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Apr 22, 2014 06:29 PM

ramps, soft shell crabs, or MD blue crabs

I'm coming in from San Diego and meeting friends from around the country. I would like to take them to a restaurant in the District serving ramps and soft shell crabs (or Maryland blue crabs). Please let me know your suggestions.

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  1. That's probably going to be two different places, at least as to blue crabs (soft shells are blue crabs but they are crabs that have just molted their shells and are also called "busters"). A real crab house - one that serves blue crabs - is not likely to have ramps. There are quite a few crab houses in the area but I can't think of any in the District that I would recommend. I went to the Dancing Crab in Tenleytown once and it was lousy. The Bethesda Crab House is not much better. Basically, beware of any place selling "all you can eat" as it usually means small, low-quality crabs. You may want to rent a car and go towards Annapolis or south of DC to a couple of well-regarded crab houses.

    1. The Quarterdeck in Arlington, Virginia serves steamed crabs (the proper way to get them here). Quality operation. Must reserve. This is a dive bar with picnic tables outside in nice weather. I always order the largest crabs I can get by the dozen.

      The other good thing on the menu is the mesquite shrimp.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Steve

        And this is an important thing when you go out for steamed crabs. People come here not knowing what to expect and then they go on TripAdvisor and write things like "we were so disappointed - it was a dive bar. The tables were covered with paper and the crabs were covered with dirt." So expect this - a low-key, dive-bar, picnic tables covered with paper. The "dirt" is Old Bay seasoning. Tourists wash it off. We don't. Do not wear light-colored clothing or clothing that you can't just toss in the wash. Wear clothing that doesn't cost a fortune. Go expecting to have fun. You will be eating with your hands and cracking crabs is a bit messy. Google some videos on how to crack the crabs. Don't eat the lungs (though I know some people who do). The "mustard" is OK though some people don't like it. I am sure there are some people who will dip the crab meat in vinegar but I don't know a single one of them and I've never been to a real crab house that serves it. Only the Dancing Crab, which was my first clue that I was not going to get great crabs. I mean why put anything on absolutely perfect, delectable crab meat? But to each his own. Get messy, have fun. BTW, if you order jumbos (and you should - best work-to-reward ratio), figure no more than a dozen for two people. If you get apps, keep it to a minimum. Crab meat is very rich. You will fill up before you realize it.

      2. Many Asian restaurants in the NoVA area do good things with soft shell crabs. One we always liked but sadly have not been to for a while because it's no longer convenient is Crystal Thai in Arlington. It's been around for a long time so you don't hear much about it these days. Their current menu appears to offer ten soft shell preparations:

        PS I agree with JV and Steve regarding steamed crabs: Avoid AYCE crabs, and order a dozen of the biggest crabs the place has.

        1. Ramps - and other Spring goodies - and where to get them here:

          1. Steve's recommendation is good. I had my last job good bye there and the crabs were good.