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.|
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.