Classics Revisited: Ernie’s Original Crab House

The restaurant world is notoriously fickle, but these15 places—all a half century old or more—have withstood the test of time.

About Ernie’s Original Crab House

1743 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314

Side orders of kimchee are among the few indicators that you’re dining at Ernie’s circa 2013. Korean-born owner James Mao, who took over the now 70-year-old seafood shack in 1978, has left most of the restaurant the same as it ever was. A no-frills facade near the King Street Metro gives way to a mirror-lined room filled with fraying leather booths, Formica tables, and wicker chairs. Prices don’t match the divey decor—entrées hover around $25—but Ernie’s doesn’t taste cheap, either.

Briny oysters arrive delicately fried, while a buttery croissant complements the low-on-filler crabcake. Sides are mostly house-made—unusual for many crab shacks; we liked the onion-studded hushpuppies, crisp slaw, and that kimchee. The one disappointment was the steamed crabs, which arrived unevenly cooked and more mildly spiced than most Marylanders are accustomed to. Still, the $41 all-you-can-eat crab feast is one of the most popular orders in the house. If sake doesn’t appeal as a pairing, pitchers of Budweiser poured into frosty mugs do the trick.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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