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Cajun seafood storms Chicago

August 18 2015 - 9:00 AM

They say it’s all in the presentation…so would you believe it that people are waiting for hours to get into a restaurant that serves its food in plastic bags? If you’re up on your restaurant game you may have heard of a little place called The Angry Crab up in West Rogers Park.

I’m not sure how this place became such a destination spot, but I will say after checking it out myself, I understand why. It turns out The Angry Crab is less of an anomaly and more of a legitimate food trend. Head a bit farther North into Skokie and you’ll find TAC’s long lost brother, The Boiler. The two are basically identical, and not in a bad way. Here’s the scoop on both of these new spots.

The BoilerThe Concept

If you’re looking for an authentic, messy Cajun seafood experience, go no further. These two restaurants are the real deal. Pick your seafood by the pound (peel and eat shrimp, any kind of crab you can think of, lobster, crawfish, mussels and more) and then match it with a sauce. You can opt for an intense garlic sauce, a lemon pepper sauce, traditional Cajun or a combo of all three.

Your order shows up in a giant plastic bag, drowning in sauce that’s just asking you to dip your corn or crab leg in. It’s an eat with your hands experience, sauce dripping down your arms, while wearing a seafood catching bib.

The Ambiance

Both spots are family friendly joints. There is writing all over the walls, although definitely more of a beachy vibe at TAC vs. The Boiler. Sinks are easily accessible for post-meal out in the restaurants. There isn’t a great place to wait at either place, and you’ll definitely have to. Be prepared to hang out outside or put your name down and come back and hour (or two) later.

oystersThe Food

Whoever said you can’t get fresh seafood in the Midwest is about to eat their words. I was pretty blown away with the quality of the seafood and loved the simplicity of the Cajun style. Even though there is a lot of sauce in those bags, since the menu is shellfish you can really put as much or as little on as you want.

Some standouts for me were the oysters at The Boiler – raw, sauce-free but incredible quality and the biggest I’ve ever seen- and the mussels at TAC – again, huge, and open to soak up the delicious sauce. Make sure you get the crab claws if they are on (or off) the menu when you stop by. It’s the easiest way to get a ton of crab meat without all the hassle.

Now onto those sauces. I thought the garlic sauce at The Boiler was outstanding. It paired well with shrimp, and you could dip in some fresh lime juice for a nice burst of acidity. At TAC it’s all about that combo sauce. While Boiler’s was definitely good, it was a bit too salty for my taste. TAC’s had a great balance, and I liked the mild version for just a hint of spice.

The Verdict

These Cajun seafood spots are a true experience. If you’re a seafood lover who wants the freshest there is in Chicago, and you don’t mind a little extra work, head up North to these two new hotspots. If we’re lucky, the trend will catch on and we’ll see more of these popping up around the city.

The Boiler
theboilerrestaurant.com
3445 Dempster Rd.
Skokie, IL 60076

The Angry Crab
5665 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60659

 

 

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