Here's another place that I'll never go to again - Joe's Crab Shack. The reason? The food is just plain horrible.
Joe's Crab Shack is part of the Landry's restaurant chain owned by Tillman Fertitta, which includes the Landry Seafood restaurants and the Rainforest Cafe restaurants. To see my earlier post on Landry's, click here.
Joe's formula is similar to Landry's and Rainforest Cafe - dazzle 'em with fun so they won't realize the food is crappy. It must work because I always notice how packed places like Landry's, Joe's and the Rainforest Cafe are.
Tom Kirkendall, who writes the Houston's Clear Thinkers blog, pointed out to me after my post on Landry's that one of the other big key's to success of the restaurants is very simple. Nearly every Joe's, Landry's and Rainforest is situated in a great location. And these are high traffic, high visibility locations.
Joe's decor is busy with a lot of kitsch hanging from the ceilings and walls. It's loud and they encourage large gatherings for birthdays and celebrations. The wait staff is usually young, dressed casually, and intentionally interact with the clientele to make them feel comfortable. Joe's atmosphere does a wonderful job of masking the fact the food sucks.
The menu is typical seafood fare that you'd expect from a place like Joe's. Lots of seafood dishes, soups, and sandwiches. They also do steak and chicken dishes that is usually used in combination with seafood.
I've eaten at Joe's three times. The first time, Cindy and I had dinner at the one in St. Peters, MO in 1999. We both started out with a cup of the clam chowder and it was horrible. Some of the worst clam chowder I ever had.
And our dinner wasn't much better. I had the spicy boiled shrimp and it wasn't all that spicy. The shrimp was overcooked, but I could still get 'em down. And the sides of potatoes and corn on the cob were just horrible. The potatoes were cold and the corn was mushy and tasteless. Other than the shrimp, everything was just inedible.
I figured that I had a bad meal and they all couldn't be that way. About six years ago, I was in Orlando and we got in late on a Saturday night to our hotel. A Joe's was down the street and we figured that since we were closer to the ocean in Florida than in Missouri, the fish would be better. Huh uh. I had the broiled seafood platter that evening and the fish and shrimp were rubbery. I was highly disappointed.
OK, so I usually give a restaurant only a couple chances to dazzle me - I actually gave Joe's THREE chances. The last time I went was about two years ago when I was in Chesterfield, MO at the Hampton Inn. In the lobby I happened to run into a friend of mine who is a rep from Kansas City. He had one of his sales guys with him along with a regional manager for a manufacturer who I knew. The regional manager asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner with them - they were going next door to the new Joe's Crab Shack.
I hesitated and told him that I'd had a couple bad experiences at Joe's. The guy - who was from California - said that he and his wife love the Joe's in southern California. He said, "I've eaten at Joe's all over the country and have never had a bad meal."
Well, I figured out that he was one of the many who get dazzled and caught up in the decor and the way the wait staff interacts with the customers. He was having a good time having the gal put the big bib on him, he loved the big presentation with the mallet to crack the crab shells on the table, and he was sucking back mai tai's like they were water.
I didn't even see anything on the menu that I really wanted, so I got the lobster and shrimp linguine in an alfredo sauce. The pasta was overcooked, I think there were two chunks of lobster and three shrimp with the pasta, and the alfredo sauce was average, at best. It was so disappointing.
But, the guy from California, who had the Crab Daddy Feast, thought the food was outstanding. Maybe the Crab dishes were good, but I'm not about to step foot in another Joe's to find out.
Joe's Crab Shack - along with Landry's and Rainforest Cafe - preys upon people who don't go out to eat all that often, and who like to get entertained during their meal. The sensory overload with the decor, happy wait staff and great locations must mask the horrible taste of the food.
I'm sorry, Mr. Fertitta. I won't be going to Joe's again...