José Andrés Favorite Region For Fresh Crab

Spanish chef and long-time Maryland resident José Andrés has strong opinions about crabs — specifically, where and when to find the best ones outside of his native country. His favorite region for the treat is his own backyard, the DMV (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia).

Specifically, he names Bethesda Crab House, which is located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., his top spot for blue crabs. The establishment opened in 1961 and draws fans from across the Mid-Atlantic. It's one of several restaurant recommendations he's shared on The Chef's List, a newsletter where Andrés is basically releasing his own Michelin guide.

"This is my go to spot for the Maryland Blue Crab, my favorite crab of all time (okay maybe besides the ones from the north of Spain)," Andrés writes in the newsletter. "[Y]ou're going to have some of the best crabs you've ever tasted in your life."

What makes this species so special? Its flavor, of course.

The appeal of blue crabs

Blue crabs get their name because, before they're boiled, their claws are a striking shade of blue. They're smaller than the West Coast favorite Dungeness crab, and their sweet flavor has a hint of seafood brine. Mid-Atlantic residents also love soft-shell crabs, which are actually blue crabs in the middle of molting and shedding their hard exoskeleton.

Though the crustacean lives along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, they have a special place in the hearts of DMV dwellers. Designated the Maryland State Crustacean, the animal graces drivers' licenses and sparks endless turf wars with Virginia. For good reason — the blue darling fuels a $45 million industry in Maryland alone.

Contrary to popular advice, José Andrés specifically recommends ordering the Chesapeake Bay staple in the fall rather than the summer for the best seafood. Andrés argues the flavor of the crustacean peaks as crabs prepare to go dormant for winter (per The Chef's List). He credits the sweeter meat to changes in eating and swimming behavior, as well as lower water temperatures.

How to eat a blue crab like José Andrés

As for how to eat a blue crab, start by grabbing a mallet and putting on your bib because cracking shells is hard work. Then pull off the legs and claws of your seafood. Use your fingers to peel apart the top and bottom shells. Remove the inedible gills, snap the crab in half, and dig out the meat.

Restaurants like the Bethesda Crab House will serve the steamed crustaceans piled high on a picnic table and coated in Old Bay Seasoning, so each bite will have plenty of flavor. Andrés prefers to eat the seafood simply, with just a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, and he pairs it with a glass of white or sparkling Spanish wine.

Of course, if crushing claws just isn't your style, try another DMV trademark: crab cakes. Available on their own or nestled into a sandwich, these patties highlight the crustacean's sweetness without making a mess. As you dine, be sure to keep an eye out for Andrés himself, who visits the restaurant so often that the manager sets aside wine glasses for him.