New seafood boil spot, Captain Crab, is open. Here’s a first look
Five years ago, I used to have to send diners to King County when they’d ask me about a seafood boil/crawfish restaurant.
Today, Pierce County not only has choices, it has multiple choices for seafood boil in three Pierce County cities.
Captain Crab opened in Lakewood on September 23, which brings our peel-and-eat seafood spots to a total of four.
Dragon’s Crawfish, opened in 2015 in Tacoma’s Lincoln District.
Boiling Crawfish, opened in South Hill in 2018.
Cravin’ Crawfish, opened on Tacoma Mall Boulevard earlier this year right in the middle of the pandemic.
Read to the end of this article for more details about those other boil restaurants.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SEAFOOD BOIL?
For you first timers, here’s what to expect at Captain Crab, or any seafood boil restaurant I mention in this story.
Crawfish/seafood boil restaurants give diners a choice of crawfish, crab, clams, shrimp and other fresh seafood that is boiled-to-order in a tasty broth, typically containing butter and a copious amount of Cajun spicing. This is a style of eating born on the bayou, so expect it to be heavily flavored and full of spice, Louisiana style. Most places give two or three broth choices that include Cajun style, garlic-butter and lemon-pepper. The boil is served in a big, giant bowl meant to be shared by your dining party. The seafood usually is accompanied by boiled potatoes and corn on the cob. If you’re doing it right, you’ll order sausage to go with your boil. Most places offer the Louisiana sausage staple, andouille sausage.
You crack open, pick through the shells and and then eat the seafood with your hands.
The protocols are simple: Don’t wear anything you don’t mind getting splattered with garlic butter, expect to make an enormous mess, and don’t shy away from sucking and slurping the seafood directly from the shells.
CAPTAIN CRAB BASICS
Lakewood’s Captain Crab opened right next door to Lakewood’s AAA Buffet. In fact, the two businesses share ownership. Hai Yan Lin has owned AAA Buffet for about six years and in September, she flipped the party room next door to the buffet into a seafood boil pop-up restaurant. The two businesses share a walkway to the bathrooms, but otherwise they’re operated separately. The restaurant decided to flip the party room to a restaurant space in September because the restaurant’s management were not able to get much use of the party room during pandemic dining restrictions. “Because we want the best for our customers, we wanted to make the party room a new space for them to enjoy. Originally, there were two options for us to settle on, a ramen shop or seafood boil. Our discussion ended with us agreeing on refurbishing it into a seafood boil,” said manager Coco Teng.
And, yes, the buffet is open at AAA Buffet, in case you were wondering.
Now about the seafood. What struck me as different about Captain Crab is the flexibility in ordering. Most of our boil restaurants require diners order seafood by-the-pound, which can get quite expensive if you want to try a wide variety of seafood.
At Captain Crab, I loved the combo portion of the menu in which diners can select from a half pound each of sausage ($5.49), clams ($5.99), crawfish ($6.99), mussels ($6.49), shrimp ($7.49) and snow crab legs ($13.99). Diners select a minimum of two items from that list to create a mix-and-match meal.
We ordered sausage, crawfish and shrimp and were amazed we only paid $19.97 for a bowl of seafood that was plenty to feed two. The sausage tasted more like kielbasa than andouille, the shrimp were served head-on and were perfectly prepared, and carried the delicious sweet flavor that only fresh shrimp carries. The crawfish were of the frozen variety, which is a sticky spot for native Louisianans, but very much a necessity in Washington state because the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has banned the import of live non-native crawfish (they’re an invasive species and very bad for our own native crawfish in our waterways). The combo bowl at Captain Crab also came with halved red potatoes that were steamed to perfection and chunky blocks of corn on the cob that still carried a bit of a crunch. And the kitchen threw in a few pieces of snappy broccoli, too.
For broths, diners can select from a Cajun butter sauce, a garlic butter sauce with Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper or a combination of all three of those called the “Cajun Kitchen Special.”
