You would think that a USA Today 10Best restaurant would be somewhat satisfying, yet when I visited Mama’s on the Half Shell in Canton/Baltimore this weekend, I left with disappointment and the dire need for water.
We arrived during off-peak hours in between lunch and dinner. A 30-minute wait to accommodate a party of five to six people. There’s hype surrounding this venue, so we waited (and ate in Dangerously Delicious located just next door).
It’s an interesting spot with outdoor seating, bar on the ground floor and dining on the second. We claimed a carpeted stairwell only to find a small-to-medium space decorated with framed antique plates, candle wall lights and a handful of tables.
After a 20-minute period, the restaurant accommodated our party and we sat in what we noticed was one of very few larger table settings. Most tables accommodated parties of two to four people.
The venue is a classic tavern setting in a dark environment. It was the middle of the day, but inside the venue you could barely tell.
A necessary dish at any Maryland venue (especially because our party had out-of-Marylanders) is crab dip! At Mama’s on the Half Shell, crab and artichoke dip is served with assorted Costco crackers, carrot sticks and a top half of a hamburger bun.
The dish is made for sharing, which is good; but it’s heavy on the cream cheese and there was artichoke in it? Because I sure couldn’t taste any. Usually when I order crab dip, I can’t stop eating it. Here, that was not the case.
Another dish all Marylanders know and love is a delicious heaping bowl of cream of crab soup. At a glance, the dish looks tasty, especially with a soft-shelled crab sitting in the middle of the plate. The soup is flavorful, but there’s a huge amount of salt that overwhelms most of the dish’s best spices. I needed a whole glass of water (and more) just to get through this soup and I think it’s a good thing I love salt because everyone at the table couldn’t take more than two spoons before scrunching their faces.
It appears the restaurant knows a thing or two about oysters, so we ordered several dozen of the Chincoteague, which fit the menu description perfectly: large, firm meat, briny up front and a sweet finish. Yet beware, while I’m used to Chesapeake Bay oyster pricing (~$1/oyster), they’re pricier in Charm City.
Isn’t there a Baltimore port, though? It’s possible the oysters might not even come from there, and if they do, those prices are sky high!
A side dish that always goes great with any seafood is Mac & Cheese. It balances any fishy, ocean taste and reminds you that you’re in America where this dish was practically invented!
The side dish comes completely crusted with bread crumbs. I suggest mixing the top around so you don’t take a spoonful of the crunch. Even though my soup came salty, the Mac & Cheese came balanced and gooey (just the way I like it!). A delicious side dish to wipe seafood from your taste buds.
It was easy to tell that the waitress and waiters wanted to flip our table as fast as possible. It’s never a good sign for any eatery, especially since we ordered a decent amount of food. I won’t be returning or recommending this spot (except maybe to takeout a side of mac and cheese). There are a number of great oyster places in Baltimore that aren’t as pricey (and hasty) as Mama’s on the Half Shell is.