My good friend Leslie and I go way back. Back to the early days of online poker, where we shared many late night chat conversations not only about poker, but about food. So when she moved from the Central Coast of California down to Oceanside in 2008 we decided to meet up and celebrate her son’s birthday. Since she knows I don’t eat seafood, and she knew my son rarely gets to eat it she chose Joe’s Crab Shack on the harbor in Oceanside since 1) it was close and 2) they have non-seafood items on the menu in addition to a nice selection of seafood. I remember having a pretty good time that night.
Fast forward to last week, when we decided to get the kids together again and this time I picked Joe’s for much the same reasons as before. Our group consisted of Leslie, her son Mark, my son Andrew and his best friend Taylor, and myself.
Our server came, introduced herself and took our drink orders, and asked if we had any questions. When she returned with our drinks we did have a few questions, which she cheerfully answered. We started with the Classic Sampler appetizer which included a crab dip, calamari, and Joe’s famous Great Balls of Fire (deep fried jalapeno, shrimp, and crab poppers). The crab dip was well received, but the calamari and Great Balls of Fire were just mediocre.
Taylor started out by ordering The Orleans Steampot (1 lb of crawfish, 12 shrimp, andouille sausage, fresh corn and boiled new potatoes). Now Taylor is a Texas native and knows crawfish, so he was very disappointed in what he got. He did say that since crawfish are out of season at the time, they had to import them. The shrimp were decent, but not great, as was the andouille sausage. The best part about the Steampot was the new potatoes.
Andrew ordered the Fisherman’s Platter (popcorn shrimp, fish fillet, great balls of fire, calamari, fries and coleslaw). “It was all deep fried” Andrew said, “so it was pretty much the same as what you would get anywhere else. Nothing special really, but that’s what I wanted, what I ordered, and I knew what to expect.” Now the reason the coleslaw and dip didn’t make it into the photo is our server accidentally dumped it all over Andrew as she went to place his dish on the table. They did make it up to him by giving him a new t-shirt to replace his soiled one.
Mark ordered the Whiskey Smoked Ribs, which came served with fries, coleslaw, and jalapeno hush puppies. Mark said “Good smoke flavor and a really good sauce, but kind of dry really”. We all tried the hush puppies, but only Andrew and Taylor enjoyed them as they really love jalapenos.
Leslie was in the mood for a steak, so she ordered the 12 oz. Ribeye. This came served with cheesy smashed potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables (broccoli tonight). The cheesy smashed potatoes looked so good that I ordered a side for myself, but mine weren’t nearly as “cheesy” as Leslie’s! “It was fairly standard, you know” said Leslie, “Nothing really stood out. It was “ok”, but not note-worthy”. Pretty much summed up our whole experience for the evening.
Finally, my seafood hating self ordered the Homestyle Chicken Tenders. I would not call them “Homestyle” at all. “Restaurant” style is what they are. The same chicken strips you get at almost any restaurant but with less flavor. Hey Joe, would it break you to throw on some salt and pepper?
Without a doubt the most genius idea of the evening went to Mark, who suggested trying the S’mores Cake. I’m not sure if that’s what it’s really called because once it came, all other thoughts escaped rapidly out of our brains. By far the best dessert I have had at a restaurant in a long, long time! Warm chocolate cake, sandwiched between graham crackers and smothered in warm chocolate sauce. The kicker was the marshmallows. Laid on top of a full Hershey’s chocolate bar and then blasted with a torch to toast them perfectly and melt the chocolate, then drizzled again with the warm chocolate sauce. Pure genius and guaranteed to make you weak in the knees. So rich that the four of us (Taylor doesn’t like chocolate!) were able to share it and be totally satisfied.