Table Talk: In Md. restaurants, diners are finding 'true blue' crab meat

True Blue logo
True Blue logo (BALTIMORE SUN)

Is that Maryland crab meat in your crab cake, or is it from parts unknown? Some diners can tell the difference between Maryland and imported crab meat with one bite. Some folks don't care much, but diners who do now have a way of finding restaurants that promise to serve exclusively Maryland crab meat.

Launched this spring by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the True Blue program allows restaurants serving DNR-verified Maryland blue crab products to use a special logo in marketing or advertising the product to diners. More than 50 restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington have signed up for the campaign.


True Blue was designed not so much to convert diners to Maryland crab meat as to help those who want it to find the restaurants serving it. "With the 'True Blue' crab initiative, Marylanders can be certain that they are enjoying the best blue crabs our state has to offer," said Gov.Martin O'Malley.

Justin Moore, the executive chef at Vin 909 in Annapolis, says it's been hard to tell what the impact of the 'True Blue' campaign has been because his customers have come to expect his restaurant to use local ingredients, including Maryland crab meat. "The reaction seems to be more that customers can't believe other restaurants would not use Maryland crab," Moore said. "The certification solidifies their decision to eat with us."

In addition to restaurants, retailers and wholesalers throughout the region have signed up for the True Blue program, including Atwater's, Whole Foods Markets, Conrad's Crabs & Seafood Market in Parkville and Gourmet Again in Pikesville.

We are very pleased with the response to True Blue to date," said Steve Vilnit, the DNR's fisheries marketing director. "Both the public and the food service industry have been enthusiastically behind the program."

More information about the True Blue program can be found on its website at

Restaurant Week We're in full Restaurant Week swing. Baltimore's Summer Restaurant Week concludes this Sunday, and Howard County's Farm-to-Table Restaurant Weeks run through next Monday.

The Baltimore County Office of Tourism and Promotion and the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce have announced the dates for the county's summer dining promotion.

Baltimore County Summer Restaurant Week will run this year from Aug. 10 through Aug. 19, with some 35 participating restaurants offering special menus at a discounted fixed price. The fixed-price menus are priced between $10.12 and $35.12 for a one-, two- or three-course lunch or dinner.

A kickoff for the 10-day event will be held at Cafe Troia at 11 a.m. Aug. 8, with several participating restaurants providing samples of their restaurant week fare. A full list of participating restaurants, menus and reservation links can be found at

Look at the numbers The number of independent restaurants in Baltimore has been holding steady, according to the most recent restaurant census conducted by the NPD Group, a market research company.

The Spring 2012 ReCount, which includes chain-operated and independent restaurants operating in Baltimore as of March 31, 2012, shows a net decline of exactly two independent restaurants from the previous survey. The census reported 3,067 independent "units" in the spring 2012 survey and 3,065 in the spring 2011 survey.

The census showed a slight increase in the number of chain-operated units in the Baltimore area. There were 2,305 such restaurants counted in the 2012 survey, 47 more than in the 2011 survey.

These numbers were in keeping with the national trend, in which there was no statistical change in either the total number of restaurants or independent units and a 1 percent increase in the number of chain-operated restaurants.