If you haven't the time or inclination to catch your own crabs, here are some places to just go gobble 'em. The comments, if any, are excerpted from Phyllis C. Richman's previous reviews, most of which appeared in this spring's Washington Post Dining Guide. CAPTAIN DRINKS' -- Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10; Friday and Saturday 11 to 11, Sunday 11 to 10. 301/259-2114. No reservations. Steamed crabs $10 to $12 a dozen (prices vary). ROBERTSON'S CRAB HOUSE -- Open 11 to 11 every day but Sunday, when it closes at 9. 301/934- 9236. Currently $15 a dozen for large, $10 others. All you can eat, $11.50 when there are enough crabs. From the Beltway follow Route 5 south to U.S. 301 and continue to the big red sign six miles south of La Plata. Turn right on Pope's Creek Road three miles. Forty miles south of Washington on Popes Creek are two side-by-side crabhouses that take close examination to tell the difference between them. Robertson's, they will tell you at both restaurants, is the more crowded. If you're looking for steamed crabs and pitchers of beer, which is why you should be driving so far anyway, either one will do. The crabs looked of comparable size, and all that we tried were fat and meaty and sweet. Mildly peppered, hot and juicy were the crabs at both places, though Captain Drinks' may salt them more. In case you don't know how to crack crabs, Robertson's has placemats with instructions -- or ask anybody. Some foods need their natural environment in order to develop every nuance of flavor. And Maryland blue crabs need brown butcher paper, wooden mallets, jukeboxes, pleated paper cups on vinegar bottles and shellacked pine booths in full view of the Maryland or Virginia shore. Popes Creek has all the requirements, in duplicate. CHESAPEAKE CRAB HOUSE Silver Spring: 8214 Piney Branch Road, 589-9868. Noon to 10:30 daily except Sunday, when it's noon to 10. Gaithersburg: 8940 N. Westland Drive (Walnut Hill Shopping Center), 4 to 10:30 daily, 1 til 10 on Sunday. 948-2175. For big parties, reservations required. Crabs $9 to $30 a dozen. Typical of crab houses, an old standby, and closer to the city than most, is the Chesapeake Crab House (with a branch in Gaithersburg). You shouldn't expect more than Formica tables and a bit of pine paneling in a crab house, and you don't get more here. But you do get a choice of five or six sizes of steamed crabs -- lightly steamed, heavily peppered and paprikaed. CRACKED CLAW -- 19815 Frederick Road, Gaithersburg. 428-0588. Closed Monday. No reservations. Tuesday to Friday 11:30 to 10, Saturday 5 to 11, Sunday 4 to 9. Crabs $12 a dozen. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday all the crabs you can eat for $9.95; Thursday for $11.95 it's all the crabs and shrimp you can eat. It looks like a recreation room, sounds like a workshop and seems to be decorated with the contents of somebody's attic. In other words, it is the absolutely ideal environment for eating steamed crabs and drinking beer, which is what nearly everyone does here. It's not bad for other crab dishes, either. A visit is undoubtedly best limited to the crabs, though, so you can concentrate on the good food, good service and good fun. DANCING CRAB --4611 Wisconsin Avenue NW. 244- 1882. Open daily. No reservations. Monday to Thursday 11 to 11; Friday and Saturday 11 to midnight, Sunday 1 to 11. Crabs $12 to $27.60. All you can eat Tuesday and Thursday for $9.95. One could imagine the kitchen of the Dancing Crab with two giant pots, one for steaming and one for frying. That's it -- the only two tunes the kitchen can whistle. In summer that means steamed crabs. ERNIE'S -- 1623 Fern Street Alexandria. 836-1623. Monday-Tuesday 3 to midnight, Wednesday-Sunday noon to midnight. No reservations. Crabs $9 to $24 a dozen, $9.95 all you can eat. HOGATE'S -- 11 to 11 Monday through Thursday, 11 to midnight Friday, noon to midnight Saturday, noon to 10 Sunday. 484-6301. The crab feast runs on Wednesday and Sunday evenings from 5:30 until dark -- "or a little after dark, depending." If you can find Maine Avenue, you can't miss Hogate's. IMPERIAL CRAB AND SEAFOOD HOUSE -- 9429 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring. 589-2722.Monday 4 to 10; 4 to 11 Fridays, noon to 11 Saturday and noon to 10 Sundays. Crabs $9 to $18. All you can eat when they have enough, $9.95. Reservations accepted weekends, or for large parties. JERRY'S CRAB HOUSE -- 3544 Crain Highway, Bowie. 301/262-3773. All to go. Monday through Friday 10 to 9; Saturday, Sunday noon to 9. Small crabs $8 (three dozen, $20), large $18; bushel, $47. MIKE'S CRABHOUSE -- 11 to midnight weekdays, until 2 weekends. 301/956-2784. Large crabs are now $15 to $18 a dozen ($12 to $14 takeout, $35 to $45 a bushel). From the Beltway take Route 214 east past Davidsonville to Riva Road, and turn left. Mike's is just south of the bridge across the South River. MORGAN'S CRAB HOUSE -- 3200 Georgia Avenue NW. 829-2666/2093. Monday to Saturday 9 to midnight, noon to 10 Sunday. Crabs $6 to $20. JIMMY'S -- 7245 Landover Road Kent Village. 773- 5615. Daily 8 a.m to 2 a.m. Crabs $8 to $24. Starting July 1, all-you-can-eat Tuesdays and Thursdays 5 to 11, $8.95. Reservations accepted. OYSTERMAN'S INN -- Noon to 9 Monday through Thursday, 6 to 11 weekends. 261-5558. Crabs are $8.95 a dozen. From the Beltway take Route 4 to its intersection with Route 258 near Bristol, and follow 258 east to a right on Rockhold Creek Road. Proceed until you cross a bridge; turn right at the drugstore. Follow that road past the fire department and when you come to a T, bear right; the inn is at the end of the road. CAPTAIN PETE'S -- Tuesday through Friday 4 to 9, weekends noon to 9. 301/259-4514. Current prices range from $10 to $15 a dozen for large males. From the Beltway, take Route 5 until it runs into U.S. 301. Continue on 301 to about six miles south of La Plata, then turn right onto Pope's Creek Road. There's a large red sign at the intersection. POP'S CRAB HOUSE -- 4712 Annapolis Road. 301/459-4141. All to go. Monday through Thursday 11 to 9; Friday 11 to 10; Saturday 11 to 10 Sunday 11 to 7. Crabs $8 to $17. RIVERSIDE -- 11 to 11 daily, Friday and Saturday until midnight. 301/757-9888. Current prices are $10 mediums, $15 large. Take U.S. 50 past Annapolis, across the Severn River, and turn right at the Old Mill Pancake House onto Old Mill Bottom Road. At the end of Old Mill Bottom road turn right and continue until you see a store and gas station on your left, turn left through the store parking lot onto the road that comes in from the left (you'll think you're doubling back). Continue to the first paved road on your right, Forest Beach Road. Follow it to the Riverside Inn. CAPTAIN WHITE'S --8123 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring. 589-6868. Monday through Thursday 11 to 12:30, Friday 11 to 1:30, Saturday noon to 1:30, Sunday 12:30 to midnight. Crabs $12 to $22; when there are enough, it's all you can eat for $7.95. Reservations accepted.