The crabs are fantastic at Conrad’s Seafood Restaurant, a Maryland chain that just opened a new location in Abingdon. Unfortunately you need more than that to make your overall offerings worthy of a stellar rating.

Don’t get me wrong. The restaurant does a number of things quite well. But when the little missteps add up, it takes a potentially good restaurant and makes it a step above average.


Maybe some of the problems come with growing pains and early jitters.

The cavernous restaurant — adorned with weathered wood panels, netting, a ship’s wheel, and faux crabs — opened so recently, it didn’t even show up on GPS.

However, I’m not sure that can excuse some of the dishes, which could use some attention. Take the shrimp tacos, for example. The filling of plump rock shrimp worked well with the pico de gallo, pickled red cabbage, “queso fresh” and sriracha aioli. But the accompanying flour taco soft shell was hard because it was stale. No bueno.

I asked for the charbroiled hamburger to be cooked medium. Instead I was served an underseasoned hockey puck of beef patty that was also overcooked. The hand-cut French fries were not remarkable.

But the biggest disappointment of the meal was the catch of the day, rockfish. It was completely void of seasoning. There was nary a hint of salt, pepper or herbs to save this sad hunk of overcooked, flavorless flesh.

And in a state where everyone fights for bragging rights over who makes the best crab cake, I wouldn’t return for the crab cake and the crab imperial, which were essentially the same thing. Neither the stuffed shrimp nor the chicken Chesapeake wowed me.

It wasn’t all bad.

One of my favorite bites of the day was the Lobster Cobb, which featured a half-chilled cold-water lobster tail, Maryland crab meat, tomato, avocado, blue cheese, hard-boiled egg and bacon atop fresh mixed greens topped with a delightful cilantro vinaigrette. It takes a lot for a salad to stand out. But this one had the perfect salad to flavorful topping ratio. I would return just for the salad.

The Crab Mac and Cheese Gratin made of baked noodles, crab meat, crab cream sauce and white cheddar featured a lovely panko Parmesan crust. It was a good side dish to rescue some of the blander dishes like the rockfish.

Steamer Pot, a combination of mussels, clams, shrimp, potatoes, carrots and onions, was satisfying. And our server informed us that the dish was a featured special on Monday nights when it gets marked down to $15 from its usual $23.

And of course I can’t stress enough the strength of their crabs. They were a good, healthy size. The meat was flavorful and slightly sweet. (Just how I like it.) And the seasoning that the restaurant uses — it’s a secret recipe, according to employees — is distinct from other crab seasonings in that it has a peppery kick, which I greatly appreciated.

The drinks were solid. The watermelon mule was the right combination of sweet, fruity, alcohol and ginger. The pretty in pink martini was well-balanced and visually stunning.

But our server failed to provide us with the welcome basket of popcorn, which is a nice touch — when servers remember to bring it to the table.

So there we were sitting at the table — eating our popcorn for dessert — wondering what would have been if some of these hiccups were worked out. Ultimately it boiled down to an uneven experience.


And for a restaurant that boasts being the best at something — their receipts say that it has been voted Baltimore’s best crabs five years in a row — these missteps can’t happen.