Captain Catoctin’s Crabs & Concoctions opens tomorrow

And this Maryland-style shack won’t be using Old Bay.

Captain Catoctin’s Crabs & Concotions / Photo by Elissa Davis

“Where is all the crab?”

That was the question Dave Miller, co-owner of Captain Catoctin’s Crabs & Concoctions, asked himself when he moved to Loudoun County almost 20 years ago. His new crab house officially opens on the Fourth of July, but don’t expect any pomp and circumstance from Miller.

Miller grew up in York, Pennsylvania, which even he admits is quite a ways from the Chesapeake. His love for crabbing is the result of his dad’s sudden interest. When Miller was around 8 years old, his dad read an article about crabbing off the Eastern Shore. This led to Miller’s dad buying a boat. He would usher the family on board, and the whole brood learned how to crab. This hobby stuck with Miller, who owns a boat and, until recently, a property overlooking the Chesapeake.

When he moved to Loudoun County in 1998, Miller searched for the crabs he grew up loving and was left wanting. So when Nils Schnibbe left MacDowell Brew Kitchen last year, Miller knew he had to act. He met Schnibbe at the Yummy Pig and pitched his idea for a crab house, and the two of them went to work.

With almost two decades to cultivate his menu, Miller researched the classics, especially hard-shell crab. The crab is featured in the traditional Maryland style, steamed and spiced then poured on to a papered table to be picked by hand.

One major difference: Captain’s uses J.O. Spice Company’s crab seasoning—not Old Bay. The blend is similar in flavor but has a coarser grind, allowing it to stick better to the crab during the steaming process, according to Miller.

Captain Catoctin's Crabs & Concoctions
Photo by Elissa Davis

Beer also heeds the Maryland line with Heavy Seas Beer (Halethorpe), Oliver Brewing Company (Baltimore) and Hoop TEA (Ocean City).

“The first step to crab picking, always, is having a beer,” says Miller.

Besides crab, also sold as a crab cake, there’s shrimp (fried and steamed), clams, pit beef and chicken tenders. The menu will also change with the seasons: Colder months will usher in clam chowder and oysters.

But as their opening approaches, crab, not PR, remains the focus.

“We’re just going to put the sign on the door and see what happens.” // Captain Catoctin’s Crabs & Concoctions: 14 Loudoun St. SE, Leesburg