579 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham
Food 3 C’s (out of 5)
Service 3.5 C’s
friendliness 3.5 C’s
What do you do when the kids are longing for the carefree spirit of summer? When the memories of sand castles are starting to fade? The Family Chow decided to head to Joe’s Crab Shack to see if we could recreate a summer vibe while wallowing in buckets of seafood and melted butter.
The relatively new Latham branch of the Joe’s chain has been brimming with people waiting to get in every time we drive by. But early one Monday evening, we got lucky and were whisked to a booth without a wait or a reservation. Joe’s is set up for fun, with an open main area, a nice deck for al fresco dining and a long bar as you walk in. Noise tends to bounce off the copious metal inside the restaurant, so we prepared ourselves for a loud meal. The open feeling includes the low-backed booths which allowed for an amusing show of fellow diners as they hammered and picked their way through dinner. To add to the fun, there was a face-painting station, and the waitstaff broke out into a choreographed dance midway through our meal!
As Son studied the nautical map built into our table, the rest of us studied the menus. Although the emphasis is on seafood, a landlubber would find plenty to pick from, including hamburgers, steaks, ribs and chicken tenders. Most of the main dishes ran from $13 to a high of $42 for a steampot meant for sharing. The numerous seafood entrees and combo platters included salmon, shrimp, crab cakes and mahi mahi. The stars of the menu were the steampots different varieties of crab legs served in a bucket with corn and potato; some with shrimp, lobster and/or sausage. The calorie counts helped us avoid some diet pitfalls, like the Big Hook Up Platter at a whopping 2,600-plus calories. The kids menu was color coded to make it easier to pick a “more balanced meal.” Prices for kid meals (mac and cheese, chicken tenders, fish fingers) were around $5, including a side and drink. Kids could also choose between two steampots ($10). There was a very tempting, creative drink menu that included a pina colada served in a pineapple, a “shark bite” drink with blood red grenadine and several drinks served in mason jars.
We agreed to start off with the Double Dip ($8.59): one pot each of crab dip and spinach artichoke. Dad and Daughter both preferred the spinach dip, although everyone (minus Son) appreciated the real crab flavor of the crab dip. As our entrees arrived, our server kindly strapped a plastic bib around Mom’s shoulders to prepare her for the onslaught of flying shell pieces. Dad wasted no time working on his Seaside Platter ($16.29) of fish and chips, shrimp and breaded scallops. He enjoyed the tender texture of the shrimp and scallops, but did not enjoy the fish and chips given the small amount of fish relative to the overly hard batter. While Mom is no fishmonger, she did fairly well at removing most of the crabmeat from the dungeness and queen crabs in her Ragin Cajun Steam Pot ($26.99). The crabmeat was tender and sweet, heavenly when dipped in melted butter that unfortunately, arrived much later than the entree. The overcooked shrimp were not a favorite, and with all of the hammering and prying, Mom did not have the appetite left to try the sausage or sad-looking corn. Daughter liked her “perfectly crunchy” coconut shrimp ($13.39), and the pineapple plum dipping sauce and coleslaw. Although Son wasn’t raving about his Chicken Dippers, he did give his fries a thumbs-up and pronounced his dish “small, but filling.”
Although we barely saved enough room, we did manage to share a Crabby Apple Crumble for dessert that was mediocre except for the tasty cinnamon ice cream. Overall, for a $100-plus meal for four, we felt some of the emphasis on “fun” might be better spent on improving the food especially the non-crab offerings.
We give Joe’s Crab Shack 3.5 C’s for service, 3.5 C’s for family friendliness and 3 C’s for food.
The Family Chow hails from the Capital District and contribute regular reviews of area restaurants based on service, food and family friendliness.