When Beth Laverick set out to organize the inaugural Baltimore Seafood Fest in 2014, she knew that it would require putting in long hours.
“Luckily I had been in the service industry for a long time, but it was definitely nerve-wracking,” says Laverick, owner of B. Scene Events & Promotions. “But now, it’s gotten to the point where I can just send a quick email and say ‘Everybody in?’”
With its live entertainment, built-in waterfront views, and wide range of eats and drinks, the seafood soiree—which returns to Canton Waterfront Park on September 17 from 12-7 p.m.—is becoming a tradition in the local food community.
“We’ve all become a family in a way,” Laverick says. “And it makes me really proud that some of the top restaurants in the city are joining in.”
This time around, organizers are expanding the festival’s footprint by doubling its live music lineup, introducing a food truck row featuring the likes of Greek on the Street and Kommie Pig, and adding a slew of new eateries to the vendor list.
Of course, old favorites including Captain James Landing, DogWatch Tavern, and Saigon Today will be onsite offering their seafood specialties, but this year’s roster also highlights Seafood Fest newbies like Abbey Burger Bistro, Mama’s on the Half Shell, and The Rowhouse Grill.
Organizers have also made it a priority to incorporate fare from city restaurants that just recently hit the scene. Among the many dishes will be barbecue shrimp skewers from new Canton Square concept Southern Provisions, spicy Louie sausage topped with lump crab meat from Highlandtown’s Snake Hill, Maryland tots from Brewers Hill hangout Huck’s American Craft, and smoked whitefish salad on an Old Bay bagel from local pop-up shop Bottoms up Bagels.
Laverick says that one perk of gathering so many restaurants in one place is fostering connections within the food community. A prime example of this occurred at last year’s event, when The Local Oyster owner Nick Schauman was first introduced to Chef Erik Berlin (more fondly known as Chef Egg). The duo has since started hosting a reoccurring series of monthly cooking classes together.
“I was shucking and [Berlin] was doing a cooking demo, so I just walked up and introduced myself,” Schauman told us earlier this summer. “He was like, ‘I eat your oysters all the time, want to do some classes together?’ And a plan of action started that day.”
While strolling around the grounds, festival-goers will also be able to sit in on various afternoon cooking tutorials led by local chefs Brian Lavin of Gnocco, Jerry Trice of Gunther & Co., Josh Hershkovitz of Hersh’s Pizza and Drinks, and Kevin Cauthorne of Myth & Moonshine.
Other highlights will include family-friendly activities in a designated kid’s zone and live performances from local rockers Feel Free, All Mighty Senators, Shawn Owen Band, and The Scotch Bonnets.
Last year’s festivities drew in a sold-out crowd of 8,000, and Laverick expects to attract a similar audience this time around. Carnival-style ticket packages (food and drink vendors accept tickets instead of cash) start at $15.
“There are other seafood festivals in Maryland, and a million other crab feasts, but the restaurants really set this one apart,” Laverick says. “I love that people bring blankets and spend the day. It just has such a great vibe and local feel.”