Where are the Best Crack Your Own Crab Options in the District?

Photo by PoPville flickr user yostinator

Since many have Friday off – we’ve got an early question this week – where are the best spots to crack your own crabs in DC? If there are some especially good options not too far away please let us know about those too?

Phillips has closed in SW Waterfront and I believe Dancing Crab is still closed for renovations in Tenleytown. So what are the best spots left to get some crab for the 4th?

51 Comment

  • The American Ice Company is having it’s annual 4th of July crab Crack from 1pm-7pm. Crabs are fantastic, and it should be a blast!

  • Not quite DC — But Ruff and Ready on Chillum Road is great for takeout.

    • +1 This is my go-to spot. It’s just near Fort Totten.

    • notlawd

      +1000 for Rough and Ready. The crabs are always juicy and really well seasoned. They don’t always answer the phones though, and there is no where to sit there.

  • I just got 3 1/2 dozen large males from the Captain Whites at the Wharf last Friday for 60 bucks. Out of that many, all but two were really good. They steam them the for you so then you just need to find a place to eat them. For the price you can’t beat it. We took them home and they were still steaming hot.

    • I support this, if you’re not buying live blue crabs, you don’t know what you’re getting and how long it’s been dead.

      Though they are expensive (but not more than eating in a restaurant), I always wait until I can buy a live bushel and get them steamed. They’re not too hard to cook at home if you have a big crab pot too, just be sure to ask them for seasoning when you buy the crabs.

  • Tangentially related, try some Flying Fish Old Bay Summer Ale with your crabs. Why yes, it does have a hint of Old Bay.

  • Not DC either, but Bethesda Crab House on Bethesda Ave is pretty good.

  • In DC, probably the best option is getting them from the SW waterfront and taking them home, maybe? If you’re willing to cross the river, Quarterdeck in Arlington is actually pretty great, in a divey, ‘sitting in a parking lot having crabs and beer’ kind of way!

  • It’s worth it if you venture out to Annapolis. DC doesn’t have anything on all the spots in Annapolis

  • I go to Ernie’s on Bladensberg for crab legs, though most come for crabs. Both are doused in the Old Bay, steamed and delicious.

  • “Cracking” crabs? That must be some Maine or Oregon talk.

    • Yeah Maine is really known for the crabs.

      • That’s the point. People familiar with steamed crabs don’t call it “cracking crabs.” It’s something somebody from Maine — who doesn’t really know anything about crabs — might say.

      • I’m from NJ and had never heard the term “picking” until I moved down here (we didn’t have crabs that often though, only if someone went crabbing).

    • +1,000. In Maryland we call it crab picking. You only need the mallet for cracking the claws open. You can also use a nutcracker or knife handle for this. All of the rest of the meat can be hand picked. A paring knife is nice to have, but not necessary. Also, don’t eat crabs with melted butter! You should only have cider vinegar and extra Old Bay. Appropriate side dishes include corn on the cob, fries, hush puppies and beer.

      • As someone who learned to pick a crab before I could tie a shoe and from SOMD, I will have to disagree on the butter. It might sound strange but melted butter (real butter), a few splashes of apple cider vinegar and Old Bay together is amazing. Try it once and you wont go back.

        • I’ve been picking crabs since the 70s and I never saw crabs served with butter until I was in my 20s. And it shocked and disgusted me! 🙂

        • I’m from New Orleans, and never heard of the butter OR the vinegar thing until moving to this area. I’ve been “picking” crabs since before I could walk, along with shrimp and crawfish and anything derived from the above 3 wonderful sea food things (bisque, etoufee, etc.). I’ve tried the dipping in butter, and even vinegar, but (FOR ME) they tend to overpower the delicate flavor of the crab. Old Bay is good, lots of salt which encourages you to sip more beer.

        • bfinpetworth

          Butter is entirely unnecessary for good blue crabs. And it fills you up way too quickly – how can you sit and pick crabs for 3-4 hrs if you’re dipping in butter?! Anyway, butter kind of hides that perfect soft sweetness of the crab meat.

    • if they were from here, they really wouldn’t be asking the question, would they.

    • Up in Baltimore, we always “pick” crabs. Also, for folks who hail from outside the Mid-Atlantic, if you search for “How to pick a crab,” you’ll get a lot of good videos on how to get all the meat from ’em. Everybody’s got their own way of doing it.

      It’s all about the technique and speed- I’ve got friends who can pick a crab in no time flat, and there is nothing left! Sit down sometime with somebody who’s really, really good, and it’s pretty amazing to see.

  • Cracking is so overrated during soft shell season! Got my fix of lightly breaded and fried awesomeness in Annapolis two weeks ago, where’s the best place in the District?

    • Had great soft shells at Pesce on P st last week. Just remember to ask for sauce on side. It was some sweet apricot glaze that was kind of odd. I prefer just a squeeze of lemon.

      • Great intel, thanks! I like them simple too, although the remoulade they came with at Emeril’s was amazing. (The talk of NOLA below is making me hungry!)

  • Catching them and doing it yourself at your home (backyard or wherever).

  • Emmaleigh504

    I miss LA seafood. *sob*

    • ehh the east coast wins on seafood. I will give you the fish tacos. Crab to Crab it isnt even close.

    • Y’all got some gread seafood, but you BOIL crabs there! That ruins the meat. Steaming is the best way to do it.

      • Emmaleigh504

        wrong wrong wrong! The crawfish boil makes crabs edible!

        • Emmaleigh504

          I shoulda said berl. The crawfish berl gives them flavor, otherwise they are a bland mess. Same with lobster. First time I had it I was confused what the fuss was about. The second time I had it it was berled in crawfish berl and it was divine.

  • Jessie Taylor’s at the wharf. Buy live and get them steamed. Occasionally I get a bad crab but usually big, meaty, and delicious. Also good for other seafood.

  • diploj

    +1. If you’re looking to feed a small crowd (5-10 people) Captain White’s is the way to go if you have an outdoor space to use. You’ll pay about a quarter the price as at a divey restaurant. In my experience, half bushel feeds 5-6 and full bushel for 10-12.

  • I really like the Bethesda Crab House. It’s small and a little grimey, but that’s the kind of atmosphere I want for crab picking. It’s a 10 minute walk from the Bethesda metro.

    • I also forgot to mention that The Dancing Crab in Tenleytown is great. I haven’t been there in a while though, so I’m not even sure it’s still open…

  • Bethesda crab house. Don’t waste time at quarterdeck, they shove too many crabs in the pot and the bottom are soggy and wet and the top ones have no flavor.

  • Quarterdeck in Rosslyn (not far from Iwo Jima) is easy to get to and very good.

  • This is going to sound crazy, but a couple of years ago I was at Taste of Jamaica on H St and the cook was testing a new crab recipe. He had us taste them and they were FANTASTIC. Great Caribbean spices, I see the place for Old Bay but this was much tastier! Plus Eleanor Holmes Norton came in to get some take out.

  • Quarterdeck. Across the river, but the closest best.

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