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Salt Line’s popular Nashville-hot soft shell crab dish recently returned for the season at its Navy Yard and Ballston locations.
Salt Line/official photo

Where to Still Spot Soft Shell Crabs Around D.C.

Find the Mid-Atlantic favorite fried, tucked into sandwiches, and stuffed inside sushi rolls

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Salt Line’s popular Nashville-hot soft shell crab dish recently returned for the season at its Navy Yard and Ballston locations.
| Salt Line/official photo

It’s almost last call 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-to-early summer specialty with seasonal ingredients like asparagus and tomatoes. Spot them in sandwiches, as part of weekly specials, or inside sushi rolls. Equinox chef Todd Gray, who got in on the season early this year, tells Eater many crabs are in between sheddings right now and more softies should return to menus in July.

Given their relative scarcity and popularity, it’s always best to confirm with restaurants if they have soft shells on hand.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Esaan

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1307 Old Chain Bridge Rd
McLean, VA 22101
(703) 288-3901
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This essential Thai eatery out in McLean, Va. has two summer specials starring 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.

2. Primrose

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3000 12th St NE
Washington, DC 20017
(202) 248-4558
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Brookland’s neighborhood wine bar just dropped a tempura-fried soft shell crab sandwich with banh mi flavors. A veggie slaw (carrot, jalapeno, radish, cucumber) joins cilantro, mint, basil, and garlic aioli. Available starting Saturday, June 25, through the rest of the softie season.

Primrose’s new softie sandwich.
Sam Sanchez for Primrose

3. Hot N Juicy Crawfish

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2651 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 299-9448
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A soft shell crab basket ($17) can be jazzed up with Cajun seasoning, served with regular or Cajun fries at this DMV-wide chain.

4. Shibuya Eatery

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2321 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 450-2151
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Chef Darren Norris puts Japanese spins on the Chesapeake Bay delicacy at his Adams Morgan izakaya. Crispy soft shell crab joins sweet chili sesame mazemen (brothless ramen), scallion, beni shoga, and a heap of noodles for one filling entree ($25). On the sushi side, crispy soft crab stars in a Spider Roll ($18) with cucumber and avocado. A fried soft shell crab sandwich comes with house pickles, bang bang sauce, and wasabi fries. Order any from the basement Shibuya Eatery or up at its penthouse cocktail bar (Death Punch).

A soft shell crab entree at Shibuya Eatery.
Shibuya Eatery

5. Grillfish

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1200 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-7310
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The West End raw bar sends out the seasonal delicacy several ways as a special (when they can get them in). There’s a soft shell crab app with lemon, clam juice, and saffron ($25) and a softy-and-crab cake tower ($40).

A soft shell entree with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon-butter sauce at Grillfish ($40).
Grillfish/official photo

6. 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. PogiBoy just got major props by Food & Wine, gracing the cover of their new “Innovators” issue.

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

7. Tony and Joe's Seafood Place

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3000 K St NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 944-4545
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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. Neighboring waterfront sister spot Nick’s Riverside Grill serves a crispy fried soft shell crab sandwich with fries, slaw, and tartar sauce.

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

8. Brine

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1359 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 591-1739
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The essential seafood and raw bar on H Street NE started sending out seasonal softies this month. Cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs are only served as a special when they get them in fresh, but they’ve typically been available on weekends (market price).

9. Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

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750 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 489-0140
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The glitzy surf-and-turf standby near the White House sends out a fried soft shell crab appetizer simply served alongside lemon garlic butter ($19.95).

A soft shell crab app at Joe’s.
Joe’s Seafood/official photo

10. 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).

11. Clyde's of Gallery Place

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707 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 349-3700
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The local chain of trusty bar and grills offers a soft shell crab entree dressed with savory watercress and cucumber salad, crispy potatoes, scallions, and avocado buttermilk aioli ($21.99). It’s only available at select Clyde’s locations, Gallery Place being one of them.

12. Sushi Rock

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1900 Clarendon Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
(571) 312-8027
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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

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. Moruss Seafood & Crab House

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2902 Minnesota Ave SE
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 583-2722
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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.

15. The Salt Line

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79 Potomac Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 506-2368
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Chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish at his Navy Yard and Ballston locations. The crabs are buttermilk-fried, topped with homemade hot sauce and served with pickled green tomatoes and a black garlic-infused honey with griddled white bread.

Chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish with black-garlic honey.
Salt Line/official photo

16. The Point D.C.

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2100 2nd St SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 948-2522
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The scenic seafood spot in Buzzard Point prepares tempura soft shell crab with charred scallion, cilantro, and a chili sauce kick. Meanwhile, its Northeast sibling Ivy City Smokehouse Tavern sends out fried soft shells with basmati rice, corn, red pepper, and zucchini.

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

17. Sea Boil Crab House

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7305 Richmond Hwy
Alexandria, VA 22306
(571) 777-5655
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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.

