A fixture on the downtown Leesburg restaurant scene for almost a decade is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again, this time with a Maryland-style crab house.
Nils Schnibbe and good friend Dave Miller are planning a springtime opening for Captain Catoctin’s Crab House, in the former Cajun Experience location on Loudoun Street. It will be the third downtown restaurant Schnibbe has been a part of, having formerly served as manager at Doener Bistro and a part owner of MacDowell’s Brew Kitchen. For Miller, the opening of his first restaurant fulfills a longtime dream of operating a crab house.
“When I moved to western Loudoun 18 years ago, the first thing I said was ‘where’s the crab house’,” he said. “I’ve been toying with the concept for the whole 18 years I’ve been here.”
A jack of all trades, Miller began his professional career as a graphic designer and art director, took time to pursue a songwriting career, and most recently was an antiques dealer. Fortuitously, much of his antique collection has nautical elements and will become a backbone of the restaurant’s décor.
Ironically, when Schnibbe first came to America from his native Germany more than 11 years ago, he started out packing crabs for a wholesaler in Great Falls.
“So it comes full circle for me,” he said.
Schnibbe and Miller had been good friends for years, first meeting in a casual encounter at Hunter’s Run Wine Barn near Hamilton. Miller had been seriously formulating a plan for a crab house, perhaps first as a roadside concession, last fall when Schnibbe left MacDowell Brew Kitchen.
“I jokingly texted him I heard you’re no longer at the Brew Kitchen, what are you going to do now,” Miller recalls. “He said ‘I’m open to anything.’ So I said, how does a crab house sound?”
The two began talking about the prospect seriously, and, just a few weeks later, the Cajun Experience space became available and since then it’s been full steam ahead. The two have been busy getting the restaurant space ready. In addition to indoor seating, a big draw for the crab house will be its outdoor patio dining area.
Miller points to the St. Michaels, MD, area as inspiration for the environment they are attempting to recreate.
“It’ll be like a crab dock, but without the water unfortunately,” he says. “The kind of place you would pull a boat up to all up and down the bay.”
The picnic tables will be lined with paper, fresh, local crabs will be aplenty, and additional menu offerings will include steamed shrimp, oysters, crab legs, soft shell crabs, fresh ground burgers, wings, and soups and stews for the colder weather. Local brews will also be on tap, and a kids menu will be available for the young ones. The restaurant will also offer a carryout option to buy live or steamed crabs by the bushel.
“There’s something for everyone,” Schnibbe said.
For Schnibbe, a longtime staple in the restaurant scene, he always knew he wanted to be back downtown for his new venture. And the timing couldn’t be better, they both agree, as the downtown area appears to be going through a boom with many new restaurants either already successful or opening soon.
“It’s the right moment to get this done,” he said.
They hope their restaurant concept will also catch fire with downtown’s many patrons, and believe there’s room for everyone to be successful. Miller has an appropriate nautical analogy.
“The tide raises all the ships in the harbor,” he said.
For more information about the restaurant, go to Captain Catoctin’s Crab House & Garden’s Facebook page.