Nora Ephron Inspired Maryland Crab Cakes for “You’ve Got Mail” Movie Night

The movie “You’ve Got Mail” has plenty of foodie scenes.  Why wouldn’t it?  The film is directed and co-written by Nora Ephron, who was a food lover and the author of Heartburn, a novel in which recipes are threaded through the whole along with anecdotes which drive the story along and humanize the narrator and lead character.


“You’ve Got Mail” takes us through New York City in the company of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks visiting Farmer’s Markets, coffee shops, cafes, and Zabar’s the classic grocery store was seen on film for the first time.  Food takes a fresh and warm place in the film comforting and nourishing it’s characters.  In one email to Kathleen, Joe was a prolific poet about the bagel place around the corner from his apartment and how every night, a truck pumps a ton of flour into the ground, filling the air with white powder. That “bagel place” was the famed H&H Bagels, the New York City kosher bagel establishment, which sadly refused to put cream cheese on its delicious holy bread.

For “You’ve Got Mail” meal experiences you can actually visit NYC staples because Nora Ephron was a stickler for realism and was literally having a love affair with the city itself in this film.  You can enjoy hot dogs like our lead characters did at New York City mainstay Gray’s Papaya or stop for fried calamari at the Upper West Side eatery Ocean Grill.  At Barney Greengrass, Kathleen shared what looked like a turkey sandwich and some iced tea with Birdie, a friend of her late mother who still worked at The Shop Around The Corner.  Joe and Kathleen decided to make their first meeting at Cafe Lalo for coffee. At last, that scene ended with Joe hijacking his own date, and pretending like Kathleen was stood up.

The film is about two people in an online romance who are unaware that they are also business rivals.  At the peak of AOL and chat rooms, the 1998 romantic comedy took the old story based on The Shop Around the Corner (1940) starring James Stewart, and again as the musical In the Good Old Summertime (1949) starring Judy Garland, to a new audience with a current appeal.

What made “You’ve Got Mail” special and so memorable is Ephron’s meticulous attention to detail and realism.  She paid attention to her cast and truly immersed them into the film in reality.  Her love for food seeps through in all her films and she treated her cast and crew to memorable meals that were borderline lavish, on a regular basis.  She served crab cakes that “You’ve Got Mail” cast members particularly remember.  Crab cakes must be a favorite of hers because they were were served on the set of Sleepless in Seattle as well.

crab cakes


My takeaway from “You’ve Got Mail” and the movie’s many options for an “You’ve Got Mail” meal experience is a tribute to the late Nora Ephron and those special crab cakes.  This is a recipe for New England Crab Cakes packed full of succulent crab and savory seasoning.  These crab cakes will transport you to the shore with their crispy exterior and and tender luscious interior.

maine crab cakes

Nora Ephron Inspired Maryland Crab Cakes


1 teaspoon old bay seasoning

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

1⁄2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 lb blue crab meat

2 eggs

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Salt to taste

Canola oil


  1. Carefully check the crab meat for any cartilage. Gently squeeze any excess moisture out with a paper towel.
  2. In a large bowl, add eggs, mayonnaise, old bay, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and mix until creamy.
  3. Add bread crumbs, mixing evenly.
  4. Add in the crab meat, make sure they are thoroughly mixed.
  5. Mold cakes into nine medium crab cakes.
  6. Place a frying pan over moderately high heat and put a small quantity of oil in the frying pan and allow to heat.
  7. Saute each crab cake for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. You can also broil them until brown.
  8. Serve with remoulade or tartar sauce and lemon. (optional)

crab cakes - nora ephron







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