Aug 13, 2023 - Food and Drink

Where to crack crabs around D.C.

Steamed Chesapeake crabs

A feast at the Crab Claw in St. Michaels. Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket/Getty Images

It's peak crab season and there are tons of ways around D.C. to get cracking.

Why it matters: Chesapeake crabs are at their biggest and best now through early fall — and you can't let summer slip by without a feast.

What's happening: Community crab feasts and festivals, including some last-minute fun on Sunday.

New: The Kentmorr, a longtime favorite near Kent Island, is now under the ownership of D.C.-based Atlas Brew Works — and that includes the restaurant/crab house and revamped beach area overlooking the Bay, complete with sand, cabanas, and a tiki bar.

Threat level: This isn't the best year for Chesapeake crabs but it's better than last year — when the population hit record lows.

  • Numbers are up significantly, though regulatory agencies are still vigilant about catch limits and environmental factors such as water quality and invasive species that impact decline.

The intrigue: Crab feasts are also less common in D.C. this summer. Chef Alex McCoy, who ran popular summertime crab pop-ups for years, tells Axios he's paused them due to high crab prices and staffing costs.

  • Also: "People just don't want to go out and spend $90 on a dozen crabs that isn't on the water."

Yes, but: There isn't a local crab shortage.

  • "This is crab country, so demand is high and during the summer months you'll pay a premium if you're going out and eating hard-shells," says Tim Lydon of seafood wholesaler ProFish. "But the product does seem plentiful."
St. Michael's harbor and the Crab Claw
Get crackin' in St. Michaels at The Crab Claw. Photo: Anna Spiegel

Zoom in: If you want to enjoy a Bay-side crab feast during the peak summer months, expect prices around $100 for a dozen large crabs. A few favorites within a 1.5-hour drive of D.C.:

🐟 The Point: More upscale than your average crab spot, this waterfront restaurant tucked inside an Annapolis-area marina serves steamed crabs alongside stellar seafood dishes.

🍻 Cantler's Riverside Inn: The roadhouse-style classic outside Annapolis still packs in regulars and tourists for steamed crabs and no-fuss seafood.

⛵ Mike's Crab House: Go by boat or car to the decades-old crab house in Riva, which has a big river deck for crab feasts.

🦀 The Crab Claw: One of the Eastern Shore's most classic crab houses overlooks St. Michaels harbor. You may want to go soon — a sale is underway to the neighboring maritime museum, and the restaurant's future is TBD.

No car? No problem. City crabs are still good! The best District option is Ivy City Smokehouse, which serves steamed blue crabs on its outdoor deck alongside tasty eats including shrimp baskets and smoked fish platters.

🏠 Between the lines: Backyard feasts can be even better when you don't have to leave the house. R + L Crab Co., a pandemic-born crab-delivery service, will bring live or steamed crabs, plus accoutrement, to D.C. and Maryland doorsteps.

Thought bubble: Fall is the best time to crack Chesapeake crabs. They're bigger — they've had a whole summer season to fatten up — and less expensive because demand is lower.

  • The local season runs until early October, so start planning your fall feast now.
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