I’ll admit something here that probably won’t come as a surprise to any to anyone who is a regular reader of this blog: I’m not the hugest fan of chain restaurants, mostly because there are usually so many interesting and unique local places around. There are some chains out there that we think are pretty good, though, and I feel like we should give credit where credit is due when a chain serves up some really tasty food. All of which brings me to Joe’s Crab Shack, a place famous for its double-entendre t-shirts and decor that can only be described as parrot-head dadaist. I admit to having a great deal of skepticism on our drive into the Destin location, but our food was really good, and the service was pretty decent.
The folks that designed Joe’s menu are smart: they know that their average customer is probably on vacation (or at least wants to FEEL like they’re on vacation) and so they have some pretty fun drinks on the menu – like the “Corona-rita” that Jess ordered (see right). I didn’t think the taste was anything special, but I admit that I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to beer. She thought it was pretty tasty, though, and it was certainly a spectacle to watch her drink it. Her mom and dad opted for the “Category 5 Hurricane,” a potent but yummy version of the hurricane with three types of rum – I helped myself to more than one “taste test” of the sweet and stout drink. As for myself, I decided to just go all out with the parrot-head idea and order a Landshark Lager, which although not a challenging beer by any stretch of the imagination, was better than the other draft beers they had available (the Bud-Miller-Coors usual suspects).
For her entrée, Jess chose Joe’s Surf and Turf Burger, a thick burger topped with fried shrimp and onion strings along with the typical burger toppings. The shrimp and onion strings were excellent, well-cooked and crisp and loaded with flavor. The pepper-crusted beef itself was pretty good, although Jess said it was a bit dry – and cooked to a solid well-done brown despite her request that it be cooked medium. The fries were crisp outside and mealy inside – which is all we really ask for in a fry. Overall, a solid dish, and it made me wish more people would put seafood on a burger.
For my entrée, I got the Skillet Paella, which despite the name was really more like jambalaya than true paella. That’s the only mistake this dish made though, packing andouille sausage and shrimp into spicy seasoned rice and topping it with clams, mussels, and crispy calamari. This was a dish that kept on giving, because every time I thought I was down to just rice I would spoon up another shrimp or find a bit of clam that I had missed. The mussels and clams both were tender and fresh-tasting, and of a good size, too. The flavors were spot on, with a good tomato-flavored sauce that was just spicy enough to make me glad I had that Landshark to wash it down. Joe’s menu is a study in indulgence and overeating, but a dish like this makes that so much fun.
All in all, we were all pretty pleased with our meal at Joe’s, and it proved that sometimes a chain place can be pretty satisfying. This is the only Joe’s location I’ve eaten at, and while I didn’t get the crab (or a t-shirt), I had lot of fun eating there. Joe’s Crab Shack is located at 14055 Emerald Coast Parkway in Destin, and they’re open for lunch and supper daily.