Baltimore loves its crab cakes, but what about its crab cake egg rolls?
Yes, you read that right.
From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, photos of the mouth-watering dish, first shared by food blogger Chris Franzoni, racked up thousands of likes and shares last month, with Baltimoreans wondering how they could get their hands on it.
But while crab cake egg rolls have taken over social media feeds in recent weeks, the dish isn’t actually new to the area at all.
Bryce Callen, a manager at AJ’s on Hanover, said in a message that the dish has been on the menu in some shape or form since the restaurant got started.
After Franzoni’s photos went viral, demand for the dish has skyrocketed, forcing the restaurant to temporarily take it off the menu as they restructured their kitchen to accommodate the high volume of orders.
“We had to take week break from the egg roll so we could add an additional freezer for storage, a new point of sales system in the front, online ordering for quantity counts ... and additional prep cooks for one item,” Callen said in a message.
After AJ’s on Hanover paused its production of the dish, Papi’s Cuisine in Fells Point swooped in to fill the massive demand.
“So many people were wondering, ‘Where are we going to get these crab cake egg rolls from now?’” owner Alex Perez said. “Our customers just started demanding that we put these egg rolls on the menu.”
But Perez wanted to put his own spin on the dish, so he pulled his team together and started working on a recipe, which they pulled together in just a day.
“We recently started to blow up because of our crab cakes as well,” Perez said. “We changed our crab cake recipe about a month or two ago, and quite a few people started to fall in love with our crab cake.”
And on the first day the sold the egg rolls, Perez estimates the restaurant sold about 400 orders.
“We did bring in a lot of revenue,” he laughed.
To meet the demand, Perez said the restaurant had three staff members dedicated to just rolling egg rolls.
“And it still wasn’t enough, because there were people who just couldn’t get them,” Perez said. “We have now had to hire people to just come in and roll egg rolls.”
Part of the demand at Papi’s Cuisine can be attributed to another social media post from a Baltimore food blogger that went viral.
Food blogger Simone Phillips, who goes by @charmcitytable on Twitter and Instagram, tweeted a photo of the dish when they launched over the weekend, and just had one word to say — “Wow.”
“Just looking at them, I knew they were going to be good,” Phillips said in an interview. “When I took the first bite, it was honestly perfect. ...
“It was perfectly crispy, you know with an egg roll, you want to hear that crunch, and with crab meat, you want it to be, like I said, lumpy and flavorful, and this had all of them.”
For Perez, it was no surprise that social media played such a large role in the success of the dish.
He got his start in the restaurant business by posting photos of his food online, and said he eventually started to study the aesthetics of social media to figure out how to make posts go viral.
“A lot of our guests are from out of town, and we kind of created a tourist attraction in the Fells Point community with our restaurant based off of social media,” Perez said.
Phillips attributed the recent hype around the dish to Franzoni’s initial Instagram post of the dish at AJ’s on Hanover.
“I think it really was, he just got the perfect shot of them,” she said.
And after they were temporarily discontinued at AJ’s on Hanover, Perez and Papi’s Cuisine were “right on it” to meet the demand, Phillips said.
“He knew the world — or Baltimore City — needed these egg rolls.”