One of the biggest names in crab cakes on the Eastern seaboard is Phillips Seafood. This Maryland-based restaurant chain has been slinging crab and other crustaceans for over fifty years and their name is so well-known that you can now find their products in travel plazas, stadiums, and even at Costco. That’s all well and good, but I’m only concerned with their airport locations, which seem to be multiplying at a rapid rate. They currently have outlets at BWI, BOS, CLT, ISP, ATL (closed for remodeling), and MDT. Since I was recently flying to Harrisburg, I decided to stop in and get some crab cakes to see if the airport restaurants lived up to the Phillips’ name.
The Phillips Seafood at MDT is in Concourse A past security, so you need to be a ticketed passenger to enjoy the sea-feast. The restaurant itself isn’t much to look at — stainless steel tables, a decent sized bar with TVs, enough room for carry-ons to be stowed near your table. The menu is fairly standard with a heavy bias towards seafood. You can get a steak or a bacon cheeseburger or a grilled chicken sandwich, but why would you ever skip the crab cakes at a restaurant that has made its name on the backs of their crab cakes?
Why would you ever skip the crab cakes at a restaurant that has made its name on the backs of their crab cakes?
I opted for the “Premium Crab Cake” ($18.99) with two sides: waffle fries and steamed vegetables. Instead of the standard roll, I opted for hush puppies — just because I could. First the good news: those waffle fries hit the spot. The tartar sauce, too, was worthy of praise. Everything else, though? Not so much.
When the plate arrived, I wasn’t that surprised to see that the “premium” crab cake was fairly small. Roughly the size of a hockey puck, the crab cake had a nice sear on it but when I took a bite, my worst fears were confirmed. This was really a filler cake with some crab in there. The best crab cakes are filled with huge lumps of crab and barely any filler. This was exactly the opposite. The menu touts how buttery the crab cake is and while that’s true, it’s not exactly a good thing. The butter is there to drown out everything else. You need the tartar sauce just to counterbalance the flavors. The worst part of all? It didn’t taste fresh in any way. This was a frozen crab cake brought back to life. In fact, everything on my plate from the crab to the fries to the vegetables tasted like they were frozen.
Everything on my plate from the crab to the fries to the vegetables tasted like they were frozen.
I get excited when I get the chance to indulge in a local favorite at a far away airport. When the product being served is merely reheated, though, that excitement fades away. After spending over $20 (including tax and tip) for what amounted to dinner from the freezer section of a supermarket, I can’t say that I would highly recommend Phillips if you’re passing through a terminal with one of their locations. If you’re in the mood for crab cakes, you’re probably better off waiting until you land and heading to the nearest Costco instead.
Sorry, Phillips. I think it’s time to walk the plank.