Monday, July 17, 2017

The Mad Crab Opens in University City Today

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 6:50 AM

Crawfish are a specialty at the Mad Crab. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • Crawfish are a specialty at the Mad Crab.

The new restaurant that opens today on Olive Boulevard will seem familiar to food lovers who live in Texas or California. But for St. Louis diners, it may be something new entirely.

Mad Crab (8080 Olive Boulevard, University City) focuses on seafood — simple, boiled fruits of the sea, as tasty and as spicy as you want it. Customers choose oyster, lobster, crab, shrimp (head on or head off!), crawfish, clams or mussels. Then they pick a flavor — options include "Rajun Cajun," lemon pepper, garlic sauce or a combination — and a spice level. The kitchen shakes it all up, then deposits it on your table, which is covered with paper. You dig in, no utensils necessary.

You can also incorporate corn, potatoes or rice, or order sausage if you're not into seafood. Or, if you're not feeling the whole boiled-by-the-pound option, you can choose from a variety of fried baskets — Cajun fries plus either fried catfish, fried shrimp or chicken tenders. Prices are reasonable ($9 to $11 for those baskets, and by-the-pound seafood starting as low as $6 for the crawfish option. Higher-end options, which include blue crab, Dungeness crab or King Crab legs, are priced seasonally; you'll need to ask your server.

Clams and head-on shrimp. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • Clams and head-on shrimp.

The place is the brainchild of Victor Ho, a Vietnamese immigrant who made his name in the nail supply business (his family owns Max Beauty Source, also on Olive). After his children were grown, Ho sold the beauty business to family members and moved to Dallas. But after seeing the seafood spots there, he knew he was on to something. He's now involved with the business from Dallas and will be flying regularly to St. Louis to assist; his brother Nam Ho will be the manager.

At heart a businessman, Victor Ho loves the simplicity of the concept. "We boil and put the sauce in, put it in a bag, shake it, pour it out on the table," he says. "No silverware. You don't need plates, because you have paper on the table. The way it's run is so easy."

And, he notes, quite popular. In Texas, he observes, "They stand in line to get in." He's confident the Mad Crab will have the same success.

click to enlarge A seafood theme permeates the space. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • A seafood theme permeates the space.

The business is located in the former home of Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro, which closed its doors in May after ten years of business. The Ho family moved quickly to give the space a new gloss, adding a host of nautical touches fitting its seafood theme. Wooden boards that evoke a weathered boat cover the back walls, while wooden posts give the feel of a dock on the Gulf of Mexico. In one corner, a net holds plastic representations of the sea's bounty.

Victor Ho says University City hustled to help them get open in just a few months' time, but there's still one thing they're waiting for — a liquor license. They are working to obtain one, and hope eventually to serve beer and wine.

Scroll down for more photos of the Mad Crab.

Crab legs, coated in seasoning. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • Crab legs, coated in seasoning.

Crawfish start at just $6 per pound. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • Crawfish start at just $6 per pound.

Customers can also choose from a series of fried baskets, including shrimp and catfish. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
  • Customers can also choose from a series of fried baskets, including shrimp and catfish.

click to enlarge The space is casual, with a nautical theme. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The space is casual, with a nautical theme.

click to enlarge The restaurant is opened in the former home of Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro. - PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • PHOTO BY SARAH FENSKE
  • The restaurant is opened in the former home of Kim Son Vietnamese Bistro.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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