Boiling Crab is not a place you're going to want to go when you're dressed in your nice business (or, these days, business casual) outfit and have to go back to press the flesh and make nice to people at work.
Boiling Crab is not a place you're going to take your aged grandmother, unless your aged grandmother happens to be a crawdad-suckin' Cajun sorciere transplanted into an old-folks' home in Little Saigon.
And Boiling Crab definitely not the place to go on a first date...
...but it's definitely worth going. We went with friends on Sunday. We were a little nervous about traffic -- it was the weekend of Tet Nguyen Dan, and we were headed to Little Saigon -- and parking in the lot of the strip mall was, indeed, a bit hard to find.
They weren't in Boiling Crab, though, wherever they may have been. It's a big mall -- it's got the northernmost Little Saigon outpost of Banh Mi & Che Cali, it's got Banh Cuon Tay Ho, and a gigantic market.
You go in, and you sit down, and you notice that the average age in Boiling Crab -- including employees -- is about 23. It's a very young demographic, but it works -- the employees are not your typical uncaring minimum-wage types.
You order seafood by the pound. Blue and Dungeness crabs, king crab legs, crawfish, shrimp, with the prices written up on the whiteboard on the wall. If you want, you can have fried shrimp or oysters as an appetizer, or Cajun fries, or raw oysters (a surprising number of young people eating oysters, I have to say).
You get your choice of "Ragin' Cajun", lemon-pepper or garlic sauce, or you can have all three at once. You choose your level of spice commitment (here's a guide: unspiced is boring, mild is probably fine for everyone, medium is about as spicy as truly spicy carniceria salsa, and extra spicy is inedible unless you're a serious chilehead).
You get offered a bib -- and trust me, you want it -- and a roll of paper towels is plunked on the table. After a few minutes, your food arrives in plastic bags. You dig in and drop the shells right on the table. Remember to suck the head out of the crawfish, it's the best part. Really.
If you buy two pounds of crawfish ($10 a pound when we went on Sunday) you get sausage and corn in the bag. That'd be ONE chunk of sausage and ONE corn cob. If you're thinking about buying the two pounds to get the sausage and corn, don't bother -- just order it a la carte, it'll be cheaper.
If you get king crab legs, you'll get a handy shell splitter and a mallet (and they'll note this on your tablemat so that you can't abscond with their stuff). The king crab legs are a godsend if you find that you've ordered things too spicy, because the meat-to-sauce ratio is higher, thus cutting the spice. You can also ask for limes to cut the spice with.
The best idea, though, came from a bunch of 25-year-olds next to us. "Damn, this is hot! Tyler! Go get two baguettes from next door." And so the designated guy ran over to Banh Mi & Che Cali and bought two baguettes for $1.50. Not a word from the staff, so it must be pretty common.
The taste was quite good; the seafood was fresh, though the shrimp were actually better than the crawfish. The prices are reasonable and the service is completely friendly, though very informal (the bill told us our server's name was L'il Fish Fry -- a Vietnamese guy about 5'4" tall).
I like it... but I'm only going to go wearing clothes I don't care about.
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