?

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23 hours ago, MC Horoscope said:

Yes, it's a pay garage.

Didn't know they were 15 minute meters. Probably for Crisfield pick up, as you say.

If it is a county garage, it should be free after 7 PM and all day on weekends.

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28 minutes ago, jdc said:

If it is a county garage, it should be free after 7 PM and all day on weekends.

I don't think it's a county garage. I've had to pay on weekends. It must be the garage for the high rise apartments there, with some spaces open for the general public. In other words, you don't need a permit. There's a machine for taking payment by credit or debit card. Doesn't take Parkmobile or MobileNow.

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3 minutes ago, MC Horoscope said:

I don't think it's a county garage. I've had to pay on weekends. It must be the garage for the high rise apartments there, with some spaces open for the general public. In other words, you don't need a permit. There's a machine for taking payment by credit or debit card. Doesn't take Parkmobile or MobileNow.

That makes sense - I didn't track the directions exactly but I knew there wasn't a county garage right there. There is one a couple of blocks away on the other side of East-West.

Silver Spring Parking Map

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On 6/11/2015 at 1:05 AM, wfwalsh said:

Great call on the crab-stuffed rockfish. I think I had the only good dish in my party of three (fried chicken included), though I would have gone for the experience even if the food were nothingburgers. I've been hearing about the place(s) since 1989, and I'm glad I finally showed up.

I'm glad you did too. 

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