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A sizable soft shell crab entree at Tony & Joe’s.
Tony & Joe’s/Leading DC

Where to Spot Soft Shell Crabs Around D.C.

The crispy crustacean starts making appearances on menus this May

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A sizable soft shell crab entree at Tony & Joe’s.
| Tony & Joe’s/Leading DC

It’s time to roll out the red carpet for soft shell crabs, a mid-Atlantic delicacy that becomes available when Chesapeake Bay blue crabs molt from their hard shells each year. D.C. chefs are preparing the spring-to-early summer specialty with pickled ramps and other seasonal ingredients. Spot them atop salads, as part of weekly specials, or inside sushi rolls. Sadly, D.C. lost a few reliable spots for the annual favorite with the closures of Grillfish and Pogiboy.

Given their relative scarcity and popularity, it’s always best to confirm with restaurants if they have soft shells on hand. This map will be updated accordingly as more softies land on menus in the coming weeks.

For Maryland crab-picking fans, consider these must-try destinations both near and far this spring.

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This essential Thai eatery out in McLean, Va. has two spring specials starring fresh (never frozen) shipments of soft shell crab. A fried main comes with chili and basil sauce ($21) or opt for a pair of fried or grilled softies with Esaan’s special sauce ($42). Dine-in or order online.

Shibuya Eatery

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Chef Darren Norris’ Japanese restaurant in Adams Morgan puts a karaage-style spin on soft shell crabs with citrus crust and lemon verbena. 

Señor Fukushima Pop-Up at Haikan

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Daikaya Group chef/owner Katusya Fukushima’s Shaw ramen bar Haikan, now named Señor Fukushima through the summer, specializes in wafu (Japanese-style) Mexican dishes. The pop-up features soft shell crab with Veracruz sauce, stewed tomatoes, olives, capers, peal onions, garlic, and micro cilantro ($16).

A soft shell crab starter at Señor Fukushima.
Vina Sananikone

Ivy City Smokehouse

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Ivy City’s main sit-down seafood attraction sends out fried soft shells with basmati rice, corn, red pepper, and zucchini.

Zeppelin

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Shaw’s Japanese standby sends out sushi stuffed with tempura soft shell crab. Choose from a five-piece Spider Roll with avocado, masago, and cucumber or eight-piece Spiderman Roll with avocado, yuzu tobiko, spicy tuna, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.

Zeppelin offers a pair of soft shell crab-stuffed rolls.
Kimberly Kong/Nom Digital

Sushi Taro

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Dupont’s beloved sushi bar lets tempura softies shine in a roll alongside spicy mayo ($18). Available for dine-in or pickup.

The tempura soft shell crab roll at Sushi Taro.
Sushi Taro

Birch & Barley

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Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s longtime Logan Circle tavern serves a plate of pan-fried soft shell crabs with braised collards, pickled ramps, and sauce gribiche ($29).

Nina May

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The hyperlocal eatery in Logan Circe serves crispy soft shell crab with caper remoulade, celeriac slaw, and chili oil. The seasonal dish is also available during its new lunchtime pop-up on Fridays previewing its forthcoming Chevy Chase restaurant Elena James.

King Street Oyster Bar

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The DMV-wide raw bar, with locations in Leesburg, Middleburg, NoMa, and Potomac, offers a French-styled preparation. The soft shell crab entree is sauteed with toasted almonds and brown butter.

Tony and Joe's Seafood Place

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The Georgetown Harbor mainstay currently offers crispy buttermilk-battered soft shells with red bliss potato salad, green beans, and spicy remoulade.

A sizable soft shell crab entree at Tony & Joe’s.
Tony & Joe’s/Leading DC

Equinox Restaurant

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Chef Todd Gray’s White House-adjacent American eatery serves softies on a salad comprised of grilled avocado, pickled fennel, watermelon radish, and green goddess vinaigrette. 

Brine H Street

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The essential seafood and raw bar on H Street NE just received its first shipments of seasonal softies. Cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs are only served as a special when they get them in fresh, but they’re typically available on weekends only (market price). A newer location sits at the top of Dupont Circle.

L'Ardente

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Downtown’s flashy Italian restaurant offers a soft-shell crab entree flanked with charred scallion. Pan-seared in butter and served with saffron aioli, the crustacean sits atop a bed of farro risotto dotted with spring peas. Available during dinner service while supplies last.

Sushi Rock

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The soft shell crab roll at Arlington’s hip sushi hangout features nori, okonomiyaki sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, and creamy avocado.

The soft shell crab roll at Sushi Rock. 
Sushi Rock/Leading DC

Nam-Viet Restaurant

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Arlington’s Vietnamese stalwart just brought back its annual crowd-pleasing order of two Saigon-style soft shell crabs. They’re deep fried and sauteed with garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and house seasonings, all served atop a bed of fresh salad. The gluten-free entree (market price) comes with a hit lemon pepper dipping sauce made on-site.

Hill East Burger

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It’s softies o’clock at this meaty Hill East newcomer, with a brand-new fried soft shell sandwich.

Moruss Seafood & Crab House

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This casual crab house in Southeast sends out Maryland softies in sandwich form. Battered in its house breading and fried, softies come on a bun with toppings of choice. The “works” includes lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mayo, pickles, and hot peppers ($11.99). Order online.

The Salt Line

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Chef Kyle Bailey’s annual entree — the Nashville hot soft shell crab — comes with grilled white bread, pickled Earth N Eats green tomatoes, and black garlic honey.

