This story was updated Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, at 5:45 p.m.
As we settle into the colder winter months here in Chattanooga, the thoughts of many venture back to warmer days by the sea and the delights of fresh food from the ocean.
A new restaurant in the Hamilton Place area is here to bring some of those delights to diners any time of the year. The Juicy Crab is a restaurant originally founded in Duluth, Georgia, with the goal of Cajun-inspired seafood served hot and fresh and in a way that is uniquely its own.
The Chattanooga location for the Juicy Crab is in a shopping complex across Gunbarrel Road from Hamilton Place. With it tucked between the Dollar Tree and the Aldi grocery store, a diner might not expect to find delights from the sea, although the nautical-themed entrance does give you a hint of what's to come.
Inside, the restaurant is spacious and welcoming. The wall by the entrance features photographs of celebrities who have visited the original location over the years. There is a nice bar area and plenty of tables and booths to accommodate parties of all sizes.
In general, the Juicy Crab team has done a good job of transforming a standard strip-mall retail space into a clean, inviting and comfortable restaurant experience.
If you go
* Where: The Juicy Crab
* Address: 2020 Gunbarrel Road #150; Chattanooga, 37421
* Phone: 423-475-6301
* Website: www.thejuicycrab.com
* Hours: Sunday-Thursday noon – 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday noon-11 p.m.
* Price range: $3 for hush puppies to $29 for the Juicy Cruise Combo.
As would be expected, seafood dominates the menu at the Juicy Crab. Appetizers included hush puppies, onion rings, oysters and calamari. Fried fish selections, such as fried tilapia, shrimp and catfish are offered, but the real star of the show at the Juicy Crab is the boiled seafood selection.
The boiled seafood selection is where the crab can be found at the Juicy Crab. The restaurant does boiled seafood in a Low Country boil style with all the food boiled together in spicy seasonings.
Customers can select from blue crab, shrimp (headless or not), snow crab legs, clams, green or black mussels, smoked sausage, Dungeness crab, lobster tail or king crab. It's a big selection, especially for the Chattanooga area. All the food appeared fresh and well prepared, and the smell was right out of a trip to the Gulf Coast.
For those hungry enough, the Juicy Crab offers three combo specials. Depending on your appetite, you can choose the Juicy Cruise (Dungeness crab, a half-pound of black mussel, a half-pound of shrimp, three boiled eggs, corn on the cob and potato), the For Your Special (snow crab leg cluster, lobster tail, shrimp, corn, potato, and a dessert), and the Hungry Feast (snow crab legs, shrimp, sausage, three boiled eggs, corn and potato).
If you come to the Juicy Crab, you better come hungry and you better like seafood.
For a lunchtime meal (and a break from Christmas shopping), I stopped in for a quick meal. After an appetizer of fried calamari, I chose headless shrimp and smoked sausage boiled with medium Juicy Special Sauce, which is a combination of Cajun, lemon pepper and garlic butter. The seafood combos come with corn on the cob and potato.
The calamari was fried in a light batter with something called Boom Boom sauce for dipping, and the serving was quite generous, especially for me eating solo which is my own fault.
Then came the main event. My meal was delivered in a plastic sack. No, seriously. The freshly boiled and seasoned meal was put into a large plastic bag full of seafood, sides and lots of seasoning and brought fresh to the table. I tore into the bag and dumped the steaming conglomeration of food into a large tin plate and dug in.
The Juicy Crab's tables are covered with butcher paper, and bibs, buckets for shells, gloves and lots of napkins are provided for the meal. Clearly, this is an experience where one is expected to get messy in order to truly get the full experience.
The food was cooked extremely well and the seasoning and spices added that New Orleans kick to everything. The portions were enormous and could have easily fed two people. But that's a good problem to have when eating seafood this good.
From the beginning to the end, the service was outstanding at the Juicy Crab. The waitresses write their name and your entire order on the butcher paper tablecloth to keep track of your order. Drinks were kept full and the staff made many stops to see if I had everything I needed.
If you're in the mood for a coastal meal with lots of seafood options, the Juicy Crab is a good choice. They serve lots of food, season it well and present your meal in a very unique way.
Plan to come away from the table with a stain or two on your face and clothing, but also plan to leave the Juicy Crab full and satisfied.
Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.