Fabled crab house moves from Route 1 to King Street


Being a 25-year veteran of the business of serving up hot and fresh blue crabs, restaurant owner Gil Mao recognizes it’s no small task to open up a sit-down crab house. Especially in Old Town.

But on Dec, 26, he did, moving beyond permit obstacles at City Hall and plowing $2.4 million towards the purchase and renovation of a building at 1743 King Street.  

The long-defunct Thai restaurant serving up Pad Thai delicacies is gone, and Ernies Original Crab House.has moved from the location it occupied on Richmond Highway since 1947.

For his part, Mao said his move to Upper King Street was his third and probably final move.The people of Old Town are just nicer, and more friendly, Mao said Monday.

Ernies officially opened last week, and Mao is looking forward to doing what he knows best: creating a no-frills atmosphere where people can sit down and chow down all-you-can-eat crabs. It is one of the only sit-down crab houses in the area, he said. Only one other exists, in Fairfax City.

Originally a family owned and operated restaurant, Mao soon found the demands of the business were greater than his wife and two daughters could meet. So he hired new workers to help meet demand, retaining and most of his staff from his former location. 

The menu at Ernies features a variety of different seafood dishes, primarily focused around shrimp and, obviously, crabs. Over the summer, Mao gets the crabs fresh everyday from local Maryland and Virginia locations. During the winter months, when the crab crop is unable to be harvested, Mao gets his crabs fresh from Louisiana.

Acquiring a permit to open his business proved quite a challenge, but he said that in the end, it was worth it in capturing a new and perhaps more upscale Old Town clientele.