STYLE: Casual crab-house atmosphere.
CUISINE: Crab cakes (of course!) and other seafood, steaks, chops, poultry, and Italian dishes.
YOU'LL FIND: A spiffied-up space with a two-story sports bar.
The snazzy ivory-and-red exterior, complete with two shiny G & M crests calling out to the world (or at least Linthicum), may be new, but the groups of hungry diners huddling outside as they wait for a table most certainly are not.
G & M Restaurant and Lounge just completed a full-body, claw-to-back-fin makeover, but the crowds and packed parking lot tell an old story: The beloved crab cakes haven't changed a bit.
If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing one of the savory, softball-sized gems, you're excused from reading the rest of this review. Put down the magazine, grab your car keys, and head straight to G & M.
The restaurant's crab cakes have stood front and center in that most Maryland of culinary debates—who serves the best crab cake—for nearly a generation. It was soon after moving to town eight years ago that I was first turned on to the place by a group of Anne Arundel County sheriff's deputies, whose formidable guts convinced me that their opinions mattered. In the 16 years since its current owners took over, G & M has garnered praise in dozens of local and national publications, racked up just about every award possible for its crab cakes, and started shipping them anywhere in the country.
A massive, yearlong renovation that essentially gutted the entire restaurant and added a soaring, two-story sports bar to the multi-room dining hall and separate takeout counter was completed in August. Amazingly, the place never closed—the kitchen continued to plow through the 6,000 pounds of lump it piles into its crab cakes each week.
Gone is the hodgepodge of a restaurant that could be described as old-school charming—or just old. The peeling paint, worn carpets, and cramped tables have been replaced, and modern touches like exposed brick and flat-screen televisions abound. A woman who walked into the new lounge recently was stunned by the sight of the large cherry wood bar and second-story loft. "Am I in the right place?" she murmured.
To find out, we visited G & M on a recent blustery Tuesday evening. If there's a recession, it hasn't hit here yet—the place was packed. After an as-advertised, 45-minute wait over cocktails in the bar (a glass of chardonnay and two Yuengling drafts were just over $8), we were seated and dove into the menu, which as evidenced by the red wine and/or marinara sauce stains on the pages, might be the only physical leftovers from the previous era.
Crab cake devotees might be surprised by the depth of G & M's menu. Steaks, chops, seafood, poultry, and a number of Italian dishes are offered, in addition to a host of appetizers. We started with crab balls, stuffed potato skins, and a bowl of steamed mussels. It was an easy call naming the crab balls, essentially mini versions of the G & M classic, the best of the bunch, even before we polished off the mussels, served in a bland garlic sauce, and the run-of-the-mill skins.
Each entrée comes with a garden salad, two sides, and dinner rolls. The salads were crisp and fresh, though the croutons could have been crunchier. Enough dressing for an army comes on the side; the tangy peppercorn Parmesan is always a good bet. The warm, doughy rolls were difficult to resist, but decline you should. G & M's portion sizes are not for the light-of-stomach.
The filet of orange ruffy was served in a lemon-and-white-wine sauce and topped with capers and sautéed mushrooms. The fresh fish flaked in perfect pieces and delivered a satisfyingly subtle flavor. The 24-ounce porterhouse was ordered medium-rare, and broiled just so. It arrived at the table still sizzling, red and juicy inside, tender to the touch. There was nothing too fancy about the dish, but it was a solid cut of beef prepared with precision, always an important key when it comes to steak.
As for G & M's famous crab cake, its most striking feature is not its massive girth, but the size of the chunks of lump meat that comprise it. Broiled to a gorgeous golden brown, the crab cake is constructed with just the right amount of filling, which meshes into the meat. Occasionally, I've heard grumblings that G & M's cake is on the dry side, but I think its magnificence lies in its purity. Crab is its dominant flavor, as well it should be. The platter comes with one ($16.95) or two ($23.95) cakes, but if there's a man, woman, or child on earth who can down two of these babies, I've yet to meet them. For just $7 more, it makes sense to go with the double; they reheat nicely at home in the oven.
Collectively, our table's sides were French fries, onion rings, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and a vegetable medley. The consensus was they were all serviceable but not extraordinary, not that we had room to finish them anyway.
Miraculously, we were able to gather the strength for dessert. Funny how that always seems to happen! G & M began baking their own pies in-house last February. We sampled a slice of Key lime, blueberry cheesecake, and "chocolate mouse"—a mousse with a mouse fashioned from fudge atop it. The mouse-mousse was the best, rich and hearty, while the Key lime was flavorful but a bit fluffy in consistency.
Blissfully full, we left the sparkling new restaurant as so many have before us, clutching Styrofoam to-go containers filled with leftover crab cakes.
Thankfully, some things never change.
G & M Restaurant & Lounge, 804 Hammonds Ferry Rd., Linthicum Heights, 410-636-1777. gandmcrabcakes.com. Hours: dining room, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; carryout, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. Appetizers: $5.95-11.95, sandwiches: $6.95-12.95, entrées: $10.95-26.95, desserts: $1.95-4.50