Tall Oaks Restaurant

By Cathy Adams

     Fifty years ago Francis Hasse purchased a grocery store with a beer license in rural Pasadena. Her six year old daughter stood on the front steps, hugging herself with glee, exclaiming "Mommy has a candy store!"

     By the third day Miss Francis added a bar, then six tables and 24 chairs and started selling food, at first just sandwiches, stews, crab soup, hamburgers and crab cake sandwiches. By the early 50's she expanded the dining room and the menu, and then again in the 70's to accommodate the growing business.

     The menu, which Miss Francis described as her "home cooked recipes" specializes in seafood, especially crabs in every way possible during the season. Her backfin crab cakes are still one of the biggest sellers, and one of the few changes is that these days most people want them broiled instead of fried. The other change is that she no longer adds salt to her crab cakes. "Old Bay is saltier than it used to be," she said.

     She originated the stuffed soft crab (a soft shell crab stuffed with crab meat) because "I didn't have much refrigeration and these children would bring me soft crabs and I had to use them" as soon as possible. Another specialty is the fried hard crab, a cleaned hard crab stuffed with crab meat, battered ("the batter is my own secret recipe") and deep fried.

     Tall Oaks also serves steamed crabs, although Miss Francis said that Maryland crabs have been scarce this year and she prefers to handle local crabs.

     Soft shells, available as either a sandwich or entree, are straight from the source on the Eastern Shore, and are simply prepared, lightly floured and deep fried, with crispy legs poking out from between slices of white bread.

     Golomki, stuffed cabbage, is a homage to Miss Francis' Fells' Point roots. She grew up on South Register Street, and remembers the how the whole neighborhood would smell of steamed crabs from Obryicki's. Vegetables include old-fashioned comfort food: stewed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, pickled beets, German potato salad and lima beans.

     The menu is not limited to seafood, and offers steaks, pork chops, chicken and pasta dishes.

     Miss Francis, along with her family, works every day, greeting and chatting with customers, many of them by name, since she knows them or their parents or grandparents. Tall Oaks has "been a part of my life for so long. I've made so many friends," she said. One long time customer said that he could go to the Prime Rib or Tio Pepe's, but he would rather go to Tall Oaks.

     The comfortable dining room has remained pretty much unchanged since the 70's, with pine paneling and popular music from the sixties and early 70's. The bar area sports mounted deer heads, trophy's of her familys hunting skills. There is also the head of the fabled jackalope (ask Miss Francis about it).

     And, yes, Miss Francis still sells candy.

Tall Oaks' Backfin Crab Cakes

makes 4 crab cakes



  1. Mix bread crumbs, Old Bay, and black pepper with the crab meat. "Fluff" together (gently mix the crab meat without breaking up the lumps).
  2. Mix the mayonnaise and egg and beat together. Mix with the crab meat and shape into 4 cakes. Chill for at least one hour (they will hold together better, especially if they are to be fried).
  3. For the best taste, Miss Francis prefers to deep fry the crab cakes until golden brown. For a healthy crab cake, lightly spray a broiler sheet with pan-spray and broil under a preheated broiler until brown. Turn over if necessary.

    Tall Oaks
    1541 Colony Road
    Pasadena, MD
    Appetizers and Sandwiches: $1.50-$8.00
    Entrees: $7.50-$22.50 (Lobster Tails are more expensive at $23 and $29)


    • Monday 11:30-9
    • Tuesday 11-9
    • Wednesday-Saturday 11-10
    • Sunday 11-9

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