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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.

 

The Best Spot for Happy Hour Oysters & Seafood in Downtown Denver: Jax Fish House

Having spent most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m a sucker for raw oysters. They’re pretty much one of my essential food groups. I have to admit, I was a bit concerned when I first moved to Denver, because being landlocked in the middle of the country doesn’t exactly scream “fresh seafood.” However, you’d be amazed how much great seafood there is in Denver, with many restaurants flying it in every morning. And one of my personal favorites is Jax Fish House in LoDo (1539 17th Street). Not the least because they have:

$1.50 Oyster Happy Hour

HAPPY HOUR is 4-6pm every day (and all day Monday!), and now there’s a late happy hour too (which they surprisingly don’t mention on their website). It goes for the last hour that they’re open (9-10pm M-Th, 10pm-11pm F-Sat, 8-9pm Sun… I think.

When you eat as many oysters as I do, happy hour oysters are a big deal. I don’t think there’s a deal like this anywhere even close to here.

Two suggestions when it comes to the oysters:

  1. Ask for the mignonette sauce. It comes with the oysters at a lot of places, but you have to request it here. I’m not sure why.
  2. If you decide to not order off the happy hour menu, I highly recommend the Kumamotos from the West Coast (my personal favorite in flavor, but they are slightly smaller).

Jax oyster menu board


OTHER FOOD

Another must-try on the happy hour menu is the panang curry mussels. It’s one of my favorite preparations of mussels I’ve ever tried, and I usually get these every time I’m here.

If you’re ok ordering off the regular menu, one of my favorite things to get here in the winter is the clam chowder. It’s made to order, uses fresh clams, and has tons of bacon — and everything is better with bacon.

Jax clam chowder

Another one of my winter favorites is the gumbo (it’s almost as good as the étouffée at Sassafras, which is saying a lot). And it even comes in a $4 happy hour version (shown below).

Jax gumbo

One of my year-round favorites is the peel-and-eat shrimp ($6 on happy hour), which comes with a spicy mayo and what I think is chili powder. Whatever it is, it makes the shrimp much more flavorful than most places’. Just be ready to get a little messy.

Jax peel and eat shrimp

And if you’re more of a raw fish fan, there’s always some sort of poke concoction on the menu. Lately it’s been a spicy ahi tuna poke that I absolutely love.

And of course there’s a full seafood bar, so you can always get a chilled seafood platter or market-price crab (I’m a big fan of the snow crab).

Jax seafood bar.


THE DRINKS

Jax cucumber lemon press
The Cucumber Lemon Press ($4 during happy hour) is one of my favorite cocktails I’ve ever had. I could drink these forever. They’re light and refreshing and go with everything. I think the only thing I would rather drink with oysters is a white wine that’s specially made to go with oysters, but the only place I’ve seen do that is Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto. Of course they have delicious wine here, too, but I recommend trying the Press first.