Monday, March 7, 2011

Not so crazy about The Crazy Crab

Normally I try to stay positive when writing about restaurants. If I don't like the food, don't like the service I don't write about the experience... However, I spent the last few days in Hilton Head, South Carolina and had such a difficult experience with a restaurant that I'm going to break my own rules.

There were four of us who trekked to The Crazy Crab to eat. All frequent restaurants and know good service and good food. One is a caterer extraordinaire. She knows food! I'm simply a food critic. The others are well traveled. All of us have different culinary tastes, but all agreed we wouldn't be going back to The Crazy Crab.

We chose the restaurant as the wrap-up restaurant for a wonderful trip after doing a search on the Internet for seafood places in the area. The menu looked good, the location was great and it seemed like it would be perfect. Yes, we were on Hilton Head off-season, but the restaurant was open. The crowd was light. Since you have to pay $5 to get into the area (Harbourtown), it was off-season and after hours with all the cute shops and the lighthouse were closed, it wasn't surprising to see only a few diners in the restaurant.

We waited and talked for a while before finally flagging down someone to find us a server. Not an auspicious start! The woman who came over seemed a bit resentful, with somewhat good reason I guess as it turned out she wasn't our 'official' server.

When the drinks came, our 'official' server brought them. Nice guy, nice smile, very pleasant.

We asked what the specialties were and were told the Crazy Crab Boil, Steamed Shrimp, and Steamed Seafood Pot if I remember correctly. None were on our list of things to eat when you wanted to go out afterward and not smell fishy, so we opted for their Stuffed Flounder (two of us), Blackened Mahi Mahi (me) and Fried Shrimp.

Salads were separate, two of us ordered them.

First, the hush puppies and bread. None of us tried the bread, the hush puppies were the draw. They were dry, and seemed like possibly they'd been sitting out too long. I don't believe anyone finished one. They were the topic of conversation at the table and we even had a discussion about them in the car on the way home. Not good. I guess we'd been spoiled by the hush puppies we'd had at other restaurants. These didn't even merit making it onto the bottom of the list.

I had asked the first server about the veggies and was told they had a medley only (cauliflower, broccoli and carrots). I don't like cooked carrots or cauliflower so asked if they could just give me broccoli. I've been doing that for as long as I can remember and never had anyone at any level restaurant say no. At The Crazy Crab the stand-in and the regular server both said no. Our 'official' server said he'd try when I did a little bit of wheedling

I did have a little more broccoli than carrots and cauliflower as compared to the others, so maybe he got the cook to kinda-sorta try.

However, since I sent the entire plate back, it ended up not mattering! My Mahi Mahi was chewy, tough and ultra dry.

Mahi Mahi is supposed to have a sweet, mild taste, be firm but have large flakes. If you like swordfish you'll probably like Mahi Mahi. This piece was flat-out overcooked and stringy. I tried a bite and thought maybe I'd work my way through it. I tried a little nibble from the other end of the piece, then asked our caterer for her opinion as she loved Mahi Mahi, too. She scrunched up her face and said nope, not right.

I sent it back, something I rarely, if ever, do. I asked for a bowl of She Crab Soup instead.

I'd had a cup of She Crab Soup for lunch at another restaurant but didn't mind a repeat. Once I received it and took a taste, I wasn't impressed. It had a pepper and sweet taste, but still managed to be bland without much of a crab flavor. I ate it though as I was hungry.

Neither of our troupe who tried the Stuffed Flounder were happy with it. One ate half, the other ate less than a third of it. It was dry, the stuffing had more bread than fish and was dry also. It tasted to me like it had sugar in it, but I'm rather sensitive to sweet and could be wrong. We were disappointed to say the least.

The vegetables were all overcooked, almost mushy. That kind of made me feel good in a weird way given I'd sent mine back. I love broccoli!

One positive note about the meal - the fried shrimp was excellent! We all munched on that one plate of shrimp.

We asked to the manager, or maybe the owner, after we'd finished. We simply wanted to share our displeasure in a very, positive way. We didn't ask for, or expect, to receive any discount. We discussed it prior to calling him over --- should we or should we not share our experience? Most people who are unhappy simply pay, leave and never come back. We decided we should share. He was nice, said thank you for sharing, said he hadn't had any complaints all day. Now, given the light crowd, not having any complaints all day didn't really mean a lot, but we just smiled politely and let him move on. I usually don't complain unless things are horrific so it was an interesting experience.

When we received the bill we noted he had removed the Mahi Mahi I sent back from the total and that I had not been charged for the soup. That's a good thing for any restaurant to do.

I doubt that my bit of sharing is going to have much of an impact on The Crazy Crab. They are in an outstanding location, have a great view and the tourist crowd on Hilton Head Island is overwhelming during the season. There will always be large groups frequenting the restaurant after wandering around the beautiful area.

I'll share some of the better experiences we had at restaurants on Hilton Head later, just had to get this one off my list of things to do as it's the only negative on the list! Hilton Head is a fabulous place to visit. I think I probably prefer it off-season when the crowds are light, but there is a lot more to do during the tourist season so it's a trade-off. Of course, prices go up, too...

- jmd

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