August, 2012. Shauna Lyon for The New Yorker.
The haters came on early and strong for this venturesome tri-level seafood shack in Red Hook. Almost immediately upon Brooklyn Crab’s opening, in June, Yelp reviews collectively deemed it one of the worst restaurants in Brooklyn, mostly owing to poor service, high prices, and epic waits. It was as if New Yorkers had been hoping for so long for such a place—sure, there are lobster rolls on every corner, but what about a proper crab boil and seafood galore somewhere near the water?—that nothing could possibly live up to their fantasies. But, if you listen to the disgruntled Yelpers, you might be deterred from a rare experience: mini-golf and beer as a prelude to fresh cold oysters and perfectly steamed lobster, eaten in the open, relatively salty air, with a killer view of New York Harbor.
The owners, Jamie Vipond and Matthew Bohner—who also run the rooftop Mexican restaurant Alma—double as woodworkers, and, according to a server, built the place. The structure, reminiscent of a D.I.Y. Cape Hatteras stilt house, is impressively grand in spite of all the raw wood and cement. On the ground floor, there’s that eighteen-hole mini-golf course, a beanbag toss, and a pool table next to a porpoise-and-orca mural airbrushed onto corrugated steel. The charming salty-dog second-floor bar works overtime to appease the waiting hordes, who gaze longingly at the lucky ones already seated. The food, served in metal trays and plastic baskets on picnic tables, is simple and fresh, sourced from the Eastern seaboard. A large party should order big—the Super Cool Platter has peel-and-eat shrimp (juicy and sweet), Sewansecott oysters, from Virginia (a bit puny), or Malpeques, from Prince Edward Island (nice and big), king-crab legs (a little dry), and Maine lobster (just right). Steam pots have more of the same, but hot, with corn and potatoes. Fried Ipswich belly clams are succulent, crab cakes are the wet Maryland style, the wedge salad is drenched in dressing. Get the blue crabs if you’re in the mood for a project—they’re a lot of work for a little payoff. (And even less when they’re dusted with not enough Old Bay.) An aspirational dish of plump seared scallops with bacon-laced kale and a Hamptons vibe seems out of place, but is no less delicious for it.
The savvy staff has learned that communication is the key to a happy relationship, and one evening, a solicitous waiter divulged that a simple design flaw is the cause of those onerous waits: the kitchen is too small to keep up. So far, that hasn’t stopped hipsters young and old from flooding the place, and the restaurant is already advertising a “Sunday football special,” with assurance that the upper deck will be “fully enclosed and heated, with spectacular harbor views.” That warm summer night, as the sky turned pink behind the Statue of Liberty to the west, a Manhattanite looked to the east and cried gleefully, “I see Ikea!” (Open daily for dinner. Entrées $13-$49.) ♦
Shauna Lyon is the editor of Goings On About Town.
Source: Brooklyn Crab - The New Yorker