EVEN THOUGH steamed crabs are Washington's most distinctive regional specialty, they have been hard to find at an in-town restaurant. Until now. Recently a crab house opened in Georgetown, complete with newspaper tablecloths, wooden mallets, pitchers of beer and outdoor tables. It's Griff's Crabhouse, at 3251 Prospect St. NW, and it promises steamed crabs year round, to eat in or carry out.
While its outdoor tables are too small and flimsy for a comfortable crab feast, indoors the look and furnishings are right. The menu is simple, just crabs (at the moment $11 to $36 a dozen, depending on size), spiced shrimp, crab gumbo and such fried accompaniments as hush puppies, clam strips, calamari, onion rings and curly fries (all of the fried food, according to the waiter, comes from the freezer).
The shrimp were too salty when I tried them, but were otherwise exceptionally juicy and nicely spiced. The gumbo was a little eccentric, tomatoey and thick. And while the crabs were only available in small and medium size (which was also true at the Dancing Crab on the same day) and some were mushy, they were well-seasoned and decently priced. Crab prices are seasonal, but for now Griff's offers all the crabs you can eat for $14.95 a person if you dine between 5 and 10 p.m.
The restaurant is open seven days a week from noon to midnight.
DINING WITH Julia Child has more than the obvious advantage of her intelligent company. It is also a sure bet that the chefs cooking for her will be putting out their best effort. On Monday you can have dinner with Julia and the best efforts of 14 local chefs at the World Capital Chef's Society buffet dinner, in the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza at Metro Center. Tickets are $45 each, and proceeds will benefit one of Julia Child's favorite causes, the American Institute of Wine and Food.
Child will give a talk about the institute, and the chefs will show off 20 dishes, including stuffed peppers with anchovy garlic sauce by Roberto Donna of Galileo, smoked pork chop with roast corn custard and rosemary-mustard jus by John Lenchner of McPherson Grill, chipotle chicken by Alison Swope of Santa Fe East, salt cod brandade by Mary Richter of Cities, crab lobster cakes by Will Greenwood of the Jefferson Hotel, down to margarita truffles by Stephen Andersen of Tortilla Coast. They'll be washed down with wine, mineral water and mango or passion daiquiris by Clive DuVal and Lloyd Hartsfield of Tila's. For tickets, call 703/922-5322.
YOU'VE READ the book, now eat the meal: Carole Cutler, one of Washington's most prolific cookbook authors, will be signing her newest book, "Catch of the Day," at the Westin Hotel's Bistro restaurant Thursday from 5:30 to 7. From Thursday through Oct. 7, the dinner menu at Bistro will be featuring dishes from her book, including corn-crab soup, salmon with fennel sauce and pasta with swordfish ragu.
Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.