Bethesda Crab House, Maryland
I've wanted to go hit a Maryland crab house for ages now, but never seemed to have gotten around to it on former trips to Washington, D.C. Since my layover at Dulles today was a whopping six hours though, I figured that I'd pop out of the airport real quickly to grab some of those blue crabs. I was told that Baltimore has some of the best places in the area, but with ugly afternoon traffic and a long drive to Baltimore from Dulles ahead, I decided to set my sights on Bethesda instead, where the appropriately named Bethesda Crab House (4958 Bethesda Avenue, 301-652-3382) awaited.
This was exactly what I was looking for: a straightforwardly no-frills shop with benches covered in newspaper and a very limited menu of basically just crabs (as well as some crab cakes, cole slaw, etc.). I called ahead for a half dozen crabs, and immediately came out six steaming hot crabs covered in Old Bay, complete with the requisite wooden mallet, knife, extra Old Bay, and vinegar.
What fun it was to eat these things, as I started to get the hang of the whole mallet-and-knife process (it almost seemed like a test of how good your skills were) and scooping out the crab butter from the inside. Despite being smaller than Dungeness crabs from the West Coast, these blue crabs had a surprising amount of meat (more than those flower crabs from back in Singapore). And while I still prefer the delicate taste of Dungeness flesh, the finely textured meat of these blue crabs was very addictive, especially when your Old Bay-covered fingers accidentally brush some of the salty (and mildly spicy) concoction off onto the meat as you crack it. Dipping in vinegar also provided a relieving contrast when needed. It's so beautiful when something so simple tastes so wonderful.
As usual with crabs though, don't come when you are hungry, don't come when you are in a rush, and don't come when you are dressed nicely. This is a down-and-dirty process that takes time, and calling before you go is strongly recommended: when I arrived at about 5 PM today, they were already turning away people, saying that they were out of crabs. Fortunately I secured and cleared my six crabs with ease, and I absolutely loved it. Now I'm returning to the airport complete with crab guts splattered all over my clothes (not to mention the smell of Old Bay in my fingers, no matter how many times I've tried to wash my hands). Since Dulles doesn't have shower facilities (ugh!), I just hope that my neighbor on the plane doesn't really notice. At least the business class upgrade went through on this third and final leg.