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Service Bar’s battered and fried softy sandwich.
Service Bar’s battered and fried softy sandwich.
Service Bar [official]

Where to Spot Soft Shell Crabs Around D.C.

Find the Mid-Atlantic favorited fried or blackened, tucked into sandwiches, and stuffed inside sushi rolls

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Service Bar’s battered and fried softy sandwich.
| Service Bar [official]

It’s prime time for soft shell crabs, a Mid-Atlantic favorite that becomes available when Chesapeake Bay blue crabs molt from their hard shells each year. D.C. chefs are preparing the late spring specialty with seasonal ingredients like ramps, pea shoots, asparagus, green beans, and tomatoes. Spot them in sandwiches, as part of weekly specials, or inside sushi rolls. Given their relative scarcity and popularity, it’s always best to confirm with restaurants if that they have soft shells on hand. Here are 15 options to try this year.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Kao Thai Restaurant

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8650 Colesville Rd
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 495-1234
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The “chef’s special” at the Silver Spring eatery is lightly battered and fried, topped with yellow curry or chili basil sauce and served with white jasmine rice ($19.95).

2. Ellē

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3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 652-0040
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Mt. Pleasant’s acclaimed all-day cafe tops a fried soft shell crab sandwich with smoked ranch, avocado, pickled green tomato, and iceberg lettuce.

3. Service Bar DC

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926-928 U St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 462-7232
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Shaw’s beloved cocktail bar, well-known for its fried chicken, batters and fries soft shell crab that’s served on a Martin’s potato roll with ramp aioli, slaw, dill pickles and pickled jalapenos ($16).

4. King Street Oyster Bar (Multiple locations)

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22 M St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 621-8513
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Flash-fried soft shells come two ways at NoMa’s happy hour hotspot, which just expanded to Potomac. A lunchtime sandwich is served with fries, while a dinnertime main arrives with green beans and marinated tomatoes in a lemon butter sauce.

5. Grillfish

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1200 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-7310
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The West End restaurant sells the spring delicacy several ways for dine-in, delivery, or carryout.

There’s a soft shell crab app with garlic sauce and butter ($15); a soft shell crab sandwich with fries or slaw ($17), or a softy-and-crab cake tower ($33). An entree arrives with mashed potatoes and pineapple-mango salsa ($33).

A soft shell entree with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon-butter sauce at Grillfish.
Grillfish/official photo

6. Clyde's (Multiple locations)

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3236 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-9180
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The local chain of trusty bar and grills just added a soft shell crab entree dressed with a fingerling potato and watercress salad, nuoc chom sauce, and avocado-buttermilk aioli ($16.99).

7. BOURBON STEAK

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2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 944-2026
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At the Four Seasons, chef Robert Curtis’s creative treatment of the local favorite comes fried in a golden sesame crust and served alongside whipped labneh and a smashed cucumber salad ($25).

8. Dauphine’s

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1100 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 758-3785
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D.C.’s long-awaited New Orleans-style restaurant with a Mid-Atlantic touch debuted downtown just in time for soft shell season. Chef Kristen Essig sends out a blackened softshell Creole over creamed Prairie Ronde rice and file. Over at Navy Yard sister spot Salt Line, chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish with black-garlic honey.

9. PogiBoy

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1100 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 681-7516
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Tom Cunanan and Paolo Dungca’s fast-casual Filipino stall in the downtown outpost of the Block food hall tucks chicken-fried soft shell crab in a bright purple ube mantou (steamed bun), dressed with chili/crab-fat mayo, cilantro, hot honey, and cucumbers. Available Fridays through Sundays while they last.

You said keep it all summer so we are!! Chicken-fried soft shell crab in house made ube mantou bun Available...

Posted by Pogiboy DC on Sunday, May 16, 2021

10. CUT by Wolfgang Puck - DC

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1050 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 617-2424
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The glitzy steakhouse tucked inside Rosewood hotel in Georgetown plans to add a tempura soft shell crab to its menu this weekend. The crispy crab comes adorned with red curry, snow peas, and pickled ramps (market price).

Cut/official photo

11. Chez Billy Sud

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1039 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 965-2606
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For a new weekend special, the French bistro in Georgetown sends out a sauteed soft shell entree with roasted fingerling potatoes, ramp green goodness dressing, and a salad of pea shoots, fava beans, peas, and pickled shallots.

Chez Billy Sud/official photo

12. NewBigWong

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610 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

The Chinese staple’s salt-and-pepper soft shell crab entree, located under the “chef’s suggestions” section, brings the heat ($21.95).

13. Nam-Viet Restaurant

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1127 N Hudson St
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 522-7110
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Arlington’s cult favorite for Vietnamese food is back with a hefty helping of two Saigon-style soft shell crabs that are 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.

Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.

14. Captain White’s Seafood

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1100 Maine Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 484-2722
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Shipments are sporadic, so call ahead to the Wharf’s signature seafood stand to pick up live soft shell crabs that run around $4.50 a pop.

