I've got a bad case of the crabs, King and Dungeness that is. While on vacation we had both King and Dungeness fresh as can be, as in alive just a few minutes before becoming our meal, and I have a continuing craving for King crab. When I think of King crab in the Chicago area my thoughts turn to Bob Chinn's in Wheeling. Yes, I know, some on the board find it barn-like, others take issue with beer trays as crab platters, noise, service and on and on. Me, I like the place for fresh as can be seafood at reasonable prices, given the outstanding quality.
My wife, on the other hand, likes the seafood, adores the King crab, but is not wild about the 20-mile drive into the heart of suburbia. Given this she suggested that to fulfill my King crab craving we go to the LaSalle street Bob C's. Actually, what she said was, she preferred to eat with "her people" meaning city dwellers as opposed to suburban, sounds like she has been talking to Mike G.
I have not been to the LaSalle Bob C's, but she has been there a couple of times for business lunches, liked the food and the fact that it was on the river, which sounded good to me. Only thing is I had heard that, while the name was the same, the LaSalle Bob C's was not directly affiliated with the Wheeling operation so a bit of fact checking seemed in order.
I called the LaSalle Bob C's to make sure they had King crab on the menu that evening, the person who answered the phone had to go check, not a good sign, but came back promptly with an affirmative. I then asked the price and was told $39.95 for 16-oz. Yikes! I then called Bob Chinn's in Wheeling and asked about King Crab, no hesitation, $22.95 for 16-oz and a nightly special of $26.95 for 20-oz, not much question to which Bob C's we were going.
I kept myself busy on the drive by counting the number of chain restaurants, 6,034, and my wife by chatting on the cell with her niece, so it seemed we arrived in no time flat. Busy self-park lot, no $10 valet fee, and a just-about-full restaurant, but no wait. Everyone is perky and polite and the place is a symphony of organization, as befitting one of the top grossing restaurants in the country.
I am one of the few who doesn't enjoy Bob C's signature butter and garlic soaked rolls, I can nibble a bit of the crisp outside, but they are simply too oily for my taste. Obviously I am the only one who finds this to be the case as they are now serving the rolls with a side plate of extra oil for dipping.
We started with 6-oysters and tuna sashimi. The oysters were plump, briny and full of flavor and, given the dozen price of $9.50, which is $6-$7 less than most, next time I would order an even dozen. The tuna sashimi was among the best I've had, perfect temperature, slightly chilled, but not cold, with a deep full flavor. The only word that I can think of to adequately describe the tuna sashimi is pristine.
The King crab was up to Bob C in Wheeling's usual standard, in other words, excellent. Large legs, nice meaty texture, slight of-the-sea smell and pulled cleanly from the shell. Occasionally Bob C's will have fresh, never frozen, King Crab legs but that is a rare occurrence, though when they do it is well worth the slight extra cost.
The King crab are served on the aforementioned beer tray with choice of potato, I like the fries, Ellen the red potatoes, and an ok cup of slaw. Warm butter is also served, which the servers replenish often. All in all, even given the 20-mile each way drive, Bob Chinn's in Wheeling is one of my favorite restaurants and my absolute favorite for King crab legs.
Bob Chinn's Crabhouse
393 S. Milwaukee Ave
Bob Chinn's Crabhouse Chicago
315 N. LaSalle St.