Breezy Point Seafood
9501 Philadelphia Road, White Marsh, (410) 574-7222, breezypointseafood.com
Overview: One of the best seafood markets in the area. Huge display case filled with fish, shellfish, and raw prepared dishes, including crab cakes and coddies, along with an extensive selection of frozen seafood, spices, and batter/coating mixes. Any available fish can be fried.
Coddies: Large, heavy, domed, with an unusually smooth and uniform surface (possibly very fine cracker meal). Dense filling with fine shreds of cod and slightly mealy potato in equal proportion, highly seasoned with Old Bay, slightly sweet oniony background. Cheapest house-made coddie at $1.75.
Lake trout: Extremely fresh, clean cleaving with no fishiness, slight salt from fish surface but not from within (i.e. not pre-salted), boneless. Instead of white bread, it’s served with an exceptionally good bun, reminiscent of a Philly-style cheesesteak roll—good crust, excellent chew.
Coating/batter: Predominantly flour, little if any seasoning, overall not particularly crunchy but some nice crunchy nub action on edges and in folds.
Notable: Multiple sauces available for fried fish, indoor and outdoor seating, steamed crabs.
The Crab Pot
Lexington Market, 400 W. Lexington St. No. 600, (410) 599-1526
Overview: Both cooked seafood and raw bar, plus draft beer. Fried fish is priced by weight, by piece, i.e., each piece in the display case is priced individually based on its weight, and you pick your own piece.
Coddies: Smallish, puck-shaped, with a fine breadcrumb coating fried to a nice light tan, light textured, creamy, with tiny chunks of potato and cod. Make sure you get the homemade instead of the “fish cake,” which is just a standard frozen-fish puck.
Lake trout: Fresh tasting, firm, available bone-in or boneless. Make sure to ask for bread if you want some.
Coating/batter: Mostly flour possibly with egg, closer to fish- and-chips batter than to Southern cornmeal, dark gold, clingy, with good crunch and excellent nugget formation around the edges, but very neutral seasoning.
Notable: Extensive daily selections and specials on chalkboard, and the only source in the area for soft-shell clams.
Lexington Market, 203 N. Paca St., (410) 727-4898, faidleyscrabcakes.com
Overview: Venerable Baltimore seafood heavy-hitter, huge selection of fresh seafood, lots of standing tables, cooked food, raw bar, and draft beer. Fish vendors can be standoffish but tend to really know their shit.
Coddies: Medium sized with oniony aroma, flecked with parsley and tiny bits of raw onion, high shredded-cod-to-filler ratio with fairly neutral spicing, slightly gummy, slightly herby finish. Coated with very crunchy panko-style breadcrumbs.
Lake trout: Very fresh, boneless very clean and free of pinbones, mild flavor.
Coating/batter: More flour than cornmeal, dark brown, good crunch, well-seasoned, but a tad oily.
Notable: Excellent clam strips, glasses of wine for $3.95 at the raw bar, unusual seafood and meats occasionally available.
Hip Hop Fish and Chicken*
5223 Baltimore National Pike, (410) 744-0440
Overview: A local mini-chain with three locations, this one in an old Taco Bell franchise. The sides and shrimp appear to be boxed/frozen, but the fish is hand-battered before frying.
Lake trout: Fish is slightly briny, slightly fishy, probably pre-salted, but otherwise decent.
Coating/batter: Mostly cornmeal, very crunchy to the point of being almost hard, extremely durable and able to withstand extended time in the box without getting soggy. Good oniony flavor.
Notable: Pretty good fried chicken as well as a large array of deep-fried sides.
Northeast Market, 2101 E. Monument St., (410) 327-0082
Overview: Smaller fish purveyor with just a few menu items, but will fry any fish you like that they sell.
Lake trout: Superbly fresh fish is cleaned and filleted on the spot; delicate texture and mild flavor.
Coating/batter: Fantastically crunchy cornmeal-based crust, toasty, oniony, and savory.
Notable: If you want bread make sure to ask for it. If you get lake trout or any other fish boneless, remain vigilant for small bones.
