Starting this weekend, Capitol Hill beer-and-burger bars the Ugly Mug and Valor Brewpub will turn into one combined operation offering customers wary of vacationing during the novel coronavirus pandemic a place to pick Maryland blue crabs.
The stacked sister bars in the Barracks Row development will morph into Capitol Hill Crab Shack (723 8th Street SE) on Friday, July 3. The pop-up comes complete with its own drunk crab logo and a reservation website set to go live on Resy. For now, interested parties can email events@districtrg for reservations. Capitol Hill Crab Shack will run Fridays through Sundays throughout the duration of blue crab season. Hours start at 4 p.m. on Fridays and right after weekend brunch (3 p.m.) on Saturday and Sunday, with an 11 p.m. closing time.
Along with crabs by the dozen (medium, large, and jumbo), there’s a Maryland-style seafood boil for two ($43) with crab, shrimp, clams, mussels, corn, cole slaw, and potatoes. Fragrant flavors for steam pots include house-brewed Kolsch from Valor, along with garlic, Old Bay, and butter. Apps include peel-and-eat shrimp and coconut shrimp.
The seafood shack idea comes from co-owner Gaynor Jablonski, who says he was “always eating crabs and crabbing” while growing up in Annapolis. When D.C. started reopening in late May, he wanted to feed a crab craving nearby — but realized options are limited; Bethesda Crab House and Ballston’s Quarterdeck were packed and booked.
“Part of my logic is people want a place to pick and eat crabs in [D.C.] — they don’t want to travel outside of the city,” he says, naming faraway favorites like Cantler’s and The Point. “I started to realize QuarterDeck is just like the Ugly Mug, with crabs.”
Crabs also help offset lost business from sports fans who are waiting on leagues to start playing again. The NBA is set to restart its season on July 30 in Orlando. The NHL expects to return to competition in late July or August. Major League Soccer resumes play July 8, and the National Women’s Soccer League is already competing.
“All [sports] are up in the air — it’s making my places a destination that can continue on until the fall,” he says. “Because of social distancing limitations we are going to run this as a pop-up presented by both restaurants at the same time.”
Valor Brewpub opened under the The Ugly Mug in 2018, bringing the historic military neighborhood a new late-night dining option.
Greatest hits (pizza, burgers, tater tots) will stay put during messy seafood feasts. Familiar crab-picking trimmings include brown paper, hammers, buckets, paper towels, and plastic bibs.