Get Cracking

How to eat crabs.

By: Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Kate Nerenberg, Rina Rapuano

In Texas, the way you express culinary pride is to dive into a pile of smoky, long-cooked brisket or ribs. In New England, you tuck into rich, hearty chowder.

In Washington, the dining ritual handed down through generations is picking crab. Nothing says summer quite like a long table covered with old newspapers and mounded high with hot, steaming crabs coated in Old Bay seasoning. Is there a summertime meal that’s simpler? Or better?

Prices at the area’s crabhouses, crab shacks, and grab-and-go outlets are down a little from last year. One thing to be aware of: Some purveyors are offering crab from Louisiana and Mexico. Non-local crabs aren’t bad, but they lack the distinctively sweet taste of blue crab plucked from in and around the Chesapeake. Ask before you buy.