I spotted no crusty bread on the menu for dipping, but the sauce we tried – the Cajun butter sauce – was dip worthy.
The rest of the menu is assorted combinations that range from by-the-pound selections, all served with corn and potatoes, plus a monster Chef’s Special combo with shrimp, snow crab, lobster, sausage, corn and potato for $34.99 (and looks to be enough for 2-3 diners).
I thought the prices were low for a boil restaurant, but that did seem to translate into a more basic experience. Extras here were as low-tech as it gets: A roll of paper towels plopped on the table and a no-thank-you bucket to discard your seafood shells. Gloves were offered, but there were no scissors for cutting shells, and no picks or crab crackers/seafood tools offered to make easy work of breaking open the seafood. There were no bibs or moist towelettes for cleaning up. After my visit, I asked Teng about the accessories that make a seafood boil restaurant a much more easy experience, and Teng said, “We have plans to add those, due to some feedback we got from our customers.”
Beverages are limited to soda pop. There is no beer or wine list, or cocktails. The appetizer list included spring rolls ($2.99), breaded shrimp ($6.99), chicken wings ($4.99) and more.
Oh, and here’s another great deal: There’s a lunch special listed at $7.99 to $9.99 for ¾ pound seafood bowls – a choice of clams, sausage, mussels, shrimp or crawfish. That’s a great inexpensive introduction to the restaurant.
Take-out: Captain Crab is offering take-out, just call your order in
Where: 10310 South Tacoma Way, Lakewood; 253-267-5584
OUR OTHER SEAFOOD BOIL RESTAURANTS: QUICK LOOKS
DRAGON’S CRAWFISH: Order seafood-by-the-pound that’s boiled up and served in a giant bowl built for sharing – and dipping. Order an extra loaf of the crusty French bread to sop up chef-owner Minh Phan’s dynamite, but occasionally lethally spiced, garlic sauce. Phan offers spicing options ranging from “that’s nice” to “holy sweats.” For longtime locals, if Phan offers “Dragon’s Breath,” sauce, treat it the same as being asked to “Meet the Man” at Porter’s Place, the barbecue restaurant (may you rest in power, Alton Porter). Tables are spread with paper, which is a nice touch, and all kinds of crackers and scissors are offered for cracking. Corn on the cob, sausage and boiled potatoes can be ordered with the boil (all three is called “triple play”). It’s safe for kids. Beer and wine served.
GET IT: Dragon’s Crawfish, 750 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-301-0020
BOILING CRAWFISH: This South Hill crawfish destination has the best crab selection in the area with typical choices of snow, King and Dungeness (when avaiable). Order a la carte by-the-pound or select combo meals, which turn out to be better deals than the by-the-pound offerings. Sauces aren’t as heavily spiced or as garlicky as Dragon’s Crawfish, but are still plenty tasty. Plastic gloves, pickers, crackers and scissors are offered here. It’s also the only seafood boil place in the area with a cocktail menu and you’re doing it wrong unless you order their hibiscus cocktail, Miss Saigon.
GET IT: Boiling Crawfish, 4301 S. Meridian, Puyallup; 253-256-7423; boilingcrawfishwa.com
CRAVIN’ CRAWFISH: Vu Nguyen opened his new boil restaurant in May on Tacoma Mall Boulevard where Build-A-Burger used to operate. Diners can select from by-the-pound seafood at market prices with a choice of four sauce styles and three seasonings. There’s also a menu of meals with fried fish and fries. Read more here
GET IT: Cravin’ Crawfish, 5015 Tacoma Mall Boulevard, Tacoma; 253-300-8130; instagram.com/cravincrawfishtacoma
LA WAFFLETZ IS OPENING A NEW BAKERY
For those who recall the magnificent macarons and waffles at La Waffletz and Macaron Station, the bakery that closed in 2019 is opening a new bakery in downtown Tacoma next month. Read more about that here.