When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Angry Crab Shack and BBQ Location: 2808 E. Indian School Road Open: Just over a week Eats: Seafood, BBQ Price: $25+ per person
We can't be the only Central Phoenix residents who've bemoaned the drive to Angry Crab Shack in Mesa. That's not to say the food isn't worth it, but we've just always wished it were just a little closer to the central part of the Valley. After all, less driving means more time crab-eating, right?
Well, as of last week, all our seafood prayers have been answered. The restaurant opened a second location on the northeast corner of Indian School Road and 28th Street in Arcadia. And though we're sure you thought it wasn't possible, the second location may have actually improved upon the concept of its predecessor. Because what more could you want with your bag of boiled crab than a side of ribs and tender brisket? Nothing. That's what else.
See also: Cafe Review: Angry Crab Shack in Mesa
The new restaurant, located in the same strip mall as Sprout's Farmers Market, has a lot of the same design touches as the original location. And by design touches, we mean lots of beer signs, some seafood kitsch, and exposed wood with messages scrawled in Sharpie all over it. It doesn't quite capture the energetic neighborhood vibe of the Mesa restaurant just yet, but it probably will come with time.
In addition to a full bar (that was packed with a lively crowd), the restaurant has a handful of televisions scattered throughout the dining room and a large patio with roll-down doors that can open onto the dining room.
The menu will look mostly familiar to fans of Angry Crab Shack in Mesa except for a small section, The Meat Market, in the upper right-hand corner. That's where you'll find the restaurant's barbecue selection, which is limited by satisfying. The set up follows the same format as the seafood boils: pick a meat, pick a sauce, and pick a spice level.
You can order single meats by the pound, sandwiches ("Samiches"), or go for the three-meat Pit Master Platter. We chose the last option so we could try the brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. Your platter also comes with two side -- your choices from slaw, potato salad, and BBQ beans.
If you're a hardcore BBQ fanatic, you may not find Angry Crab Shack's offerings up to snuff. But for those looking to get a solid 'cue fix, this restaurant will fit the bill. We enjoyed the slice of moist brisket, lightly kissed with smoky flavor, and the pulled pork, which was also very moist and true to its natural porcine flavor. The ribs were the only meat we felt leaned a little on the dry side, but even they were better than other iterations around town.
As for the sauces, you'll have the choice of either Creole Q or ACQ. We preferred the former. It's a mustard-based sauce with a little bit of vinegary flavor -- but don't think for a second its going to be your typical Carolina-style deal. There's a subtle but tangible kick in this barbecue sauce that makes to pair quite well with a side of shrimp boiled in the signature Trifecta sauce.
And speaking of the seafood, you're not going to want to skip it. The new venue doesn't seem to have affected the quality in the least. In fact, there's been a small improvement: now you can order a $1 side of bread "for soppin'" so you don't have to waste a single drop of your briny, boiled sauce. If you're new to the restaurant's traditional style boil, the concept is simple: pick a seafood, pick a sauce, and pick a heat. Our go-to order is a pound of snow crab in the house special Trifecta sauce, served mild.
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Now we're always down for a meal of lobster and steak, but we have to admit there's something deeply satisfying about eating an entire surf and turf feast while wearing a plastic bib and eating with your hands. It seems like the most natural thing to alternate between bites of garlicky seafood and picking up a rib to gnaw on.
Angry Crab's Southern-style surf 'n' turf is the unpretentious kind of indulgence that we'd be happy to have in our backyard.