Maryland’s crab season officially opens April 1, but Memorial Day is usually the first big weekend where it feels right to get a big crew together and spend a few hours picking crabs. But with that mostly off the table right now, crabhouses known for their all-you-can-eat experiences are shifting gears, offering steamed crabs to eat at home — and even bringing them to customers via food truck.
Sizes and prices vary with availability, but in the last week, we’ve seen a dozen large crabs ranging from $75 to $105 per bushel, so it can pay to shop around (if possible).
American Ice Company: American Ice is known for its all-you-can-eat July 4 crab feasts, but this summer, it’s offering a to-go version every weekend. Order by 5 p.m. on Thursday and you can have a dozen crabs from Kent Island steamed and delivered to your door between noon and 6 p.m. Saturday or Sunday. Prices start at $80 for crabs and a quart of potato salad, and go to $116 for a package with sides, beer and pickleback shots. 917 V St. NW. amicodc.com.
Captain Pell’s: The Fairfax staple is open for to-go orders but has also begun sending a food truck to Loudoun County on Sundays. (The location is posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Thursday.) In addition to crabs by the dozen or half-bushel, the truck sells crab cakes, broiled scallops, hush puppies and fried pickles. While the restaurant allows customers to call ahead to reserve crabs, the truck is first-come, first-served. 10195 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax. captainpell.com.
Crab Galley: A popular carryout with locations in Odenton and Bowie, Crab Galley sells certified Maryland blue crabs by the dozen or bushel, as well as crab cakes, fried shrimp platters and homemade sides. 7410 Laurel Bowie Rd., Bowie; 1351 Odenton Rd., Odenton. crabgalley.com.
Jimmy Cantler’s: Customers used to wait for hours to eat crabs overlooking the water; now the line of cars outside this Annapolis landmark is for people picking up live or steamed crabs, soft shell crab sandwiches, mussels or po’ boys to go, along with beer and crushes. Cantler’s doesn’t let customers reserve crabs, so the staff suggests calling and placing an order once you’re on the way, especially if they need to be steamed. 458 Forest Beach Rd., Annapolis. cantlers.com.
Fish Market at the Wharf: Crowds put the fish market in the headlines for the wrong reasons back in April. A new social distancing plan with limited capacity means a maze of metal barriers and long lines just to get in and shop, whether you’re coming on a weekend afternoon or a weekday morning. Longtime staples Jesse Taylor Seafood and Captain White’s are open for business, though they’re no longer allowed to steam seafood on demand to prevent crowds from gathering — call ahead if you need your crabs prepared. 1100 Maine Ave. SW. jessietaylorseafood.com; captainwhitesseafood.com.
Quarterdeck: Arlington’s neighborhood spot has made most of its menu available for takeout, including crab dip, crab cakes and hush puppies, but whole blue crabs are still the draw, and they’re sold by the half-dozen for smaller parties. (Call 45 minutes ahead so they can be steamed to order.) 1200 Fort Myer Dr., Arlington. quarterdeckarlington.com.
The Salt Line: Some people complain that picking crabs is a lot of work for very little meat. For a different kind of hands-on seafood experience, try shucking your own oysters. A new package from the recently reopened Salt Line offers a dozen fresh oysters from the Eastern Shore’s Harris Creek Oyster Company — a $31 package which comes with a oyster knife, accoutrements and the link to an instructional video. It’s easy to make jokes about slicing your fingers off, but shucking is a relatively easy skill to pick up, and while you probably won’t feel like a pro after five or six, you’ll at least have the hang of wiggling your knife into the shell, and you get to enjoy slurping down the sweet, buttery fruits of your labor. 79 Potomac Ave. SE. thesaltline.com.