Denver’s Best Crab & Crawfish Boil: Crawling Crab on South Federal

I face an internal dilemma, because Crawling Crab (781 South Federal Boulevard) is one of my favorite restaurants ever that I go to all the time, and I would really like for it to stay the secret gem it is — but I feel like I must share my discovery. Hopefully, by the time that thousands of you regularly read this blog, this post will be long buried 😉

Crawling Crab has some of the most amazing crab and crawfish I’ve ever tasted — at inexplicably cheap prices. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m glad they do. If it was a little closer to me, I’d be here every day.

Crawling Crab isn’t a fancy place. It’s tucked into a little alcove off South Federal next door to Pho 79, and inside it looks like what you’d expect a restaurant in a strip mall to look like: a few simple tables and booths, some themed decorations, and flat-screen TVs everywhere (the photo below was taken from their Facebook). So I didn’t really expect much when a friend of mine first recommended it to me. In fact, I was a little skeptical. Man am I glad I came though.

Crawling Crab has some of the most delicious crab and crawfish ever — smothered in a house sauce that’s exploding with spices and huge pieces of garlic — all for about $8-$9/pound (that’s cheaper than most grocery stores!). I would even venture to say it’s better than some of the crawfish boils I’ve had in New Orleans, just because the sauce is so good. I’ve come here with 4 people and stuffed our faces until we couldn’t eat another bite, and left with a $100 tab (beer included).

Note: they only serve a few basic kinds of beer when it comes to alcohol, but that’s honestly what goes best with the food.


What To Get

The menu is pretty simple. I don’t even need to look at it to order. Having tried everything, here’s what I suggest getting (just trust me and go with it).

  • 1-2 orders of the dungeness crab clusters, in the all-in sauce (I recommend the mild version even if you like spicy food, because it will still be garlicy and spicy, but without beating out the flavor of the crab)
  • 1-2 orders of the crawfish, also in the all-in sauce, and throw in a side of sausage and enough baked potatoes and corn-on-the-cob to go around
  • 1 order of the clams, in the garlic butter sauce
  • Beer (duh)
  • NOTE: Don’t get the king crab. At about $24/pound, it’s 3x as expensive as the dungeness, but not 3x more delicious.

How It Works

Everything comes in clear plastic bags, filled with whatever you ordered and smothered with your choice of sauce. No fancy plates here, and that’s how I like it. Just make sure to put on your bib and tie your hair back — it’s about to get ugly.

You take all those bags and just dump them out on your table (now all that wax paper “tablecloth” makes sense). If you don’t eat fast, you may want to only dump 1/2 a bag out at a time to keep it hot (but I wouldn’t know anything about that).

And this is what your table should look like when you’re done: a shellfish wasteland.

Enough said.

 

My Favorite Brunch in Denver, Louisiana Style: Sassafras

Denver is pretty crazy about it’s brunches — in a way that I’m somewhat baffled by. There are literally 30-60 minute wait lines out the doors of Steuben’s, Snooze, Jelly, and the such. Hipsters love them some brunch. But I hate lines, so it’s usually a lost cause to try and drag me to a popular brunch place unless the food is pretty amazing (and booze, because brunch must have booze).

Except for when it comes to Sassafras…

I will always go to Sassafras if I get the chance. The Capitol Hill location is at 320 East Colfax, although there’s also one on 2637 W 26th as well. The food is amazing and the drinks are spectacular. If the words “beignet,” “gumbo,” and “Bloody Mary” don’t conjure up a special, magical place in your head, then there’s something wrong with you.

NOTE: It does get busy here and they don’t take reservations, but you can sometimes call ahead when you’re on your way to hold a table.


THE ATMOSPHERE & SERVICE

inside Sassafras
I love what they’ve done with the inside here. It’s absolutely adorable — from the mini chandeliers, to the colorful cloth napkins, to the cute salt & pepper shakers, to the painted alcove made to look like a Louisiana terrace. It feels spacious and hip, but also comfortable and homey.


THE FOOD

Sassafras beignets
If there’s one thing you take away from this: get the beignets. A “beignet” is a French pastry that’s commonly eaten for breakfast in New Orleans. It’s basically freshly-made, deep-fried choux paste (light pastry dough) — that’s then covered with powdered sugar and served while it’s still hot. Worth…every…calorie. And don’t forget to try their homemade berry jam with it, too. I would even say that these are better than the ones at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans (our altitude makes them fluffier).

As for your main dish, you can’t really go wrong here. If you’re a fan of hollandaise (which sadly I am not), my friends have all said that Sassafras has some of the best hollandaise they’ve ever tried. And the Oyster Po’ Boy is a proper po’ boy, overflowing with juicy fried oysters. I highly recommend getting a side of dirty rice with whatever you get (it’s got meat in it!).

Fried Green Tomato Benedict
Fried Green Tomato BenedictMy personal favorite, though, is the etouffee. An etouffee is similar to a gumbo, but poured over rice. There’s crawfish, shrimp, tons of butter and spices, and optional bacon (get the bacon). If you like Cajun food, you need to try this. I could literally eat this every day. In fact, I probably overeat every time I get this, because it’s a pretty large portion (and I’ve just had the beignets), but it’s just too good to stop! I know, first world problems.

Sassafras etouffee

 


THE DRINKS

Sassafras bloody mary and apple mimosas and iced teaBLOODY MARYS: I’m pretty picky about Bloody Marys. I hate if they’re too peppery, or taste like they came out of a bottle, or not even remotely spicy (I hate a lot of things). But these are damn near perfect. I recommend the “Sassafras” Bloody Mary (house-made spicy tomato mix, with a quail egg and bacon on top). Again: bacon! If you like it really spicy, the “Marie Laveau” Bloody Mary is spiked with ghost chili. I wouldn’t do the “BBQ” Bloody Mary again (and this is coming from a huge meat-lover). It’s just too sweet for a Bloody Mary.

MIMOSAS: If you’ve never had an apple mimosa, you need to try it now. It’s like drinking a boozy Martinelli’s cider — which is pretty much the moment when your inner child and adult collide.

ICED TEA: Even the iced tea is delicious (and they keep refilling it). And yes I know, it’s weird for me to be talking about a non-boozy drink, but we all sometimes need to take a break and re-hydrate. Or you know, add some bourbon 😉

 

And with that, I’m back to stuffing my face with beignets!

Natalia eating a beignet

Actually, one more thing.

I found these awesome little salt & pepper shakers last time I was there, and I just had to share 😉
Sassafras pig salt and pepper shakers