727 E. Miller Rd., Lansing
3700 S. Waverly Rd., Lansing
7433 W. Saginaw Hwy., Lansing
“Don’t be scared. Jump in.” If I were the proprietor of a seafood restaurant, I would strongly consider these words as my tagline. As it stands, I work in an office, but these words can apply to so many different situations. Maybe you are writing your first restaurant review after an 18-month hiatus, when many of your favorite places closed their doors for good, the country mercifully got a new president, and you got a new job and a new writing co-contributor. I have known Bryan Beverly for more than 20 years and he and I have enjoyed so many meals together, in restaurants, in board rooms and in our own homes. I’m excited to work with him in a new capacity and keep having fun together.
Throughout the pandemic, we saw so many food trends. Banana bread, sourdough, Dalgona coffee (not recommended), birria tacos, hot chocolate bombs and all kind of bowls: grain bowls, protein bowls, horrifying KFC copycat fried chicken bowls. Locally, we’ve seen a trend that I did not see coming and that continues to titillate and confuse me — seafood restaurants that specialize in crab boils. Don’t know what that means? Dive in. (See what I did there?)
Seafood boils originated in the Louisiana Gulf or South Carolina Lowcountry areas. Large stockpots are filled with corn on the cob, red potatoes and a variety of sausage and seafood, and frequently spiced with Old Bay seasoning and other Creole flavors. The restaurant version includes kicking this delicious concoction up a notch and smothering everything in a butter sauce, customizable as to your preferred flavor and spiciness level.
For our visit to the Ocean Crab, we chose a combination of headless, shell-on shrimp and black mussels. The boil also included a half ear of corn and redskin potato per person. I have made seafood boils in the past and have always discarded the watery, flavorless liquid base that the food was prepared in, and this garlic butter base was an unexpected bonus. Not to put too fine a point on it, the garlic butter base was begging to be sopped up with a crusty baguette. My preferred method of mainlining the liquid was to pick up a mussel shell, eat the mussel, then use the empty shell to scoop up more melted butter and deliver it to myself.
The next week, we visited Tangy Crab and included king crab legs in our boil. Tangy Crab is on the west side of Lansing, across the street from Horrocks and in the same location that used to house a T.G.I. Friday’s. If those walls could talk, they would tell you that I used to spend Friday evenings there with my high school girlfriends eating Oreo Madness desserts and Jack Daniel’s chicken, because what is more fun than going to T.G.I. Friday’s on Friday night when you are 17? Nothing.
Our final leg on this crab crawl sent us to Crazy Crab, and the mix this time included crab legs and shrimp. To be honest, all three stops on the tour left us wondering why we didn’t eat seafood boils more frequently, as they are delicious and fun. The corn was chronically overcooked, and I could eat more corn and potatoes and imagine that would be a relatively inexpensive way for the restaurant to bulk up the dish a bit more. The menu at the Crazy Crab left me wanting more, and I intend to go back and sample some stir-fries and a lobster tail combination boil.
In these days when it’s so important to support local businesses, but many of us are still hesitant to engage in potentially risky behavior, finding fun activities to do at home can be challenging. These restaurants are great at packaging take-out orders to minimize mess and at walking you through questions on the menu. When COVID is a thing of the past, I propose a citywide giant seafood boil at Rotary Park. I’ll bring the baguettes.
I love seafood. It’s my absolute favorite. So, when I learned that our first She Ate/He Ate assignment would be a crab crawl, I was beyond excited. Yes, I have dined at a few crab boil establishments in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, but I had never been to any local Lansing restaurants. While three crab boils in a month might seem rather daunting, particularly for any sane person’s cholesterol levels, I was more than happy to take one for the team.
My approach to the crawl was straightforward. I would order a boil with similar ingredients at each one, with the only change being the heat level in the boil, which I based on my dining partner’s tolerance. I also planned to enjoy some of the invdividual specialties they offer. For the crab boils, I ordered snow crab legs, lobster tails, head off shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. While I know many believe that traditional seafood boils must include crawfish, clams or a particular crab, I recognize these beliefs are rooted in regional preferences — typically Gulf Coast, Carolina Lowcountry, Chesapeake or New England. I’m happy to share that no matter your personal preference, nearly every place along our crawl offered options to satisfy.
My overall favorite was Ocean Crab. The restaurant had a clean and spacious setting, and the wait staff was helpful. I ordered the Ocean 3 boil, which had the ingredients I was seeking. The boil arrived so quickly that I barely had time to enjoy the tasty appetizers — Ocean Juicy Wings and calamari, both of which were battered and fried nicely. My companion ordered the catfish and shrimp basket, which came out with three pieces of fish. As the waitress was setting it on the table, she stated that the chef wasn’t pleased with the size of one of the pieces and was frying another piece, which also arrived quite promptly. The Ocean 3 was delicious, with crab legs cooked to perfection — you can crack them and pull the meat out in a single piece. The Ocean Juicy sauce is a combination of all the other options: butter, garlic, lemon, pepper and Cajun seasoning. I was grateful for the provided bib because I wanted to dive right into it. Eventually, my face, hands and the mountain of used napkins told a tale of a happy diner.
Coming in second was Crazy Crab, tucked into a mini mall on South Waverly Road. Although not very focused on the dining atmosphere, Crazy Crab concentrated on its colossal menu. There is something for everyone at Crazy Crab: boils, fried food and Asian-inspired dishes. My dining companion and I tried a little of everything. The catfish and shrimp basket arrived with a nice cornmeal crust, it wasn’t too heavy or greasy. The house fried rice was rather basic, with subdued flavors. The star of this show was the Crazy Boil, with garlic butter sauce and mild heat. The crab itself was a bit overcooked — the meat nearly crumbled when I cracked a leg, but the flavor was amazing. The single best bite of all the visits was the corn in this boil — savory and sweet at the same time in the best way. The sauce almost made me forget that they forgot the sausage.
Tangy Crab took last place. It has managed to replicate the sensory overload décor of the former T.G.I. Friday’s, but with a nautical theme. My companions and I planned to enjoy both boils and some fried fare. The Old Bay fried wings were delicious all by their lonesome, as were the brown sugar and cinnamon sweet potato waffle fries. The single saddest bite came from the soggy Krab Fries. This dish uses imitation crab, despite pictures on the menu suggesting they come from the real thing. The Juicy Special boil was solid, but rather uninspiring. The crab legs and lobster tails were all cooked nicely, but the seasoned garlic butter with medium heat lacked the creole or Old Bay punch of the other boils.
The crab crawl was an overall success, I’m sure my blood still has a tinge of garlic butter in it.