Crab cakes

Crab cakes at True in Boca Raton are authentically Baltimore. (True/Courtesy / June 19, 2014)

★★★

Frank Hawkins opened his restaurant last November, but only last week did he get his sign and outdoor lighting in place. That's what happens when your landlord decides to do construction just as you're opening.

It's remarkable, then, that so many people have found Hawkins' aptly named True and discovered what has become the centerpiece of his success: an authentic Baltimore-style crab cake.

If you've ever been to "Balmore," as Hawkins calls his hometown, you know crab cakes are to Charm City as Key lime pie is to South Florida. Too much filler is the enemy of a proper crab cake, which contains very little besides lump crab meat, egg and seasoning.


Photos: Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade

True's crab cakes come in three forms. One offers two (2 1/2-ounce) slider-size crab cakes ($14) served with one side dish. The True Blue Platter ($27-$30) features two (4 12/-ounce) crab cakes with two sides. The Crabzilla Platter ($38-$40) includes two (7-ounce) crab cakes, again with two sides.

These are the real deal, gently seasoned with Old Bay and miraculously cake-formed and crisp-edged despite the apparent absence of filler. There has to be some egg and mayonnaise in the mix, but I didn't taste anything, such as a crushed Saltine, that blunted the flavor or texture of the crab.

"It's hard to find a real crab cake down here," Hawkins says. "Very few people really deliver the goods."

Because they form the backbone of the menu, True's crab cakes have to be good. The dinner menu we were given featured five appetizers and just four entrees.

Frank's Famous Cream of Crab Soup ($8) gets its flavor from sherry and Old Bay, and has the creaminess you look for in this classic. No lumps here. Tiny, bacon-wrapped dates ($7) are filled with herbed cream cheese and served with ginger-soy dipping sauce. A simple composed salad called Fetacomply ($8) boasts slices of feta, tomatoes and avocado drizzled with basil olive oil.

Brisket sliders ($12 with one side), the only other appetizer, are topped with cheddar, mayo, red onion and cherry peppers. That same tender, thinly sliced brisket with the same toppings shows up among the entrees in another Baltimore classic called Bun Penny ($15). Hawkins says the sandwich is given its own night during his annual family vacations.

The menu's other entrees include vegetarian lasagna with pesto ($16) and roast chicken ($17). Keep an eye on specials such as stuffed shrimp ($25-$28), which featured four butterflied jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab meat and topped with Hawkins' secret crab Imperial sauce. It's another winner.

I wish Hawkins would add a few more items to what is a very limited menu. What about a strip steak? Pork chops? A simple grilled fish? Serve them with the same sides, which include delicious green beans lightly sautéed in garlic and oil, creamy house-made macaroni and cheese, potato salad or the simple garden salad.

Like its menu, True's setting is modest, with six tables, 12 bar seats and six more tables on the patio. The thoughtful craft beer menu features just one Maryland brew, Clipper City Gold Ale, plus good local choices from Due South and Funky Buddha. Altogether, there are three draft choices and 10 bottles.

As beer and crab cakes go, it doesn't get better than True.

jtanasychuk@SouthFlorida.com or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at SouthFlorida.com/sup and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

147 SE First Ave., Boca Raton

561-417-5100, TrueBocaRaton.com

Cuisine: Baltimore

Cost: Moderate-expensive

Hours: Lunch Tuesday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday, dinner 4-8 p.m. Sunday

Reservations: Suggested

Credit cards: D, DC, MC, V

Bar: Beer and wine

Sound level: Conversational

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, boosters

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

Parking: Street and garages