While this blog may be called PittWich, I was actually born in Baltimore, so naturally I’ve got a soft spot for all things crab: crab imprerial, soft shell crab, crab legs… and crab cakes. And when restaurants put a crab cake between a bun? It’s almost impossible to resist trying it out. So that’s exactly what I did when I visited one of the best and most underrated restaurants in Oakland, the Union Grill.
[DISCLAIMER: Unfortunately, this ‘wich is a special, so it won’t always be available for consumption when you visit the Grill. However, stop by, and even if they don’t have it, try something else! The food is great and the waffle fries are out of this world.]
Now, the crab-wich offered up was a “classic crab cake served on a potato roll with your choice of sauce/salsa”. I decided to try the fire-roasted corn salsa, which, don’t get me wrong, was a great and fresh compliment to the warm flavors of the crab. However, my brother also had this ‘wich and tried the lemon-cilantro (mustard?) sauce. If I were to have this again (and odds are good I will), I’d get that one: it’s got a certain citrus-y bite to it while still being cool and refreshing.
However, the sauce or salsa you decide upon doesn’t make this sandwich. This was quite possibly the simplest sandwich I’ve reviewed, not just because the entirety of the focus is on the crab cake, but because the cake itself was so streamlined and focused. There wasn’t an abundance of Old Bay (I’m sure this’ll disappoint some Baltimorons, but I was a big fan of this decision) or any unnecessary filler: this was a straight-up, bare bones crab cake, which makes all the difference. The way the Grill prepared it, I felt like I might walk out of the door when I was done and find myself stepping onto any given beach on the east coast and smelling the salty air of the ocean: this thing was pure seafood. The crab had a very strong pop; it was easy to tell that whoever made the crab cake had confidence in the flavor of the crab standing alone.
Surprisingly enough, it’s a risky proposition for most people who make these cakes daily, but here the “gamble” on the flavor being enough to drive an entire sandwich pays off: crab is one of the most satisfyingly refreshing tastes in the entire gamut of seafood, and this is one seriously successful sea-wich. If you were able to find a person who knows about Baltimore’s fame for crab and yet ignorant of Baltimore’s Old Bay obsession and then gave them this sandwich, I bet they’d think it came straight from the Inner Harbor.