The national leader in the production of blue crabs and soft shell crabs, crustaceans in Maryland are a real delicacy. Before you head east, know to indulge like a local before you find yourself overpaying at a tourist trap. While Maryland blue crabs are considered "in season" from May through November, the best ones are available September through November, after they’ve had time to fatten up. Steamed to order, douse in Old Bay seasoning by the gallon and you have a seafood meal worth writing home about.

If you have a fishing license, there are plenty of piers to catch your own, but why go through all the trouble when you can just indulge?

"Crabs!" by Lauren via Flickr Creative Commons

Straight from the Shack

With over 60 designated crab shacks in the Baltimore area alone, how do you even begin to narrow down where to treat yourself? We’ll help you out. Not meant to be a fancy meal by any means, the best crab will come from a dingy shack and your table décor should include paper towels, buckets and paper lining. If you’re not getting messy, you’re not having fun (and why my mother said I could never eat crab on a date).

"Faidley's Famous Crab Cake" by Jpellgen via Flickr Creative Commons

Don’t forget the Crab Cakes

Another Maryland delicacy, where the best crab cakes can be found is a hotly debated topic with no clear cut winner, which only means they’re that amazing everywhere. Traditional crab cakes are made of breadcrumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, and the beloved Old Bay seasoning, with each restaurant taking a bit of creative license on other ingredients and spices like red peppers, green peppers, or sliced pimentos. Sautéed, baked, grilled or, the most commonly broiled, Baltimoreans jokingly refer to especially large crab cakes as "Dolly Partons” because, well, you can imagine why.

Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz

See how it’s made and take some to go

One of the oldest crabbing purveyors in the region, the J. M. Clayton Company is a fifth generation crab processing plant started way back in the 1800s. Take a trip to the factory, and you just may bump into one of the brothers themselves to tell you all about picking and packaging their specialty crab meat. Pay some homage because it’s a Maryland institution that’s just as iconic as the Ravens stadium.