Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mr. Dave Gets Crabs (A Strange Impulse Drove Me to Give Joe's Crab Shack a Whirl)

So the family and I were on our way to Ala Shanghai the other day when we happened past the sort of new Joe's Crab Shack location over that way. My darling daughter (nigh four years old now!) Giblet spied the pirate ship/playground thingy and let out a yelp. Then the morbid fascination that I have concerning the strange and wonderful, fluorescent lit, garishly colored world of American casual dining started a fire in my belly. A fire in my belly for crab! In buckets! I glanced at the ever trusty Mrs. Dave and she rolled her eyes and let out a - "fine."

I have never actually eaten at a Joe's Crab Shack. I guess there are strong opinions in both directions concerning the place. I seem to remember people getting in a sort of snit when ol' Barnsey-Warnsey at the Table Hopping weblog gave the place a sort of good review. I kind of had a feeling I was going to regret not going to Ala Shanghai but I always keep an open mind. In any event, I knew there would be plenty to delight a lover of the droll and banal such as myself.

Here is a fish. 
Upon entering the establishment you are immediately assailed with your standard chain restaurant barrage of friendliness and ushered towards a table. The interior is an epileptic fit of weird slogans and tie-died art work. I was in a bit of over stimulated shock as my family was led, cattle like, to the table where we would soon slop ourselves from buckets.

On the way to the table I noticed the hand washing station in the middle of the dining area. It seems that getting covered in crab juice up to the elbows is part of the appeal of Joe's. I told my wife that it would be funny if after eating she brought our dishes over there and started washing them. She would not, however, indulge my urge for comedic, public, performance art.

Soon after sitting down you are given your implements of crab-war. A meal at Joe's seems to be more of a sporting event then a quiet dining experience. I believe that you are supposed to revel in cracking shells, stabbing crustaceans with metal implements, slathering your face with butter and shrimp fat, until exhausted you finally have to be hosed down in a large dish sink in front of the gaping populace.

While we were waiting for our waiter to swing by a young lass screamed - "let's dance!!!" and a disco ball in the middle of the ceiling activated. My lovely little minions were delighted, but I found the impromptu dance routine to be a bit strange. I wondered if they would get angry if I voiced my displeasure with the situation by hucking crab shells at the performers. This was all academic at that point as I hadn't yet gotten to tear apart the limbs of any crustaceans and didn't have any pointy shells to huck.

I was in a sort of "when in Rome" mood that day so I immediately decided that when present in Joe's Shack of Crabs, crabs are the way to go (in a bucket). Also, I haven't reviewed any crab products on this blog since 2008's wonderfully strange "Crab Pretzel, Crab Pretzel. Looks Like Crab, Tastes Like Pretzel" post.

I ordered the Alaskan King Crab bucket and did a couple of light upper body stretches to prepare myself for the coming crab-battle. Not long after my prize arrived. In a bucket. Here we had a fair amount of crab legs for the 30 greenback or so price tag. With gusto I began to crunch and crack joints, poke meat out of crevasses with my handy tool, and happily plunge bits of meat into the duo of butter ramekins that I was presented with. All the while howling in pain because I kept stabbing my fingers on the viciously sharp crab-spikes. I actually bloodied my thumb in the process.

So what do I think of Joe's Crab Shack? It is what it is. It is frozen seafood boiled up and brought to you in a bucket inside of a seizure inducingly overstimulating environment. Take my opinion with a grain of salt though, I am a true inlander and not the world's biggest seafood fan. While eating my crab legs I kept thinking to myself, "so this is what those poor gentlemen get washed into the frozen sea for on all of those television programs? Doesn't seem worth it..." I guess crab is sort of tasty, but I can take it or leave it to tell you the truth. It just always feels like work instead of dinner.

As with a lot of these sorts of joints I sort of think you are paying mostly for the spectacle of the whole situation. It is sort of like a modern version of a Roman gladiatorial display. I think a nice touch would be if they had a guy dressed as a giant crab walk through the dining area screaming, "Are you not entertained!"

In any event, we did the Joe's Crab Shack thing. I don't think I ever need to do it again and I really don't think I can in good faith encourage anyone else to go unless that is really your sort of thing.


  1. I ate at one in Myrtle Beach...that was enough for me.

  2. I love crab, so I also tried it. Their commercials look delicious. When my girlfriend and I actually went the crab wasn't tasty and the butter tasted like it was probably some kind of fake butter substitute.

    Also, what was with the sausauge that you didn't mention? both of our buckets came with sausages that didn't taste good either. Is that a cultural thing or something?

    The next night we stayed home and I made crab legs that were ten times as good and half the price. (p.s. my understanding is that most crab is frozen immediately after it is retrieved, so that wouldn't be just a fish-fast-food thing

    1. "It" being Joe's crab shack, by the way.

    2. I didn't get the bucket with the sausage, I just got crab-bucket. I agree that the butter was weird and strange colored. That is kind of what I meant about the frozen thing. You are basically paying Joe's to place the same thing that you could have bought at the store into hot water and then into a bucket (a bit of Old Bay too). That was my point, I wasn't very clear as usual.

  3. Mr. Dave, you need to hook up with DerryX so that both of you might broaden your experience regarding the joys of the sea. Mr. X too had lifelong issues with seafood of all sorts until he discovered the delights of fin the fishmonger, whose produce is excellent.

    Though I'd never go myself, Joe's is not the place to experience culinary bliss of any kind (or so I hear). You should have stuck to the original plan.

    1. Oh I know Fins is great, I discovered them when they set up at the hardware store in Delmar. I am open to seafood, don't gets wrong. And I did not expect any sort of bliss at Joes. I entered expecting the same enjoyment that you might expect fr a sideshow at the fair.

  4. I find your blog pretentious and obstinate. You devote pages on Joe's Crab Shack. Is this blog a product of some night out and the host didn't look at you as you are famous, the FAMOUS FOOD BLOGGER HIMSELF!. Get over yourself.

    1. No one knows who I am, so it seems perfectly sensible that this blog is the product of "some night out and the host didn't look at you as you are famous."

      Thanks for sharing.


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