Is there an amazing crab cake inside and outside Atlanta’s perimeter? Our lifestyle writer Dennis Malcolm Byron aka Ale Sharpton is about to find out.
My family includes generations of chefs originally from Jamaica, West Indies, before immigrating to Bronx and Brooklyn, New York. In other words, I was born a foodie.
When we lived in Ithaca, New York, we often loaded up the car during the holidays and drove to either the Big Apple or Baltimore, where many of our relatives eventually moved. The latter city sparked my love affair with crabs. My Uncle Cyril and his family made it an annual tradition to spread newspaper across his dining room table and dump bushels of steamed crab spiced with Old Bay straight from the nearby Chesapeake Bay harbor. The work to get through the shells was always a chore, but the reward was the sweet, tender, perfectly spiced meat that no other species could match in my opinion.
And then I had a Baltimore crab cake. No shells. Just a snowball-sized serving of succulent, fresh jumbo crab baked, broiled or in some cases fried with very little breading (if any). Just a sprinkle of crushed saltines and maybe an egg to bind the meat, a hint of seasoning, and lumps of yes, crab.
Since residing in Atlanta for more than two decades, I have been on the hunt to find a crab cake comparable to B-More’s with a lot of hope to fuel the journey. I figured that even being landlocked, ATL still has talented chefs that share the same fetish for legitimate crab cakes, right? Hence, I started a now very popular hashtag based on my @realalesharpton Instagram called #crabcakehunt; it garners hundreds of “Likes” and replies supporting my pictorial mission not only in my hometown but worldwide.
Well, here are two restaurants—one inside Atlanta’s perimeter and one beyond—I found out about through word of mouth from fellow crab cake fanatics. Chops Lobster Bar Executive Chef Ryan Delesandro in Buckhead and Executive Chef Charles Zeran from Stone’s Cuisine & Cocktails based in Johns Creek happily offered tastings of their scrumptious versions. I was in heaven.
Executive Chef Ryan Delesandro
Chops Lobster Bar
Chef Delesandro’s crab cake instantly transported me to Maryland. I heard about this work of culinary art from my good friend Seth Herman who used to live in Baltimore and is also a crab cake fiend residing in ATL. I took his recommendation and confirmed: Delesandro knows crab cakes.
Delivered in a dish with just enough depth to hold the shallow base of lemon mustard beurre blanc to surround the main attraction, the evenly browned crab cake was a quarter-pound masterpiece boasting an edge jagged enough to give each jumbo morsel its own identity. Unprecedented in my dining experience, a healthy flake of white crab meat was used as a garnish on the top. “I only use jumbo lump crab meat,” Chef Delesandro said while I cried internally due to forking the last of his crab cake. “I instruct my staff that they only use a limited amount of crushed crackers and mix it with the crab only in two tosses. No more. The meat will break otherwise. After that, it is baked. Nothing else.”
Ultimately, I owe Seth a beer. This crab cake was the best I’ve ever had inside the perimeter so far.
Executive Chef Charles Zeran
Stone’s Cuisine & Cocktails
Executive Chef Charles Zeran has showcased his culinary skills throughout the East Coast including, yes, Maryland, but his crab cake style is obviously one of his own. Breaded with browned panko crumbs to provide a crunchy encasement, the slightly creamy crab filling is made with about 70 percent jumbo and a pinch of diced red peppers. “I think they should be about the crab,” Zeran explains. “Just enough seasonings to highlight the flavor, just enough other ingredients to accent, and just enough breading to keep them together.” The dish was accompanied with an extraordinary passion fruit tartar sauce, celery root, and crowned with yam straw disclosing Zeran thrives on complexity. His crab cake—as well the other picturesque, mouthwatering dishes that passed me by—boasts the delectable fusion of various textures, colors, sweet, and savory all resulting in a burgeoning legion of loyal customers. You can count me as one of them.
I left Stone’s content, gratified, and enlightened. Although the traditional Baltimore style will always own real estate in my heart, Chef Zeran has given me another interpretation to truly appreciate and revisit as the Hunt continues.
Dennis Malcolm Byron aka Ale Sharpton is a world-renowned beer authority, award-winning journalist, blogger (AleSharpton.com), photographer, event host, and gourmand. Although a native New Yorker and alumnus of Cornell University, he proudly calls Atlanta his home. Globetrot with him on Twitter (@alesharpton) and follow him and his #crabcakehunt on Instagram (@realalesharpton).