Make us your home page

Restaurant review: Blake's Crab Cakes offering a real taste of Maryland in St. Petersburg


I didn't know what I didn't know. My first gig for the Baltimore Sun was participating in the quarterly dining guide, schlepping out to Randallstown and Dundalk, Canton and Arbutus (that's an unfortunate town name, right?) to crown the best crab cakes. A cake's a cake, I thought. Ah, young silly me, how adorbz you were in your ignorance.

First, there is canned versus fresh crab meat. And then, within the fresh category, there's regular fresh and there's pasteurized, both a cooked product but the pasteurized lending a faint metallic taste to a finished cake. Also, there's grade: "jumbo," "lump" or "back fin" (all good), and the smaller, squidgier "flake" and "special." It goes without saying that the species of crab used matters. (Blue crab, yay. Swimming crab and other species, boo.) And then there's what you use as filler (crushed saltines) and binding (tiny bit of egg). Less is more. Same goes for flavorings — parsley, minced red pepper, garlic are all lovely things, just not in the dream crab cake. A little Old Bay is fair game, as are Worcestershire, Dijon and hot sauce, but don't get nuts. Cakes shouldn't be overmixed, or tightly packed. They should be ball-like and fried just so, so both sides are golden but the center still has plush give.

There were mighty fine cakes in the Highlandtown part of Baltimore and a bit south in Canton. That's where Blake Rodgers is from.

He moved here two years ago after visiting friends in Seminole. Where are the Maryland-style crab cakes, he wondered? He leased a perfume store way out on Central Avenue and got to work building a kitchen. I'm not going to lie, Blake's Crab Cakes is not much to look at. It's pretty much takeout-only, with delivery on the horizon. The menu is short and idiosyncratic, as are the hours.

But it's a real-deal Maryland-style crab cake: Big snowy hunks of crab suspended in smaller shreds of crab with a bit of moist filler, a hint of Old Bay, crunchy-edged. You can have one 5-ounce cake for $12, two 4-ounce cakes for $19.50, served with pedestrian potato chips and a couple cellophanes of saltines; if you want a roll instead, you have to ask. A plastic ramekin of horseradishy cocktail sauce is appropriate, as are ones of tartar sauce or sriracha mayo. Even a lemon wedge. But it requires nothing, and if my experience is an indicator, it may be eaten while driving, plastic foam clamshell scritching against the steering wheel. This is fresh blue crab from the Gulf of Mexico.

Unsurprisingly, Maryland has its own style of crab soup, more akin to Manhattan clam chowder than New England or Rhode Island. It's a red-tinged broth (at Blake's, a mix of chicken and beef) with big chunks of vegetables, lots of sturdy potatoes and drifts of loose crab meat. There's not a lot of spicy sizzle in this version, $5.50 — Rodgers says he prefers to let the seafood take center stage.

He's serving blue crab fingers and soft shell crabs (not breaded or fried, just spiced and sauteed) when in season, but staples include some really solid wings ($9). He brines them with Old Bay, vinegar and beer, so the melange of flavors soak in, then they are baked and finished in the fryer for crispiness. You can have them Buffalo-style, but that's not very geographically appropriate, is it? Rodgers is also paying homage to his dad with Dad's Famous Beef, an eye roast that has been rubbed with chili powder and other spices, roasted, cooled and sliced fairly thick, piled onto a sturdy roll and served with a horseradish mayo. A solid, homey sandwich, $8, best accompanied by skin-on fresh-cut fries with a dusting of Old Bay ($3, $4.50 for a lot), or maybe a ramekin of crunchy, light-on-the-mayo "Grandma's slaw" ($2).

Blue crab is Florida's sixth most valuable fishery in terms of dockside dollars, but tends not to get the attention of grouper or stone crabs. It's good to see Rodgers and his cakes celebrating this gulf beauty, Maryland-style.

Contact Laura Reiley at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.


Blake's Crab Cakes

7224 Central Ave.,

St. Petersburg

(727) 289-2322;

Cuisine: Maryland crab cakes

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, until 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Details: V, MC, AmEx, Disc.; no reservations; no alcohol

Prices: $3-$19.50

Rating, out of four stars:

Food: ★★★ Service: ★★

Atmosphere: ★★

Overall: ★★

Restaurant review: Blake's Crab Cakes offering a real taste of Maryland in St. Petersburg 04/03/17 [Last modified: Monday, April 3, 2017 4:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. The eclipse will be okay in Tampa Bay. It will be really good other places.


    Here's what Tampa Bay residents making special vacations into the path of Monday's solar eclipse could experience.

    Twin Falls High School science teachers Ashley Moretti, left, and Candace Wright, right, use their eclipse shades to look at the sun as they pose for a portrait at Twin Falls High School in Twin Falls, Idaho. The district bought 11,000 pairs of solar glasses, enough for every student and staff member to view the solar eclipse Aug. 21

(Pat Sutphin/The Times-News via AP)
  2. Will we ever see hologram Elvis on stage? Never say never, Priscilla Presley says.

    Music & Concerts

    Will we see an Elvis Presley hologram tour anytime in the near future?

    Priscilla Presley isn't sure.

    Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Where to see solar eclipse, Bucs training camp


    1 Solar eclipse: Turn around, bright eyes. Monday brings a total eclipse of the sun, and you'll need protective eyewear to see it. The bay area won't be plunged into darkness for a few minutes like the middle of the country, but with solar lenses you can see this rare event. The Museum of Science and Industry, …

    This photo shows a “diamond ring” shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia. For the 2017 eclipse over the United States, the National Science Foundation-funded movie project nicknamed Citizen CATE will have more than 200 volunteers trained and given special small telescopes and tripods to observe the sun at 68 locations in the exact same way.
  4. MoviePass offers unlimited movies at theaters for $10 a month — what you need to know


    There's now a service that says it will let you watch as many movies as you want for one monthly price: MoviePass. 

    MoviePass will let customers see up to one movie, every day, for $10 a month.
  5. Bright light! Bright light! There's really a script for Gremlins 3


    In the face of all that is unholy, it now appears there’s a finished script for Gremlins 3. This is what happens when you feed Hollywood after midnight.