Chesapeake Crab Shack and Bar Is Finally Opening on U Street

The outdoor restaurant will dish up steamed crabs and crushes starting Friday.

Chesapeake Crab Shack and Bar on U Street. Photography by Karlin Villondo Photography

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U Street’s highly anticipated Chesapeake Crab Shack and Bar is opening on Friday, August 19. The 50-seat outdoor spot—one of only a handful of full-service crab restaurants in the District—channels the Bay with a menu of steamed blue crabs, seafood snacks, fun sides, orange crushes, and other “dock drinks.” 

The Shack offers 50 seats outside for cracking crabs. Photograph by Karlin Villondo

Chef Allyn “Ink” Barrack, who also oversees three locations of sister restaurant Duke’s Grocery/Duke’s Counter, is largely sourcing Chesapeake crabs from local purveyors such as Jessie Taylor Seafood at the Wharf. Still, like many crab houses, his kitchen won’t exclude blue crabs from the Gulf, depending on market availability. The Shack is opening with two sizes of crab—large and extra-large, sold by the dozen or half—and 12 extra larges start around $145. Though expensive, that’s a standard market price these days for a dozen restaurant crabs due to rising labor and fuel costs, and an all-around poor Chesapeake crab season. Barrack plans to source local blue crabs through the end of the season in November, and then introduce other menu items, such as king crab legs, on the winterized patio. 

To answer a controversial question—Old Bay or J.O. for the steaming spice—it’s Old Bay-ish. Barrack starts with a base of the now-trendy Maryland spice blend, and jazzes it up with hot chili powder, brown sugar, oregano, thyme, and other ingredients. He’s also serving slaw with Old Bay vinaigrette—plus other fun sides and snacks like crab mac n’ cheese, pasta salad, steamed shrimp, and Maryland crab soup.

Guests can order large or extra-large crabs on opening weekend. Photograph by Karlin Villondo

Guests don’t have to overthink drinks. Though Director of Operations Angie Duran is sourcing creative wines at her other venture, Bottles, in West End, the Shack’s options are pretty straightforward: house vino, beer, orange and grapefruit crushes, and some no-frills cocktails like mules or sea breezes. 

Crabs will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis, but customers can make reservations for tables via Resy.

Chesapeake Crab Shack and Bar. 925 U St., NW. Wednesday through Sunday, 4 to 10 PM (closed Monday and Tuesday)

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.