While visiting family in the DC area, our aunt wanted to take us out for steamed crabs at Ernie's. I read the reviews and was skeptical. Let's be clear people, Ernie's is a crab house, in the heart of Alexandria...there is nothing fancy about the place. Some would call it a hole in the wall.
There was only one other customer when we arrived at Ernie’s. It looked as though there were only two people working there, probably husband and wife, she cooked, he waited on us. We ordered a pitcher of beer and our food. After 10 minutes, my husband had to find the man and ask him for our beer. He served us the pitcher of beer with chilled mugs. The beer was great.
My aunt and I ordered a dozen medium crabs ($48). Every restaurant I've ever been to for steamed crabs has always served their crabs on a long piece of brown paper put over the table, so I don’t understand some of the negativity by other reviewers regarding this practice. In Florida, steamed crabs are served with drawn butter, crab-crackers and cocktail forks. I'm not sure if it's just Ernie's or the area's tradition, but after the brown paper was put on our table, wooden mallets and plastic knives were put on our table, along with a red plastic bottle (usually used for ketchup) filled with extra dry spices and a yellow plastic bottle (usually used for mustard) filled with vinegar. The crabs were served directly on the table, like I’ve had them served at many other restaurants. I requested drawn butter, which my aunt replied, “I’ve never had steamed crabs with butter,” so maybe it’s the region and how crabs are eaten in this area of the country. I also asked for a cocktail fork and was given a long, wooden handled fork, a little smaller than a dinner fork. The crabs were delicious, cooked and seasoned just right. Eating steamed crabs is a messy process and anyone who expects more, will be disappointed.
My husband is a landlubber and ordered the chicken tenders with French fries. Our cousin had an oyster po’boy sandwich with fries. They were satisfied.
If you love steamed crabs, go to Ernie’s. The prices were reasonable. If you like eating crab with a cocktail fork, bring one with you. It’s a crab house. Don’t expect too much and you’ll be happy.
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