Captain White’s/official photo

15. NaRa-Ya

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88 District Square SW 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 301-8145
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The new, elegant Japanese restaurant overlooking the Potomac from a perch in the Wharf development recently added an la carte menu that features a Maryland soft shell crab roll with avocado, pickled carrot, sweet soy, chimichurri, and garam masala aioli ($26).

Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.

1. Kao Thai Restaurant

8650 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910

The “chef’s special” at the Silver Spring eatery is lightly battered and fried, topped with yellow curry or chili basil sauce and served with white jasmine rice ($19.95).

8650 Colesville Rd
Silver Spring, MD 20910

2. Ellē

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW, Washington, DC 20010

Mt. Pleasant’s acclaimed all-day cafe tops a fried soft shell crab sandwich with smoked ranch, avocado, pickled green tomato, and iceberg lettuce.

3221 Mt Pleasant St NW
Washington, DC 20010

3. Service Bar DC

926-928 U St NW, Washington, DC 20001

Shaw’s beloved cocktail bar, well-known for its fried chicken, batters and fries soft shell crab that’s served on a Martin’s potato roll with ramp aioli, slaw, dill pickles and pickled jalapenos ($16).

926-928 U St NW
Washington, DC 20001

4. King Street Oyster Bar (Multiple locations)

22 M St NE, Washington, DC 20002

Flash-fried soft shells come two ways at NoMa’s happy hour hotspot, which just expanded to Potomac. A lunchtime sandwich is served with fries, while a dinnertime main arrives with green beans and marinated tomatoes in a lemon butter sauce.

22 M St NE
Washington, DC 20002

5. Grillfish

1200 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
A soft shell entree with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon-butter sauce at Grillfish.
Grillfish/official photo

The West End restaurant sells the spring delicacy several ways for dine-in, delivery, or carryout.

There’s a soft shell crab app with garlic sauce and butter ($15); a soft shell crab sandwich with fries or slaw ($17), or a softy-and-crab cake tower ($33). An entree arrives with mashed potatoes and pineapple-mango salsa ($33).

1200 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

6. Clyde's (Multiple locations)

3236 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007

The local chain of trusty bar and grills just added a soft shell crab entree dressed with a fingerling potato and watercress salad, nuoc chom sauce, and avocado-buttermilk aioli ($16.99).

3236 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

7. BOURBON STEAK

2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20007

At the Four Seasons, chef Robert Curtis’s creative treatment of the local favorite comes fried in a golden sesame crust and served alongside whipped labneh and a smashed cucumber salad ($25).

2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20007

8. Dauphine’s

1100 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

D.C.’s long-awaited New Orleans-style restaurant with a Mid-Atlantic touch debuted downtown just in time for soft shell season. Chef Kristen Essig sends out a blackened softshell Creole over creamed Prairie Ronde rice and file. Over at Navy Yard sister spot Salt Line, chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish with black-garlic honey.

1100 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

9. PogiBoy

1100 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

Tom Cunanan and Paolo Dungca’s fast-casual Filipino stall in the downtown outpost of the Block food hall tucks chicken-fried soft shell crab in a bright purple ube mantou (steamed bun), dressed with chili/crab-fat mayo, cilantro, hot honey, and cucumbers. Available Fridays through Sundays while they last.

1100 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

10. CUT by Wolfgang Puck - DC

1050 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Cut/official photo

The glitzy steakhouse tucked inside Rosewood hotel in Georgetown plans to add a tempura soft shell crab to its menu this weekend. The crispy crab comes adorned with red curry, snow peas, and pickled ramps (market price).

1050 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007

11. Chez Billy Sud

1039 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007
Chez Billy Sud/official photo

For a new weekend special, the French bistro in Georgetown sends out a sauteed soft shell entree with roasted fingerling potatoes, ramp green goodness dressing, and a salad of pea shoots, fava beans, peas, and pickled shallots.

1039 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007

12. NewBigWong

610 H St NW, Washington, DC 20001

The Chinese staple’s salt-and-pepper soft shell crab entree, located under the “chef’s suggestions” section, brings the heat ($21.95).

610 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

13. Nam-Viet Restaurant

1127 N Hudson St, Arlington, VA 22201
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.

Arlington’s cult favorite for Vietnamese food is back with a hefty helping of two Saigon-style soft shell crabs that are 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.

1127 N Hudson St
Arlington, VA 22201

14. Captain White’s Seafood

1100 Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024
Captain White’s/official photo

Shipments are sporadic, so call ahead to the Wharf’s signature seafood stand to pick up live soft shell crabs that run around $4.50 a pop.

1100 Maine Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024

15. NaRa-Ya

88 District Square SW 3rd Floor, Washington, DC 20024
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.

The new, elegant Japanese restaurant overlooking the Potomac from a perch in the Wharf development recently added an la carte menu that features a Maryland soft shell crab roll with avocado, pickled carrot, sweet soy, chimichurri, and garam masala aioli ($26).

88 District Square SW 3rd Floor
Washington, DC 20024

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