Shiny new restaurants are fun, yes. But so are the places I’ve been going to for years. When I popped into the The Barking Crab on the waterfront recently, once to the dining room indoors, and another visit to the outside shack with the open windows to the harbor. I realized it was too long since I last was there … there’s so many new places to try in the Seaport! It looked the same: kitchy lights and lobster traps, thick wooden tables and mismatched chairs. But a lot has been changing lately.
General Manager Benjamin Korman came on about 5 months ago to put some snap into the Barking Crab. He hired two consultants, and the biggest move so far was to cut the menu literally in half, tossing out dishes like the pasta and steak. “If you want steak, there’s Del Frisco’s (further down the Seaport Boulevard),” he said. “If you want Italian, the North End is right there. I don’t think we felt comfortable with the execution of all of those dishes.”
Instead, they wanted to concentrate on their strongest point: seafood. Korman learned about crustacean culture over several years working under the seasoned seafoodie Jasper White, at the Summer Shack. “Jasper knows New England seafood, and he has a ton of connections,” said Korman, who brought with him a few Shack employees.
They are now focusing on the basics of a true clam shack – fried clams, lobster rolls, and steamers. They tweaked a few recipes, such as adding a lobster roll made with butter atop a Portuguese sweet roll, and using those same tasty rolls, from Winter Hill Bakery in Somerville, to rework the stuffed clams as Stuffies with spicy chorizo.
But what’s great about the BC are the simple things: plump jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce, a round of oysters freshly shucked, a bowl of clam chowder chunky with potatoes and clams, a lobster roll, crabcakes with a variety of local beer on draft. AThe mussels had a nice presentation, with all the shells standing mouths open. The sauce/butter garlic was delicious.For the nonseafood lovers, there’s sliders with shiny soft rolls and thick rounds of tiny beef patties. These items are great, unlike many places who glide on the food because they think customers are there for the harbor view.
The specials are also more thoughtful, said Korman. I loved this red pepper bisque with lump crab; I hope they make it more often.
The first Monday of the month features $1 New England oysters. “Blue points and malpeques are OK, but we want to wow people with local flavors,” said Korman. They were working on a raw bar, but the board of health had so many limitations, so that plan is now on ice, so to speak.
The other local spin was to make all of its draft beer local, including Harpoon down the street, Sam Adams since it is associated with Boston, and Red Hook in Portsmouth. There are 10 lines inside, and 12 in the outdoor space. The Red Hook Black Lobstah lager is brewed with some lobster, but it just adds a little mineral taste to an otherwise caramelly beer that tastes more like a porter.
The local flavors are not just to please the tourists; the Barking Crab is more intent on luring in the local workers. During the Whitey Bulger trial, in the courthouse just a short walk away, Howie Carr was broadcasting from the Crab. With all the new hotels and restaurants and the ICA sprouting up in the nearby Seaport, the Rose Kennedy Greenway enticing more foot traffic away from Quincy Market and the Aquarium area, the Barking Crab is poised for its own renewal.
So maybe the new Restaurant Row down the other end of the Seaport is offering the ol’ Crab some competition? “I say bring it,” Korman says feistily. “The more the merrier. The more people are down here, the more potential business.”
Otherwise, expect to see more changes to the menu, the decor, and even the free wee parking lot, which will be soon replaced with a pedestrian mall. “After Halloween, when it’s down to 65 seats when we close the outside space, we want to become the hippest bistro in the city.”
The Barking Crab
88 Sleeper Street Boston