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.

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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