Joe’s Crab Shack Files for Bankruptcy

“Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., the operator of the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tavern & Tap chains, has filed for bankruptcy.”

I like seafood, and I have no problem patronizing a moderately-priced seafood chain. In fact, there’s a crying need for solid seafood offerings between Long John Silver’s and Truluck’s. (There are some, but not nearly enough.)

Despite all that, I haven’t eaten at a Joe’s Crab Shack in more than a decade. By way of context, here’s my review of Joe’s Crab Shack from way back in February of 2003:


OK, we finally bit the bullet and tried Joe’s Crab Shack. It was as loud, noisy, and crowded as I expect, with just about every cliche from Making It’s classic “Good Taste: You Can’t Afford” cartoon on how to make a killing in the restaurant business, including decor from BMTCRSC.

Service was a mixed bag: While attentive and prompt, I have fundamentally philosophical objections to a restaurant where the servers are encouraged to sing and dance their way through The Village People’s “YMCA.” (To callow Generation Y-ers, Disco is instant kitsch. For those of us who lived through it, it’s a war crime.)

And the food? The gumbo was on the thin side, and the salad unexceptional. Calamari was OK, but nothing to write home about. I went for the steak, crab, and shrimp combo. Tasty enough. but it’s hard to screw up crab legs. My biggest complaint is about the size of the portions. The crab portions were OK, and the side of shrimp, though skimpy for scampi, was still in the acceptable range. But the steak was tiny, as were the portions of crab claws appetizers. (I note that you used to be able to get two-three times as many crab claws from Landry’s, but guess what? It’s not there anymore! Yes the Landry’s that used to be on Lake Austin Boulevard has been replaced with (wait for it) another Joe’s Crab Shack! Converting a Landry’s into a Joe’s Crab Shack is like converting a Bennigan’s into a Planet Hollywood. Yeah, there’s a difference, but not one that’s going to stir any real food lover to the battlements. As to what this says about the taste of the average Austin diner I leave as an exercise for the reader.)

I know such a judgment may not be popular with the Trendoids, but I think Red Lobster offers better food at a better price, and even for loud, noisy seafood barns, the fare at Pappadeaux blows this place away.


There’s a Brick House Tavern a couple of miles from my house and I’ve never eaten there, either. I wouldn’t mind giving it a try if the atmosphere isn’t as loud and obnoxious.

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Random observation.

When we first started doing the SDC (and when we first started doing the logs), there was no such thing as an automatic paper towel dispenser.

When we first started seeing them around town, it was worthy of note, though perhaps in a hip post-ironic way. “Ooooooooh, this is a fancy joint. They have  an automatic paper towel dispenser!”

Today, when I go somewhere and they don’t have an automatic paper towel dispenser, I’m a little shocked. “You mean I have to touch the handle? I have to get the paper towels out with my hands? Like an animal?!”

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Pao’s Mandarin House in Lakeway (temporarily?) closed.

You now know exactly as much as I do. I’m sure everyone knows that Pao’s (first in the old downtown location, and then out in Lakeway) was a Saturday Dining Conspiracy favorite. I’m hoping the renodeling is brief and that they reopen soon: watch this space for updates.

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Other Austin Restaurant Openings and Closings

Dwight’s coverage of Hudson on the Bend’s closing reminded me that I wanted to put up a list of restaurant openings and closings of note. These are places we’ve either eaten at, thought about eating at, or plan on eating at.

Openings

  • Cannon + Belle (500 E 4th St, (512) 493-4900): “Creative farm-to-table comfort fare.” Took over Finn & Porter’s space in the Hilton Austin downtown.
  • Culinary Dropout (11721 Rock Rose #100, (512) 777-3394): Gastropub chain.
  • DeSano Pizza Bakery (8000 Burnet Rd, (512) 323-2426): Nashville chain.
  • Kemuri-Tatsuya (2713 East 2nd Street, (512) 893-5561): New restaurant by the Ramen Tatsu-ya people.
  • Kuneho (1600 East 6th Street Austin, (512) 436-9626): Paul Qui’s new restaurant.
  • Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen (11617 Research Blvd., (512) 953-9283): New location of the Houston-based Cajun restaurant chain.

Closings

As for closings, this list got me started, as well as Eater, Rob Balon and Community Impact.

  • Ajishin Sushi & Noodle
  • Bacon
  • Doc’s Motor Works
  • El Arroyo (Far West)
  • El Azteca
  • El Gallo
  • EZ’s Brick and Oven
  • Finn & Porter
  • Hudson’s on the Bend
  • Margarita’s Mexican Grill
  • Olivia
  • Qui
  • Sao Paulo’s
  • Satay
  • Schmidt Family BBQ (Lakeway)
  • Zed’s

Miscellaneous

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Hudson’s on the Bend closed.