8043 Philadelphia Road, Rosedale, (410) 866-3900, littlelouseafood.com
Overview: Huge menu of seafood, subs, and sandwiches, as well as a good selection of fresh seafood. Fish is available for frying by weight or as proscribed in the menu.
Coddies: Very unusual in that there’s very little if any potato, very creamy, very smooth and mild with just a hint of sweet and tart, fine fish flavor and texture, puck-shaped and coated in fairly fine breadcrumbs. Possibly a mayonnaise-based coddie, and if so the only one I’ve ever encountered.
Lake trout: Extremely fresh, dense, moist, but with somewhat excessive curling after frying.
Coating/batter: Cornmeal coating with very little seasoning, moderately crunchy.
Notable: Excellent homemade tartar sauce—make sure to get extra. Very good and impossibly cheap deviled eggs (35 cents each) in clever packaging.
Lexington Market, 410 W. Lexington St., (410) 752-7008
Overview: Very busy stand in the middle of the market, no fresh seafood or raw bar, all cooked dishes.
Coddies: Available but not homemade.
Lake trout: Quite fresh, slightly briny, fried to a good crisp.
Coating/batter: Cornmeal-based, good saltiness, hint of black pepper, nice and well done with good crunch.
Notable: Unusual in that most of its fried seafood offerings (even shrimp) are prepped/battered in house, and on view in the large display case. Eateries that don’t have a market area often just use frozen items.
5230 Baltimore National Pike, (410) 747-5858
Overview: Large establishment with an afterthought of a market-type section, but a large selection of cooked food, including lots of soul-food items.
Lake trout: On the menu, “lake trout” indicates bone-in whiting, while “whiting” indicates boneless. Somewhat salty, firm fish, with good moistness.
Coating/batter: Mostly flour, more chew than crunch but not unpleasant, very little oil, slightly spicy.
Notable: Shellfish is definitely premade frozen stuff, but the soul food is homemade and pretty good.
Broadway Market, 610 S. Broadway, (410) 675-1466
Overview: The only seafood market in the newly remodeled market, now with expanded seating. Good selection of fresh fish and shellfish, raw bar, good specials, any fish can be fried, steamed, or grilled.
Lake trout: Very fresh, boneless was completely bone-free.
Coating/batter: Thin, flour-based coating, slight chew with decent crisp—not crunch—around the edges and thinner parts of the fillet. Very little seasoning.
Notable: Excellent fries and even better coleslaw. Maybe the best coleslaw in Baltimore.
Sterling’s Crab and Oyster House
410 W. 29th St., (410) 467-7710
Overview: Remington institution, excellent soups, small selection of fresh seafood, steamed crabs, somewhat slow service.
Coddies: Smallish with smooth exterior, light, airy texture, quite spicy with both cayenne and mustard, slightly more potato than fish, but great cod flavor.
Lake trout: Firm and moist with a whiff of pleasant fishiness and slight salt.
Coating/batter: Good balance of cornmeal and flour, very good crunch, lots of nubs around edges and in creases, very well seasoned.
Notable: The same excellent batter is used on all the fried seafood—try the seafood sub for a veritable orgy of deep-fried goodness.
Northeast Market, 2101 E. Monument St., (410) 675-7705
Overview: The largest fishmonger in Lexington Market, with a small counter used mostly by raw-bar customers, fish available fried as well as steamed, good selection of shellfish.
Coddies: Another unusual variation, this one is flattened into a puck and coated with very crunchy panko-like crumbs and fried hard to a dark brown. The interior is almost entirely shredded cod with the occasional flake, giving it a very savory, juicy, chewy consistency, with a toothsome exterior that gives some bites a near jerky-like quality. Very tasty if a bit unorthodox.
Lake trout: As expected from a fishmonger, very fresh, and cleaned exceptionally well (i.e., trimmed of bones).
Coating/batter: Flour-based but with excellent, durable crunch, lots of nubs, well seasoned, and with an excellent black pepper kick.
Notable: Probably my favorite overall fried fish. Excellent cream of crab soup.
* multiple locations.
Wanna try it at home? go to citypaper.com/cheesefish for henry’s recipes.