An Arlington,Virginia staple, the Quarterdeck Restaurant has been in the community since 1979. Known for their Maryland blue crab, it’s the best place in town for seafood. I first tried the restaurant when I moved to Arlington my sophomore year of high school. Situated right in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, it was right behind the military base I called home for my last three years of high school. I would walk my dog and see the bustling tables and smell the fresh crab whenever they got a new shipment in. Now, five years after my first visit, I’m an employee, working during the summertime rush, the best time to grab a table outside on the patio and eat some crab.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never been a crab girl. The idea of breaking it apart, dealing with the meat and everything that spilled out of the crustacean, was off-putting. One time during a trip to Cape Cod, I ate a lobster and felt the same queasiness as goop fell onto the plate below me. But there’s something about Quarterdeck that makes the messiness bearable. In fact, it’s part of the charm.
A typical meal at Quarterdeck looks like this: you’ll take a seat at the paper covered tables, and you’ll order your crab by the dozen. The sizes range from regular to jumbo, each one just as tasty as the next. Once you pick your size, in about 45 minutes a server will bring out a steaming hot plate of fresh blue crab, dump it directly on the center of the table, and the rest of the meal is in your hands. With mallets and crackers, you’ll get to snapping and crunching on the creatures in front of you. New to crab? One of the servers will happily give you a tutorial so you’ll be an expert in no time. Summer in Arlington can be just as steamy as the crabs, but taking a break under the shade with a cold specialty drink (the “Miami Vice” is a fan favorite) is the perfect refresher on a hot day.
If you look around the restaurant, you’ll see the same smile on the face of every customer. People come to Quarterdeck to connect. To laugh, to reminisce, to catch up, to relax. There’s something strangely intimate about tearing apart a meal together, greasy and grimy, slick with butter and glistening with the glow of working hard for your food. If you ask families how long they’ve been coming to Quarterdeck, they’ll tell you “forever”. It’s a neighborhood safe space, a community common ground. In an historic building, there’s years and years of smiles and satisfaction seeping out of the floorboards.
And after experiencing the restaurant for myself as a patron, coming to work was just as rewarding an experience. The staff describes each other as family. In fact, I decided to work there this summer because I had heard from friends that it was the best job they have ever had. There’s a positivity and a light that shines in the little restaurant tucked away in a residential neighborhood. It can be felt the moment you step on the property. So even if you aren’t a crab person, if you ever find yourself in Virginia on a steamy summer day, make an effort to stop into Quarterdeck, and join the family for an afternoon.
Cover photo courtesy of Rasa Malaysia