Joe's Crab Shack

I'm on a LOT of restaurant contact lists.  Barely a day goes by where I don't receive an e-mail, text message, Facebook message, flyer or postcard inviting me to try something new or offering a discount if I'll deign to eat at a particular establishment.  A while back, a coupon for Joe's Crab Shack crossed my path.  The deal was that with the purchase of an entrée, I would receive a complimentary appetizer.  To be honest, nothing I'd heard about the place had ever interested me enough that I would bother eating there.  The way it was told to me, it was a loud, crowded, annoying place with crappy music and waiters who plopped themselves down at your table to take your order...just the kind of chain place that I hate.  Still, I figured it might be worth a take-out order, especially at lunch time when it was likely to be less busy.  Besides, I could use more seafood in my life...

The place was pretty much exactly the nightmare I expected, with lots of cheesy crustacean and nautical decor, and plenty of clashing colors (with much blue and orange thrown in for good measure).  Behind the empty bar, a machine endlessly churned frozen margaritas or piña coladas or some such pre-made sludge.

Really crappy camera phone picture, but you get the idea...

At least the music was relatively quiet and the almost entirely empty restaurant made for a much more subdued atmosphere than I was expecting.  A closer inspection of the coupon revealed a price limit on the free appetizer, effectively ruling out more than half of the options.  Luckily for me, the only appetizer I was really interested in trying was within the limit.  I paired it with a burger, of all things, and headed back to the office.

Great Balls of Fire

The Great Balls of Fire appetizer, and oh how it pains me to type that out, is pretty much what you'd expect given the name and the place they come from: deep-fried globes of jalapeño, crab and shrimp.  That's seriously all that the menu describes.  Tear one open and it's pretty obvious that cream cheese is involved as well.

Great Half-ball of Fire

As if this dish wasn't unhealthy enough, it comes with a cream-based dipping sauce (ranch or dill I would guess, I didn't try it), and served on a bed of french fries.  The big surprise was how much I enjoyed them.  They had kind of a fluffy texture and a good balance of heat and flavor.  The breading was about as thin as it could be while still containing the filling, which kept the whole thing from just being a huge oil sponge.  I understand that people like to dip appetizers in creamy sauces no matter how dense or greasy the food is already, but I feel that it would weigh this item down and cover up a lot of the things that I liked about it.  I could have easily eaten all of these, but I passed most of them along to my sister (including the dipping sauce and fries) so I could tackle my rather sizable entrée.

Joe's Surf 'N Turf Burger

It seemed strange to go to a place like Joe's and get a burger, but most of the menu items wouldn't have travelled well from the restaurant back to my office, not to mention the logistics of trying to eat shellfish and work at the same time.  I went the "best of both worlds" route.  On the menu, Joe's Surf 'N Turf Burger is described thus:

A big, juicy peppercorn burger topped with crunchy popcorn shrimp, crispy onion strings and our own spicy Sriracha remoulade sauce.
Sriracha remoulade

To be honest, they more or less had me at "Sriracha remoulade", though I was initially reluctant.  I mean I love peppercorn burgers, popcorn shrimp and Sriracha...but together?  Still, I've had stranger sandwich combinations that turned out amazingly well.  The kitchen had thoughtfully packed the veggies apart from the meat to maintain their integrity, and sauce on the side is always a nice touch.  After tossing some of the onions, I constructed the burger and dug in.

A better look at the Surf 'N Turf Burger

I'm not going to lie to you, there are a few things that would have made this burger better.  I would have chosen a bun that stood out a little more, and eschewed the shredded iceberg lettuce in favor of some darker greens.  I've certainly had riper tomatoes, and as I said they did go a little heavy on the onions.  In addition, the popcorn shrimp gets a little lost between the onion, beef and sauce.  Perhaps using cocktail shrimp instead would allow them to hold their own a little better?  That having been said, the beef was good and still retained a little pinkness inside, the pickles were good, and I really dug the remoulade.  It takes so long to through a bottle of Sriracha around my place that I'm always looking for new ways to use it, and you can bet I'll be looking up a copycat recipe for this.

When all is said and done, I think I'll likely return to Joe's Crab Shack at least once more.  I would like to see what they can really do with seafood, but I think I'll wait until the Spring so I can take advantage of the patio and go in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.  I think that might be safest since I'll likely be wielding a mallet.

Food:  B-
Value:  C+
Service:  B+
Atmosphere:  C-
Final Grade:  B-

Joe's Crab Shack on Urbanspoon

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