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Crash Course in Crab Picking

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Guy Potter, left, and Pete Hill, of Jesse Taylor Seafood sort Maryland blue crabs at Southwest Washington’s Maine Avenue Fish Market.

Blue crab season is in full swing here in the Mid-Atlantic, and some in Congress have wisely taken notice — peppering their summer fundraising plans with outdoor feasts and picnic-y picking sessions that naturally lend themselves to rolled-up sleeves, frosty beers and Old Bay-stained bibs and fingers.

All of which got us thinking: Why should members have all the fun?

Chowing down on drowned-in-drawn-butter crustaceans is every DMV denizen’s God-given right.

And there are plenty of savvy purveyors ready to share the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay (and sometimes beyond) with local seafood lovers, all year long.

Here’s our short-list (ordered by closest to furthest from the Capitol) of the region’s choice spots to get better acquainted with our extra pinchy neighbors.

Maine Avenue Fish Market 1100 Maine Ave. SW

If you want it, they’ve got it.

The open-air market is packed with dueling merchants tossing out free samples of all things seafood just to get your business. With deliveries coming in daily — some right up to the adjoining marina — customers are guaranteed to find something delectable to munch on, be it ginormous Alaskan king crab legs, so-fresh-they’re-still-crawling-all-over-one-another hard shells (steamed and spiced on demand), floppy soft-shell crabs and virtually every other creepy, crawly shellfish the sea might have to offer.

Terrific sides (mouthwatering smoked fish salads, crunchy hush puppies, seasoned corn) abound. And the fried chicken is none too shabby.

Quarterdeck 1200 Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, Va. 703-528-2722 quarterdeckarlington.com

This long-standing old crab shack is terribly lived in, and all the better for it.

The rickety structure is reminiscent of a beachside restaurant, the walls larded up with nautical knickknacks and local memorabilia. But nobody visits for the architecture — so get thee outside to one of the long, brown-papered tables on the patio and get to cracking.

Quarterdeck hauls cooked-to-order Maryland blue crabs (regular through jumbo) to each table by the dozen and also offers an all-you-can-eat crab feast (sublime) for those with plenty of time (and calories) to kill.

Sea Side Crab House 6799 Wilson Boulevard, Falls Church, Va. 703-241-2722 seaside-crabhouse.com

Mind you, this place does not deal in traditional blue crabs. But as anyone who’s visited this most unusual slice of the Vietnamese-dominated Eden Center can testify, Sea Side is well worth the trip.

What you give up in eating local, Sea Side more than makes up in terms of outstanding flavors.

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