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May 26, 2003 02:53 AM

My Barking Crab Experience

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Thanks to everyone who helped me select a place south of Ipswich/Essex for fried clams. Since I only had last Thursday night free on my trip to Boston, and since I was staying near the Prudential Center, I decided that I'd better go to the Barking Crab for my fried clams outing. Quincy and Medford would have been too far that late at night.

My flight on Thursday from SF was delayed due to a woman from Taiwan who complained about feeling "hot" right before we were about to take off from SF. The pilot wasn't about to risk the health of all 160+ passengers and crew, so he got out of the long departure line, and let her off the plane. So we got into Boston at 9:00PM, an hour late.

I made it to my hotel at 9:50, raced up to the room to drop off my bag, called the Barking Crab to make sure they were serving until 10:30 like their recorded message says (the woman who answered confirmed this), and I jumped into a taxi. I arrived inside the door at the Barking Crab at 10:19--11 minutes to spare--so I thought.

I asked the barmaid if they served food at the bar and she said that the kitchen was closed. I explained a bit about my situation, coming all the way from California, the flight delay, Chowhound recommendations etc. She went into the kitchen to make sure they had closed, and she came back out to tell me the bad news. She told me that a place called the Seaport, just down the street, served until midnight. When I reminded her that I had come for the best fried clams in Boston, she said that the Seaport's were 2nd best. I was about to take her recommendation, but wanted to let the owner or manager of the Barking Crab know about my disappointment.

A young woman came out of the kitchen to speak with me. This was the manager. I explained my situation and told her I knew the kitchen was closed, but wanted to ask her why the recorded message and a live person both told me that the Barking Crab serves until 10:30 on Thursdays. She told me the kitchen closes at 10PM on Thursdays. I didn't want to accuse her of lying, but I did tell her to change the recorded message. She was not very apologetic and seemed to care not the least about my story.

So I strolled down the street to find the Seaport. I walked into the lively bar scene and asked a waitress if the kitchen was still serving. She told me they closed the kitchen 40 minutes ago, at 10PM. Oh well. I hadn't seen this place recommended on Chowhound for its fried clams, so it wasn't too major of a disappointment here.

Now I needed to find something to eat, and a taxi back to my hotel. I wandered into the Seaport Hotel and looked at the bar menu there, which was still being served. No fried clams, and pretty much just standard bar food, or so it seemed from my cursory glance at the menu. I decided to cab it back to the Back Bay thinking that something might be open.

I got back to the Sheraton and the concierge told me the only thing open at this point was Marche upstairs. I actually had a halfway decent 1/2 roast chicken at 11:15PM and excellent yukon gold fries there. They also had a good and inexpensive Shiraz of which I downed 2 glasses.

Well, no fried clams this trip (back in SF now), unfortunately, just $27 in cab fare to and from the Waterfront for one of my biggest culinary letdowns in recent memory. Should I write a letter to the owner of the Barking Crab, or should I just drop it?


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  1. Lee Kennedy, of Lee Kennedy COnstruction, Boston, owns the Crab. I am sure he would want to know.

    6 Replies
    1. re: edinaeats

      I think Restaurants in boston are hurting bad. I have been out a couple of times on Saturday night with just a small wait at a couple major restaurants. I think they are not busy and a lot of them are closing earlier than scheduled, just not worth staying open. Once they close down the grills and clean up it is very hard to get it going for just one order.

      1. re: edinaeats

        I really doubt it. He's got too many other problems than some SF'er needing a plate of clams. Sheesh!

        1. re: Ipsofatso

          Dude, you are one negative dude. You actually make ME look like an optimist! Almost any business owner is concerned when his customers aren't happy with their experience-- it's not just about "some SF'er needing a plate of clams". Lighten up.

          1. re: AlanH

            Not sure the owner gives a.... Have had two negative experiences with this place, both around management and service attitudes.

            Lets face it, they do a captive tourist trade and therfore don't have to stretch the customer service, prices, or food quality to satsify the few.

            1. re: jackf

              I'm from SF, so I'm embarassed. But, I hate to admit this... they sported the typical MassHole attitude. Any other place would have done something after such a great effort.

              I think you should print out this postings and send them to the management. They have had such bad publicity from the sewage, they don't need more.

              So, in short. You didn't get to try the local sea food, but did get a fresh taste of the local attitude.

          2. re: Ipsofatso

            It has much less to do with an "SF-er" (a what?) needing a plate of clams than it does with false advertising (their recorded phone message) and lying (the woman who answered the phone at 10PM). I think I'll send him this whole thread and let him do what he wants with it.

