District crab lovers won’t have to travel far to get cracking this spring with the opening of Chesapeake, an open-air crab shack and crush bar coming to 925 U Street, Northwest. Restaurateur Daniel Kramer, who’s behind a growing collection of DC hangouts—including three Duke’s gastropubs and U Street Korean barbecue Gogi Yogi—says he’s angling for a May opening.
Anyone who’s taken part in a crab feast will know the drill at Chesapeake—customers order steamed and spiced local crabs (sizes and prices vary), then get cracking on paper-covered tables. The menu will be rounded out with snacks like peel-and-eat shrimp and classic sides, but don’t expect one of those three-page seafood shack menus. Kramer says the small 50-seat restaurant “is pretty focused on crabs.”
“We want it to be casual and fun. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but we are trying to shorten the drive to the Eastern Shore,” Kramer says.
Chesapeake will get more whimsical at the bar. Kramer says they’re experimenting with fresh fruits and spirits for the crushes—those summery, Ocean City-born beach drinks that typically involve flavored vodka, fruit juice, and fizzy water and/or soda. Kramer says they’re also planning to stock sour beers, local brews, easy drinking wines, and other “dock drinks.”
When it opens, Chesapeake will join a handful of restaurants where you can order steamed crabs in the District (options get more plentiful in the suburbs, and the closer you get to the Bay). Last summer, the price of Chesapeake crab skyrocketed—especially the picked, fresh lump meat—to the point where some restaurants took it off their menus. It’s too early in the crab season, which just started April 1, to tell if supply and demand will raise prices further, or whether they’ll come down. Kramer says he’s still finalizing seafood sourcing, but hopes to keep the restaurant open for crab feasts through the length of the fall season—thanks to heaters—and at the most approachable prices possible.
“I would love to say it’ll only be large crabs and under $100, but it’s not the case anymore,” Kramer says. He points at famed Annapolis crab house Cantler’s as a point of reference, which currently charges $115 for a dozen larges. “I guess that’s where we are.”
Chesapeake. 925 U Street, Northwest.