An-Phuong Ly

The Point D.C.

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The scenic seafood staple in Buzzard Point prepares tempura soft shell crab with charred scallion, cilantro, and a chili sauce kick.

Tempura soft shell crab at The Point.
The Point/Leading DC

Sea Boil Crab House

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For just $14, try a fried basket of softies and fries at this all-seafood stalwart in Alexandria. Carryout and delivery are available.

Esaan

This essential Thai eatery out in McLean, Va. has two spring specials starring fresh (never frozen) shipments of soft shell crab. A fried main comes with chili and basil sauce ($21) or opt for a pair of fried or grilled softies with Esaan’s special sauce ($42). Dine-in or order online.

Shibuya Eatery

Chef Darren Norris’ Japanese restaurant in Adams Morgan puts a karaage-style spin on soft shell crabs with citrus crust and lemon verbena. 

Señor Fukushima Pop-Up at Haikan

Daikaya Group chef/owner Katusya Fukushima’s Shaw ramen bar Haikan, now named Señor Fukushima through the summer, specializes in wafu (Japanese-style) Mexican dishes. The pop-up features soft shell crab with Veracruz sauce, stewed tomatoes, olives, capers, peal onions, garlic, and micro cilantro ($16).

A soft shell crab starter at Señor Fukushima.
Vina Sananikone

Ivy City Smokehouse

Ivy City’s main sit-down seafood attraction sends out fried soft shells with basmati rice, corn, red pepper, and zucchini.

Zeppelin

Shaw’s Japanese standby sends out sushi stuffed with tempura soft shell crab. Choose from a five-piece Spider Roll with avocado, masago, and cucumber or eight-piece Spiderman Roll with avocado, yuzu tobiko, spicy tuna, spicy mayo, and eel sauce.

Zeppelin offers a pair of soft shell crab-stuffed rolls.
Kimberly Kong/Nom Digital

Sushi Taro

Dupont’s beloved sushi bar lets tempura softies shine in a roll alongside spicy mayo ($18). Available for dine-in or pickup.

The tempura soft shell crab roll at Sushi Taro.
Sushi Taro

Birch & Barley

Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s longtime Logan Circle tavern serves a plate of pan-fried soft shell crabs with braised collards, pickled ramps, and sauce gribiche ($29).

Nina May

The hyperlocal eatery in Logan Circe serves crispy soft shell crab with caper remoulade, celeriac slaw, and chili oil. The seasonal dish is also available during its new lunchtime pop-up on Fridays previewing its forthcoming Chevy Chase restaurant Elena James.

King Street Oyster Bar

The DMV-wide raw bar, with locations in Leesburg, Middleburg, NoMa, and Potomac, offers a French-styled preparation. The soft shell crab entree is sauteed with toasted almonds and brown butter.

Tony and Joe's Seafood Place

The Georgetown Harbor mainstay currently offers crispy buttermilk-battered soft shells with red bliss potato salad, green beans, and spicy remoulade.

A sizable soft shell crab entree at Tony & Joe’s.
Tony & Joe’s/Leading DC

Equinox Restaurant

Chef Todd Gray’s White House-adjacent American eatery serves softies on a salad comprised of grilled avocado, pickled fennel, watermelon radish, and green goddess vinaigrette. 

Brine H Street

The essential seafood and raw bar on H Street NE just received its first shipments of seasonal softies. Cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs are only served as a special when they get them in fresh, but they’re typically available on weekends only (market price). A newer location sits at the top of Dupont Circle.

L'Ardente

Downtown’s flashy Italian restaurant offers a soft-shell crab entree flanked with charred scallion. Pan-seared in butter and served with saffron aioli, the crustacean sits atop a bed of farro risotto dotted with spring peas. Available during dinner service while supplies last.

Sushi Rock

The soft shell crab roll at Arlington’s hip sushi hangout features nori, okonomiyaki sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, and creamy avocado.

The soft shell crab roll at Sushi Rock. 
Sushi Rock/Leading DC

Nam-Viet Restaurant

Arlington’s Vietnamese stalwart just brought back its annual crowd-pleasing order of two Saigon-style soft shell crabs. They’re deep fried and sauteed with garlic, ginger, jalapenos, and house seasonings, all served atop a bed of fresh salad. The gluten-free entree (market price) comes with a hit lemon pepper dipping sauce made on-site.

Related Maps

Hill East Burger

It’s softies o’clock at this meaty Hill East newcomer, with a brand-new fried soft shell sandwich.

Moruss Seafood & Crab House

This casual crab house in Southeast sends out Maryland softies in sandwich form. Battered in its house breading and fried, softies come on a bun with toppings of choice. The “works” includes lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mayo, pickles, and hot peppers ($11.99). Order online.

The Salt Line

Chef Kyle Bailey’s annual entree — the Nashville hot soft shell crab — comes with grilled white bread, pickled Earth N Eats green tomatoes, and black garlic honey.

An-Phuong Ly

The Point D.C.

The scenic seafood staple in Buzzard Point prepares tempura soft shell crab with charred scallion, cilantro, and a chili sauce kick.

Tempura soft shell crab at The Point.
The Point/Leading DC

Sea Boil Crab House

For just $14, try a fried basket of softies and fries at this all-seafood stalwart in Alexandria. Carryout and delivery are available.

Related Maps