Early in June we flew out to California for a wedding in Napa. We were fortunate enough to spend a few days tooling around San Francisco afterwards… and as I’m sure you know, you just can’t visit San Francisco without getting crabs. Or sourdough bread for that matter. So we hit The Crab House on Pier 39 for a taste of both.
Now I am NOT into hitting touristy restaurants. You won’t see me eating at any of the restaurants in Faneuil Hall (Boston) or any establishment that is on the “to do” list of any travel books… BUT, that said… I felt like crabs. Plain and simple. And, we were already on Pier 39 so we threw caution to the wind and broke one of my cardinal rules.
The Crab House is a pretty casual, waterfront restaurant located right on Pier 39. The dining room is decorated very kitsch with painted plastic crabs, crab nets and other goofy seafood themed decor hanging on the walls. Diner-like tables, chairs and accessories don’t make this the most aesthetically pleasing place in the world… but when you’re cracking open crabs, getting butter, crab meat and shells all over the place, I assume you want to keep things as washable and cheap as possible.
The menu obviously focuses on all forms of crab, but they also had a decent selection of other seafood dishes, some steak, chicken and a children’s menu.
I opted to start with the Crab Chowder ($6.95 for a cup) and we were all given an individual loaf of locally baked sourdough bread. The chowder was fantastic and filling. In retrospect I shouldn’t have gotten it, but I was starving, it was cold and rainy out and it tasted so damn good!
Even though I was practically full by this point, Dan and I had gone all out and ordered the Iron Skillet Roasted Shrimp and Double Crab ($49.95) as our shared meal. The shrimp were in a garlic butter sauce and both also came with two different types of dipping butter. One was regular butter and the other was butter with crab seasoning. In other words… we were in for a world of hurt from the fat we were about to consume.
The dish arrives on a large, flat, skillet that is placed on the table on a riser, so you can toss the shells and waste in a bowl beneath it.
I HATE when shrimp come with the shell on… especially in a situation like this… where they were SO hot that I would scold my finger tips every time I tried to peel one. I understand why chefs do this — to preserve the juices and to infuse the shrimp with the flavoring from the shell, but to me it it’s a total pain in the ass.
Not only were the shrimp a pain, but they were also on the verge of turning bad. I knew this because they had that off ammonia-like taste to them. Not too happy about that… but we had no desire to send them back, especially since there was PLENTY of food.
The crab on the other hand was yummy. It was fresh, filled with more meat than we could consume and satisfied our crab cravings for a while. This was the “AFTER” shot… I think all things considered, we didn’t a decent job.
I’d rate our overall experience as mediocre at best… but what did I expect for a touristy place? I DID expect the shrimp to be fresh in a seafood restaurant though… and it wasn’t… very disappointing. The crab chowder was great, the service was decent (not fantastic) and it was a somewhat fun experience, but it was over-priced for what it was.
I wouldn’t go again.
You can see more photos from The Crab House here.
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