Hudson’s on the Bend, one of Austin’s higher-end restaurants, shut down abruptly yesterday afternoon, according to a report in the Statesman.

This is kind of a shame. We had several excellent and memorable meals at the old Hudson’s. But last year, Jeff Blank (who founded the restaurant) sold it to a new ownership group. (My recollection is that he had some health issues.) It seemed to me that the restaurant was “closed for remodeling” a lot longer than the new owners had originally expected. They eventually did re-open, but had only been open for three months before yesterday’s closure. I was kind of looking forward to trying it again at some point when everyone was flush, but they hadn’t been open long enough, the next special occasion is in April, and…well…

The new owners apparently aren’t saying a lot about what prompted the shutdown, but my guess is simply money. I think the remodeling took longer and cost more than they expected, and they probably just ran out of funds.

It will be interesting to see what goes into that space. Their next-door neighbor, The Hill Country Pasta House, was sold and re-opened as 827 Ray’s last year after what was also a long remodeling. We haven’t tried it.

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Two Girls Eat Carolina Reaper Peppers

You know, the ones that clock in at 2.2 million Scoville units.

It does not go well for them. (Some NSFW language.)

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Man Killed Over Cutting in Line for Taco Truck

Important safety tip: Try not to kill anyone over cutting in line for a taco trick.

Just after bar-close at 2:38 a.m. on Sunday, May 8th, the Austin Police Department responded to a report of gunfire at what appears to be the Tortillas Hecha a Manos taco truck in Lanier Village, just south of Peyton Gin and North Lamar. When police arrived, they found 39-year-old Rigoberto Jose Castillo dead and three others injured, one critically.

You may be asking, what could have caused all this mayhem? As the story goes, it all began when someone allegedly cut in line for tacos.

According to witnesses, a fight started over who was in line for tacos first. Nobody appreciates the wait for a taco, but police say that Mr. Castillo took special exception to the alleged line-cutting when two men, Osiel Benitez Benitez, 44, and Juventino Benitez Carbajal, 38, allegedly attempted to order out of line.

Things escalated to fisticuffs between Rigoberto and Osiel Benitez, the police report says, leaving Benitez unconscious on the ground, before all hell broke loose. Police go on to claim that a moment later Carbajal went to his truck, pulled out a gun, and began firing into the group of patrons. In addition to Castillo’s death, three women were also injured.

It’s also a bad idea to try and cut in line for a taco trailer. Upside: You get your taco faster. Downside: Getting shot to death over tacos. Plus it’s just not polite…

(Cross-posted from Futuramen. Hat tip: Bill Crider.)

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Austin Chef Paul Qui Arrested

This certainly qualifies as Austin dining news:

Austin chef and restaurateur Paul Qui was arrested Saturday morning accused of assaulting his girlfriend, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police responded to Qui’s apartment in East Austin just before 8 a.m. after receiving a call from Qui’s friend who said “his friend and his girlfriend were fighting” in the apartment. When officers arrived, they heard screaming and yelling coming from the apartment before the door was opened, continued in the court documents

When Qui, 31, opened the door, officers noted he had “blood all over his face, arms, legs and clothing.” Officers noticed the woman inside the apartment was crying and clutching a small child, according to the affidavit. Officers reported the apartment was in disarray with furniture and glass broken—blood was also found smeared on the walls and the floor of the apartment, according to the affidavit.

Qui was released on $20,000 bail.

Dwight and I haven’t eaten at his namesake restaurant Qui yet. And evidently they’ve recently gone to a prix fixe menu, which we don’t tend to gravitate toward.

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Korean Girls Try American BBQ

Here’s the sort of cross-cultural appreciation I can get behind:

A tad long, but worth watching. Especially since they save the brisket and pork ribs until the end…

(Cross-posted from Futuramen.)

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Restaurant Closing: Golden Wok

Although there’s no sign up on their website, Golden Wok Chinese restaurant closed January 5. We were thinking of eating there Saturday, but when I called their phone just rang and rang. I finally called one of their San Antonio locations, who confirmed they had closed just the day before.

Too bad. They were a pretty good restaurant, and you could order Dim Sum for dinner. My guess is that the space is just too large for a Chinese restaurant to be profitable, but I suspect a great Cajun place, BBQ joint or hamburger joint could do very well there…

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