1. Esaan

1307 Old Chain Bridge Rd, McLean, VA 22101

This essential Thai eatery out in McLean, Va. has two summer specials starring 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.

1307 Old Chain Bridge Rd
McLean, VA 22101

2. Primrose

3000 12th St NE, Washington, DC 20017
Primrose’s new softie sandwich.
Sam Sanchez for Primrose

Brookland’s neighborhood wine bar just dropped a tempura-fried soft shell crab sandwich with banh mi flavors. A veggie slaw (carrot, jalapeno, radish, cucumber) joins cilantro, mint, basil, and garlic aioli. Available starting Saturday, June 25, through the rest of the softie season.

3000 12th St NE
Washington, DC 20017

3. Hot N Juicy Crawfish

2651 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

A soft shell crab basket ($17) can be jazzed up with Cajun seasoning, served with regular or Cajun fries at this DMV-wide chain.

2651 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008

4. Shibuya Eatery

2321 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
A soft shell crab entree at Shibuya Eatery.
Shibuya Eatery

Chef Darren Norris puts Japanese spins on the Chesapeake Bay delicacy at his Adams Morgan izakaya. Crispy soft shell crab joins sweet chili sesame mazemen (brothless ramen), scallion, beni shoga, and a heap of noodles for one filling entree ($25). On the sushi side, crispy soft crab stars in a Spider Roll ($18) with cucumber and avocado. A fried soft shell crab sandwich comes with house pickles, bang bang sauce, and wasabi fries. Order any from the basement Shibuya Eatery or up at its penthouse cocktail bar (Death Punch).

2321 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

5. Grillfish

1200 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
A soft shell entree with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon-butter sauce at Grillfish ($40).
Grillfish/official photo

The West End raw bar sends out the seasonal delicacy several ways as a special (when they can get them in). There’s a soft shell crab app with lemon, clam juice, and saffron ($25) and a softy-and-crab cake tower ($40).

1200 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

6. 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. PogiBoy just got major props by Food & Wine, gracing the cover of their new “Innovators” issue.

1100 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, DC 20005

7. Tony and Joe's Seafood Place

3000 K St NW, Washington, DC 20007
A sizable soft shell crab entree at Tony & Joe’s.
Tony & Joe’s/Leading DC

The Georgetown Harbor mainstay currently offers crispy buttermilk-battered soft shells with red bliss potato salad, green beans, and spicy remoulade. Neighboring waterfront sister spot Nick’s Riverside Grill serves a crispy fried soft shell crab sandwich with fries, slaw, and tartar sauce.

3000 K St NW
Washington, DC 20007

8. Brine

1359 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002

The essential seafood and raw bar on H Street NE started sending out seasonal softies this month. Cornmeal-crusted soft shell crabs are only served as a special when they get them in fresh, but they’ve typically been available on weekends (market price).

1359 H St NE
Washington, DC 20002

9. Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

750 15th St NW, Washington, DC 20005
A soft shell crab app at Joe’s.
Joe’s Seafood/official photo

The glitzy surf-and-turf standby near the White House sends out a fried soft shell crab appetizer simply served alongside lemon garlic butter ($19.95).

750 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

10. 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

11. Clyde's of Gallery Place

707 7th St NW, Washington, DC 20001

The local chain of trusty bar and grills offers a soft shell crab entree dressed with savory watercress and cucumber salad, crispy potatoes, scallions, and avocado buttermilk aioli ($21.99). It’s only available at select Clyde’s locations, Gallery Place being one of them.

707 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

12. Sushi Rock

1900 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201
The soft shell crab roll at Sushi Rock.
Sushi Rock/Leading DC

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

1900 Clarendon Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201

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. Moruss Seafood & Crab House

2902 Minnesota Ave SE, Washington, DC 20019

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.

2902 Minnesota Ave SE
Washington, DC 20019

15. The Salt Line

79 Potomac Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003
Chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish with black-garlic honey.
Salt Line/official photo

Chef Kyle Bailey brings back his popular Nashville-hot softshell crab dish at his Navy Yard and Ballston locations. The crabs are buttermilk-fried, topped with homemade hot sauce and served with pickled green tomatoes and a black garlic-infused honey with griddled white bread.

79 Potomac Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

Related Maps

16. The Point D.C.

2100 2nd St SW, Washington, DC 20024
Tempura soft shell crab at The Point.
The Point/Leading DC

The scenic seafood spot in Buzzard Point prepares tempura soft shell crab with charred scallion, cilantro, and a chili sauce kick. Meanwhile, its Northeast sibling Ivy City Smokehouse Tavern sends out fried soft shells with basmati rice, corn, red pepper, and zucchini.

2100 2nd St SW
Washington, DC 20024

17. Sea Boil Crab House

7305 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22306

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

7305 Richmond Hwy
Alexandria, VA 22306

Related Maps