The Boiling Crab in Alhambra is one of the many splendored cultural mish-mashes that define the City of Angels. An authentic Louisiana-style fish boil restaurant by way of Texas owned and operated by Asians in the heart of the Dim Sum and Far Eastern noodle spots in East LA.
The cozy, bluesy place opens at noon on the weekends and the line forms a good half hour before the drinking hour begins. Be one of the first dozen parties on the list and you’re guaranteed a table when the stampede begins.
The décor is authentic southern. Mardi Gras beads are slung over wood ceiling beams and every inch of the oak walks are hand-strewn with crayola graffiti announcing that “Gozar was here” or that the “Dodgers rule.” It seems every diner is eager to leave a piece of himself at the Boiling Crab which is only fitting since the Boiling Crab leaves a lot of itself with you after you leave – mostly under your fingernails.
True to its name, the BC specializes in all things crustacean. You can order, shrimp, crab legs, whole blue crab or crawfish by the pound. Choose from three different prep sauces (garlic-butter, lemon-pepper or rajun Cajun) and three temperature levels of each, and let the games begin.
A pound of shrimp prawns each the length of your wrist-to-pinky-tip arrives smoking hot in a double-plastic bag just bubbling with the sauce of choice. A small cob of corn falls to the table as the waiter ceremoniously dumps the food onto the wax-paper-tablecloth. Like any good boil restaurant there are no utensils and only a roll of paper towels atop each eating spot.
Do not, by any means think you’re too cool for the complimentary bib because your meal will become a rouge-red-spotted accessory to your outfit otherwise. To say dress is casual overstates the obvious – if you’ve recently painted your living room, those are exactly the clothes to wear.
The shrimp in the Cajun sauce are decadently snappy creatures with the spices and melted butter rendering them dessert-like. Leslie opted for a pound of crawfish which were larger than the average bugs and gloriously sloppy to shuck and suck.
A variety of deep-fried offerings – catfish, shrimp and Cajun fries are a meal unto themselves, but more appropriate for the automysophobics in the group.
There’s a science to this messy madness and that is, simply stack a couple dozen paper towels to your left and position the straw in your soda close on your right so that a lean-and-slurp strategy prevents the need to touch anything other than your food.
A good half roll of towels later, a pile of empty shrimp shells and crawfish carcasses are stacked high in the center of the table like a fishy pyramid paying homage to the flavor gods of the Deep South. If you long for a trip to the Gulf Coast just five minutes off the 10 freeway, then a trek to the Boiling Crab will exceed expectations. Finally, a place where openly sucking and licking your fingers is not only condoned, but mandatory.