You can set your watch to specific events in DC: cherry blossoms on the tidal basin, interns clogging Georgetown sidewalks and, for Mike and me, summertime crabs at the Quarterdeck.
Tucked away behind non-descript apartment buildings and on the edge of Ft. Meyer, this is not the type of restaurant you stumble upon by accident. Nope, you need to twist and turn your way through residential streets and — just when you’re pretty sure you’ve lost your way – there it is.
Georgetown upstarts aside, this is a crab shack in the truest sense of the word. It isn’t fancy (a friend of mine still blames a breakup on the restaurant’s lackluster atmosphere) or fussy and that is exactly why we love it. Quarterdeck has a full menu and is open year round, serving up burgers and sandwiches in the colder months. You can easily spot the summertime patrons (ahem) from the year-round loyalists. The latter are a no frills lot who hang out at the bar and would look just as at ease in a VFW hall.
Service is straightforward and friendly, quick to supply refills on your pitchers of beer and fries while you pound away at your crustacean friends with the wooden mallets they provide. (Bibs are also available.)
You can order your crabs by the dozen, half-dozen or crab feast. Really, for $34.95, the feast is a steal and the only way to go. The only catch is everyone at your table needs to order the all-you-can-feast option or no feast for you! Quarterdeck receives a daily crab shipment in the season but it’s still wise to call ahead to reserve your batches. The crabs arrive en masse as soon as the kitchen can churn them out, dumped on your table still steaming with a healthy dusting of Maryland Old Bay seasoning. If you order the feast, the crabs keep coming and coming until you cry uncle (this is also when you start to regret all those french fries you had at the start of the meal).
(More after the jump)
If you are a first time crabber, your server will show you the best way to extract all the delicious crab meat. Methods may vary from person to person, but Mike’s approach always gets attention. Rather than nibble on crabmeat as each morsel is released, Mike methodically places it in a neat pile that slowly but surely grows as the rest of us manhandle our crabs and eye his pile with envy.* This method not only features a grand finale of full mouthfuls of crabbiness but it ensures a healthy respect for the cost of real crabmeat. This stuff is a challenge! And fair warning – you will get nicks and cuts on your hand from the crab shells. By the time this happens we are in a crab-induced frenzy and barely notice until the next morning. Just do yourself a favor and don’t even think about making lemonade from scratch for a few days.
For us, Quarterdeck is about three things: Old Bay seasoned crabs, pitchers of cold beer and sitting in the sunshine. Take away one of those and you can still have a pretty good evening on your hands. Take them together and you’re facing what might be the most unbeatable summer meal experience to be had in DC.
1200 Ft. Myer Drive
Arlington, VA 22209
*Note: The stockpile method only works if you do not have a wife who, after a few pitchers of ice cold beer, starts helping herself to your portion. Just saying.