Shaw's Crab House is a longtime Chicago institution that serves some of the best seafood in the Midwest. I recently took some guys from a new dealer I have to the Schaumburg location (see map) for dinner.
The original Shaw's Crab House opened in 1984 in downtown Chicago (see map). The restaurant was developed by Kevin Brown of Richard Melman's Lettuce Entertain You group. Brown had worked for Melman for seven years working at R.J. Grunts in the Lincoln Park area, then as the manager of the famous Pump Room. In founding and developing Shaw's Crab House, Brown decided to name the restaurant after his father-in-law, Chuck Shaw, who was an avid fisherman.
Shaw's soon garnered a reputation as having some of the freshest varieties of Chesapeake and Atlantic seafood in the Chicagoland area. Much of their fresh catch was flown into Chicago each day via air from the east coast. And it's still done that day, down to Alaskan oysters that are caught and 48 hours later they're at Shaw's ready to be consumed.
I first ate at the Shaw's downtown in 1988. It was a great meal from what I remember. Since then, I've eaten at the downtown location once more over the years. But I've eaten at the one in Schaumburg on the southeast side of Woodfield Mall about four or five times since it opened in the mid-90's.
Actually, Shaw's is two restaurants in one. You have the elegant dining room on one side (right), and the more casual Oyster Bar on the other. The dining room is reminiscent of a 1940's style Maryland supper club. The menu is chock full of seafood specialties, as well as steaks and chicken.
The oyster bar is more casual, but not as casual like a Joe's Crab Shack or Landry's Seafood restaurant. The menu isn't as extensive as the one in the main dining room, but it's still similar. There's more varieties of oysters on the half shell to choose from on the Oyster Bar menu, although I'm sure that all varieties are available in the main dining room.
We decided to eat in the Oyster Bar at Shaw's the night we were there. The dining room has a stuffy elegance to it, while the Oyster Bar is more fun. They have a true oyster bar where you can sidle up and watch them shuck the oysters while you enjoy a nice cold beer.
Every once in a while, I have to go all out and get what I like to call "Seafood Overload". It's eating different types of seafood until I'm so stuffed that I can't eat any longer. I have a good story that I'll share with you sometime about a trip to Daytona Beach about five years ago and had a "Seafood Overload" dinner at the Ocean Deck restaurant along the beach.
The night we were at Shaw's, I was up for the "Seafood Overload", so we started out with a couple orders of shrimp cocktails, some sushi and a couple dozen oysters on the half shell. The seafood was so fresh, you would have thought we were sitting in New England and not in Chicago.
We then ordered up some Florida Stone Crab, which had just come into season. Shaw's runs monthly specials on in-season seafood and the Stone Crab was just as good as I remember when I first ate some at the famous Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach.
With this, they also serve you the famous Shaw's garlic rolls - similar to those sinfully wonderful things served at Bob Chinn's. Although I do like the ones at Chinn's better, the Shaw's garlic rolls are tough to beat.
We were still hungry and we decided to order up an entree. I went with the sea scallops sauteed in garlic butter, while one of the other guys got the grilled salmon in an Asian barbecue sauce. And though it wasn't offered on the Oyster Bar menu, our waiter allowed the other guest to get the crab stuffed baked flounder from the main dining menu. I almost went with that, but decided that may be too rich - especially since I was on the verge of "Seafood Overload".
We also ordered a bottle of a Brander sauvignon blanc wine that one of my guests was familiar with, but I wasn't. It was reasonably priced at $33.95. I will have to say that it was very good and it was a perfect complement to our meal.
And like every meal I've had at Shaw's, the food was excellent. The scallops sauteed in garlic butter were perfect. My guest who had the grilled salmon said it was excellent, and the other guy who got the crab stuffed flounder reported that his was great, as well. But just as I feared, it was too rich and he had trouble finishing the whole thing.
With the appetizers, wine and entrees, the bill came to about $250 with tip. We went overboard on the appetizers (a dozen oysters on the half-shell were $24 bucks - we had two dozen along with the other stuff), but I can assure you that "Seafood Overload" was achieved by all three of us that evening.
A lot of people don't like the Lettuce Entertain You empire, but the restaurants are all run independently and have a character all their own. And Shaw's Crab House is certainly no exception to that. If you're in need of a seafood fix and you're in downtown Chicago or in the NW suburbs, I heartily recommend Shaw's.