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RESTAURANT OF THE WEEK
BLUE CRAB CRAB
This restaurant caught my attention because they listed fresh blue crabs on the menu on their web site. I was at first excited and then depressed. Why? Because 9 out of 10 times when you go to a restaurant (just about anywhere along the east coast) in anticipation of wonderful, fresh, blue crabs, you are disappointed when they come out. They are either cold (we like 'em hot), way overcooked, or have been frozen and cooked masquerading to be fresh. I almost decided not to go there but we gave it a shot.
This is a very down home, old Florida style restaurant. Okay, technically it is a Maryland style restaurant! There is an outside dining area and you can dine inside. The chairs are all those silly plastic outdoor type chairs that I absolutely hate.
We chose to dine inside and once seated in those horrible, uncomfortable chairs, I knew there was hope here. The tables were covered in butcher paper and there was a role of paper towels at each table.
When I interrogated our wonderfully friendly waitress over the freshness of the crabs, she guaranteed that they were live and waiting to be steamed. I even questioned her over where the crabs were coming from. We know our crabs and have caught our own in Florida and Louisiana. The waitress explained that they used to get their crabs from the New Orleans area but in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, they had turned to another supplier just north of Jacksonville in Georgia. That's okay with us!
I started out with an order of steamed clams and my wife ordered a cup of Maryland crab soup. The clams, ten of them, were disappointing. They had been steamed too hot and too fast. They had pretty much blown apart and most of the life of the meat had been cooked out of them. My wife's soup was a home run, however!
My wife was being obstinate that night and refused to share a batch of crabs with me. She gets that way sometimes even though she loves crabs. So I went with a half dozen crabs. Our server said they were medium to large about 5 to 6 inchers. Six "full" crabs, meaning full of meat, would be just enough.
The crabs smelled wonderful as they arrived at the table. I couldn't wait to start ripping them apart. But as I grabbed the first one, a danger sign appeared. It was extremely "light" or lacking in internal meat. I pulled the claw off hoping against hope that all kinds of liquid would drain out signaling that it had just been cooked and had not been sitting around. And that's exactly what happened! Hark! A fresh crab! The claw meat was wonderful but there was hardly any lump meat inside. What meat the crab did have was excellent. There are times of the year when crabs are "light" or void of meat. I understand that. I was just glad to get a shot at good, fresh blue crabs and I can't wait to go back. My wife chose a platter consisting of fried shrimp and crab cakes. She still raves about that meal.
My crabs came with a side of French fries, something you usually don't see! My wife's meal came with a baked potato and salad.
With the obliterated, tiny clams and the light crabs, I was hungry a couple of hours later. Still, I would highly recommend this place. It's a little off the beaten path in an area of Jacksonville called Mandarin. Mandarin is main stream, though, and the restaurant is located right off busy San Jose Blvd. The food is good, the crabs will be full next time, knock on wood, and the servers are extremely friendly. Plus, the clientele is all local. Always a good sign.
For directions and a menu to check out, they have a web site here.
PS-Exciting news for beer drinkers. A beer that is consistently rated as one of the best in the nation is served here -- Yuengling! This beer is hard to find outside it's regional turf and goes well with seafood or anything else! I like it by itself! In fact, Yuengling is found just about everywhere in Jacksonville!