Bobby's Crabcakes Tastes Like Home

By Nancy Lewis
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bobby's Crabcakes is the surprise local gem of Rockville's heavily chain-laden Town Square development. Quite simply, the sweet jumbo lump crab cakes and crispy fries put it on a short list of the best places in the area (Jerry's Seafood in Lanham and the Prime Rib and Oceanaire in downtown Washington) to get your fix of this Chesapeake favorite.

There are a few other things on the menu certain to grab your attention, the lobster roll and the key lime pie, for instance, but crab cakes are the reason to go to Bobby's. And that alone gives the whole Town Square complex, which opened in downtown Rockville last year, a true touch of home.

Tucked away on the secondary street of the faux old-town development, Bobby's Crabcakes looks like the classic crab shack it is destined to become. The walls are red brick, punctuated with crisp black-and-white photographs of watermen. The floor is tiny black and white octagonal tile. There are about 50 seats spread among a couple of booths, a banquette that stretches along one wall and a bar-height counter that rings two more walls. The tables are marble and the chairs are wood, the traditional library style.

Owner Bobby Bloch, a longtime fixture on the local restaurant scene, where he has managed steakhouses and consulted on restaurant design, says the space turned out exactly the way he envisioned it. And, it's been in his mind's eye for more than a decade.

"The idea is 15 to 17 years old," Bloch said. Originally he wanted to put his creation in downtown Washington and open just for lunch. Over the years, his business plan was tweaked and shelved repeatedly, until he was celebrating July 4 a couple of years ago with some friends who included the developers of the Rockville Town Square. They encouraged Bloch to bring his vision to their venture. "The rest, as they say, is history," Bloch jokes.

He had hoped to open last spring, with the first wave of restaurants, but the time-consuming detail work of the interior design pushed the opening to Oct. 27, not prime crab cake season.

But Bobby's is one of those rare places that serves a great crab cake, even in the offseason. "The crab cakes here will always be made from jumbo lump crabmeat from blue crabs, never pasteurized Indonesian crabmeat," Bloch said. "Our whole concept is to use the very best ingredients and make everything from scratch."

Lately, he has been getting some of his crabmeat from Maryland and some from the Gulf states. The Maryland meat is sweeter, but it's not available every week.

The crab cakes are generous -- four ounces of crabmeat for the regular size, five ounces for the jumbo -- and have a minimum of binding ingredients to hold them together. They emerge from the broiler pleasantly lumpy, with a taste of pure crab. They are available as simple sandwiches, as sandwich platters and without the buns as crab cake platters.

The homemade coleslaw included on the platters is simply chopped cabbage, onion and green onion, in a light, sweet sauce. I'd like the sauce to be more assertive and the onion to be a little less so. But there is little to fault in the boardwalk-style crispy fries. They take two days to prepare.

Bloch won't divulge the exact procedure, but it involves hand cutting the potatoes into 3/8 -inch sticks, soaking them in salted water, blanching them in peanut oil, then refrigerating them overnight before they are cooked a final time, to order. The fries end up crispy on the outside, but meltingly soft inside, and the taste of potato isn't overwhelmed by the frying.

Add a slice of key lime pie, with a graham cracker crumb crust studded with walnuts and a yellow filling that sings of warm sunshine, or a bit of the creamy but flavorful cheesecake for a perfect meal.

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