Is artifice an inherently bad thing?
I ask because, walking into Crabtown, I am struck by the overwhelming degree to which the building is decorated — inside and out — to make the diner feel as if he’s found some sort of Cajun seafood shack that was picked up by a tornado in Louisiana and dropped, unscathed, in Bricktown.
It’s kind of cheesy and dorky and dopey and feels like it was workshopped by a branding agency within an inch of its life.
And yet … I love Crabtown. The weird animus of my fellow foodies to Crabtown has yet to be explained sufficiently to me. My service there is generally impeccable. My food is invariably delicious. Who cares about all the sun-bleached wood and beer bottle salt-and-pepper shakers?
Not me, anyway. Which is why I keep returning and ordering the Krabby Balls ($7.99). These are, by far, the most embarrassing thing on the menu, based on the name alone.
But the actual appetizer is like tiny crab cakes, balled up and gently fried, served with rémoulade sauce. They’re tender and wonderful and, c’mon — have you ever had rémoulade sauce? It should replace ketchup and mayonnaise on every dish that uses ketchup or mayonnaise.
Another favorite is called the Crabtown Trash ($8.99), which is the second most embarrassing thing on the menu.
Waitress: “What’ll you have, sir?” Me: “Uh … balls and trash?” Waitress, now clearly enraged: “Get out.”
But it’s a crazy value. Whenever they break off a leg or there’s another imperfection in the crab, they set it aside. It’s a good way to eat good crab for cheap. Dip it in drawn butter and it tastes the same as the rest of the food.
Still, maybe you have too much selfrespect and honor to order these shadysounding dishes. There are options. The chicken and andouille gumbo ($3.99 for a cup) is OK, but you’re better off going for something with seafood, like the shrimp Creole ($14.99): nice, big pieces of shrimp, okra, tomatoes, onions and a lot of spice. Even better, you get red beans and rice on the side.
A quick note about the red beans and rice: They’d be worth getting on its own ($2.75). It’s a creamy little stew with just enough kick to keep you interested and enough rib-sticking power to keep you full through to snack time.
Keeping with the shrimp trend, the fried shrimp po’ boy ($8.99) is a sandwich. I mention this because, as our waitress informed us, some people don’t know that a po’ boy is a type of sandwich, although it’s clearly listed with other sandwich-type dishes. Lots of lettuce and tomato, a nice baguette to hold it all together and, of course, delicious fried shrimp. You can also get it with catfish.
Personally, I get the crawfish étouffée, because I’m a fancy gentlemen with class and refinement. Also because I love them mudbugs in that spicy, buttery, roux-based sauce. Étouffée is my idea of heaven, and Crabtown consistently delivers one of the best versions of the dish you can get in OKC.
So, yeah, Crabtown tries a little too hard with its weird Southern gothicmeets-redneck vibe. But it also tries pretty hard to put out a good plate of food for a reasonable price.
And you can try hard, too. Work at it — maybe five or 10 minutes a day in front of a mirror — and soon you’ll be able to go into Crabtown and not giggle when you look your waitress in the eye and say, “Balls and trash, please.”
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.