Junior Grant Miner and senior Connor Martin enjoy "XXX spicy ragin' Cajun" shrimp at the Boiling Crab. The restaurant first opened in Southern California and has expanded as far as Texas. (Photo by Cissy Shi)

Deep-fried fish, okra, ribs: Sac’s own comfort food

The Boiling Crab

It’s always nice to go to a fancy restaurant and sit down to eat (overpriced) cuisine while in your Sunday best.

But sometimes you don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant.

Sometimes you want to cast your silverware and forget all those “good manners” that Mommy and Daddy taught you.

That’s why you go to the Boiling Crab.

The Boiling Crab is a seafood restaurant that began in Texas. Since then it’s grown to six locations: four in California, one in Las Vegas and the original in Houston.

Their Sacramento location is at 6910 65th St. in South Sac. It’s hard to miss. You’ll know it by the large number of people milling around outside, as the place is always crowded.

The decor looks like someone opened a Joe’s Crab Shack in a sports bar. Fleets of flatscreens showing the latest from Sportscenter adorn the walls amongst the hanging nautical memorabilia.

Their motto (so important they devoted a full page to it in their menu) is “Eat With Your Hands!” They aren’t kidding around here. I don’t think I saw a single piece of silverware in that place.

Your first clue that you’re eating at a different kind of restaurant is being seated at a table covered in butcher paper with only a bib for a place setting.

Your menu is just as simple. You choose between lobster, crab, shrimp or crawfish and order by the pound (yes, the pound). Their  prices vary daily according to market price.

For example, my one pound of shrimp (enough to feed one person, if they’re hungry) was $11.

You then choose your sauce: a choice between  Cajun, garlic or lemon pepper. Their sauces come in varying degrees of spiciness: none, mild, medium or XXX.

I’m no pushover when it comes to spice tolerance, but the medium had me tearing up by the time I was through.

In addition to shellfish, they also have a “Something Fried” menu, which serves fried dishes such as calamari and catfish over their french fries.

Their side menu is a little too minimal, as it includes only french fries, both sweet potato and regular (and extra condiments for 50 cents, but I’ll let that slide).

When my sweet potato fries arrived, I was brought nothing to put my ketchup in. As it turns out, you’re supposed to put that butcher paper to use: it’s as much a condiment holder as it is a placemat.

In addition to their boycott of silverware, The Boiling Crab also seems averse to using plates, as all their food comes in  bags.

A warning to the uninitiated: the shellfish is cooked and then placed directly into the bag. That means that you’re going to need to twist off the head and peel off the shell yourself.

As for the details of my order, I had ordered one pound of Cajun shrimp, medium spicy. I can safely say that one pound is more than enough for one person, though I managed to power through the whole bag. Let’s just blame that on my “reporter’s perseverance.”

At the end of my meal, my hands were covered in sauce, and I had a pile of shrimp heads a mile high. The trick is to not wipe your hands until the very end because they’re just going to get dirty again. Thankfully, the bill comes with two packets of Wet Ones and a mint (aimed at those who ate the garlic, I think).

While limited in its menu, The Boiling Crab is a great place to sit down, have fun and fling all manners to the wind. And  enjoy  delicious food, too.

—Grant Miner

The Porch

Aaah, Southern food. Say what you want about the health benefits (or lack thereof). There’s a reason we call it comfort food: one can always depend on its deep-fried, buttery goodness to give one’s taste buds some TLC. This is something that The Porch reproduces.

The Porch was opened by the owners of Capitol Garage, a favorite hangout for state workers on lunch break, in late 2011. It took the space of Celestin’s Island Eats and Cajun Cuisine on 19th and K, a long-time (28-year) favorite of the area that had closed two months before.

The inside of the restaurant looks like something right out of the French Quarter, complete with plantation French doors leading out to the porch. The exterior is the same, with an old hanging sign and lamps hung on whitewashed columns.

The first things I ordered were a Diet Coke, cornbread and some fried green tomatoes, two staples of Southern cuisine.

Being a lover of cornbread, I was, needless to say, excited when the appetizers arrived. Yet something was wrong.

And herein lies the main problem—or virtue, depending on your opinion of Southern food—of The Porch.

This isn’t Grandma’s cornbread; it’s roasted pumpkin and curry cornbread with applewood smoked bacon, green tomato jam and jalapeño honey butter.

The tomatoes won’t come in a french-fry style basket, but on one long plate served with shredded lettuce, half an egg and a Thousand Island-based sauce.

Yes, this is a Southern restaurant started by (gasp) Californians.

These dishes weren’t bad, not in any sense of the word. In fact, they were quite good. However, they weren’t quite Southern.

However, one meal any purist can find solace in is their Buttermilk Fried Chicken.

It comes with three large pieces of chicken (I was still eating it for lunch the next day), two sides and a biscuit. My sides of choice were grits and candied yams and marshmallows, or at least they would have been if they weren’t “fresh out.” (Literally fresh out: I could only watch sadly as the couple who came in before ate their yams). I ordered the fried okra instead.

In stark contrast to my appetizers, this meal was just what I expected. The okra was nice and crispy, the grits weren’t too watery and the chicken was sublime.

The Porch is an interesting place. Someone who stumbles in with no preconceptions will sit down to a meal that they’ll thoroughly enjoy, while someone who goes looking for Southern food may walk away a bit disappointed.

—Grant Miner

T&R Barbecue 

T&R Barbecue’s hearty food is so good, it’s therapeutic. In many ways, it epitomizes the perfect comfort food joint.

The area is a bit rundown, as T&R Barbecue (3621 Broadway) is located near the heart of Oak Park. The homely burnt-orange shack, surrounded by a flower bed full of weeds, is an eyesore.

But as I entered, the strong scent of barbecue sauce and fried food quickly made me forget the lack of interior design.

The restaurant’s beef ribs, smothered in sauce, were slow-cooked, and the smokiness wasn’t overwhelming.

Similarly slathered in sauce, the juicy pulled pork warms the soul. And because the pork was cooked to perfection, each forkful melted in my mouth.

T&R’s sweet potato tater tots are just as irresistible.

While the outsides remain crispy, the insides are perfectly soft. To make them even tastier, they’re also caramelized in brown sugar and topped with cinnamon.

In addition, ordering the food was pleasant.

A surprisingly lanky woman wearing an apron kindly greeted us and took our orders at the counter.

In terms of food, T&R has everything barbecue.

With eight sides ranging from coleslaw to corn gumbo, and meat ranging from tri-tip to chicken thighs, T&R covers all of the comfort food bases.

I thought things couldn’t get better, but it turns out that T&R also serves fried ribs ($11.99). If that’s not enough, they have a series of ice-cream floats to top off the meal.

And T&R does as well with their sandwiches and other non-barbecue dishes.

The sweet white corn and chicken strips with a side of tots ($7.99) was equally as enjoyable as the barbecue.

Most of the meat comes in a massive sandwich form too, including the heaping barbecue tri-tip sandwich ($7.99) and the “World famous not in Philly PHILLY” ($7.99).

Unfortunately, the only drinks available are bottled water, canned tea and soda. For some reason, T&R doesn’t have cups or ice for the room temperature water.

In general, the clientele was stocky, and it made sense. Each serving, whether it be sandwich or platter, equates to about three in normal circumstances, so what I had for dinner became lunch for the next day.

Now I know. And on my next visit I’ll come with an empty stomach—and a party of five.

—Maxwell Shukuya

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