        2. I think you got a Chowhound bum steer. I've always found the Barking Crab to be the kind of unpleasant tourist trap that I steer visitors away from. The crowd generally seems more interested in getting stinko than eating, and given the poor-to-mediocre quality of the seafood and accompaniments I've gotten there on multiple visits, I can hardly blame them. And they've had health code violations, like their recent problem with sucking up raw sewage into their fish tanks.

          Next time you want a New England clam shack experience but can't get to the North Shore, try Jasper White's Summer Shack, of which there's now an outlet in the Back Bay on Dalton St. The quality of the seafood there is impeccable, as is every little side dish, and they have a lot more going than just fried clams: awesome pan-sauteed lobster, Portuguese-influenced fish stews, the best corn dog I've ever had, excellent margaritas, and on and on. A lot of 'hounds complain about their prices, but I am happy to pay a premium for this quality, in this clean and fun a setting, *in the city*, year round.

          As for following up with the Crab, I wouldn't bother: they obviously don't give a rat's patoot about customer service.

          6 Replies
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            OK, you can say the sewage wasn't the fault of the Barking Crab, but if anyone there did give a patoot about the quality of the seafood they serve - a $5 aquarium test kit would have alerted them to the problem. I'm with you MC, quality seafood costs money - in buying the fish and handling it. I'd rather pay more for something wonderful and safe(Jasper White's -gotta get there, have heard good things about everything but the price-, Great Bay). Even if the kitchen had just closed - couldn't someone, even the manager, have thrown some clams in a fryolator - especially after hearing that story?!

            1. re: MC Slim JB

              Where is Dalton St. or what are some landmarks??

              1. re: annie

                I can't believe there's a Jasper White's on Dalton St! I went to the original location a few years ago on the North Shore. It's quite a place. There's always next time . . .

                Anyway, Dalton St. is on the SW side of the Prudential Center and it's where my hotel, the Sheraton, is located. Given my luck that night they probably would have been closed by 10PM, but it would have been fun trying to get the cabbie to race there for me.

                1. re: ed k

                  The original Jasper's is on the outer boundary of Cambridge, not the north shore.

                  The Dalton St. location definitely would have been the easy choice for your clams (altho pricey) since you were at the Sheraton. You really did get screwed when you called the BC to double check on closing time. I wouldn't go out of my way to get there next time you're in town.

              2. re: MC Slim JB

                I have said it before and I'll say it again, the heck with teh Barking Crab.. have given them enough chances. Expected a big basket of fried shrimp (my 1x/year unhealthy splurge) and got basically a basket of fries with about six pathetic little fried shrimp arranged on top... massive disappointment at $14.95 or more... haven't been back since, and won't be

                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  that's funny, because Summer Shack has had violations every bit as nasty = and often nastier - as the Crab. My bottom line is this - been going to the Crab for years, and used to love it. Last two, two and a half years, the dishes have gotten A LOT smaller and A LOT more expensive, the service WAY too cavelier. I don't like being separeted from my credit card for 10+ minutes!!! Want great cheap food on the waterfront? Get takeout from Yankee Lobster and eat at the tables outside the new Courthouse. Perfect!

                2. Sorry for your unfortunate experience. That kind of thing shouldn't happen. I feel doubly bad because I've been so well treated at some of SF's restaurants..particularly when I told them that I'd come all the way from Boston. Postrio and Hawthorne Lane both "bent the rules" to accomodate me.

                  That being said; I had a great fried clam plate at Barking Crab a few weeks ago..awesome chowder too. Maybe you can try it on your next trip.

                  1. The original comment has been removed
                    1. May the streets flow with the blood of the non-believers!!! One day, when one deity or another smites me down, may my ashes be cast into the oft-contaminated lobster tanks of the Barking Crab!!! Ok, ok, seriously, there are tricks to ordering at The Barking Crab as with anywhere. If you spot anything on the menu or the specials list that looks a little too ambitious avoid it. Get your pasta with scallops and pancetta elsewhere, the Barking Crab may occasionally put those sorts of dishes on their menu but they really should stick to clam rolls and such.

                      As for the early closing, for future reference, whenever you think you’re going to cut it close (and you were on the phone already) give the kitchen a heads up that you’re on the way. It’s a lot easier for them to stay open than to restart everything. Yes, they should have opened up if you insisted. My guess is that the service staff – as in many places – lives in complete and utter terror of the kitchen staff. They probably tried to knock off 15 minutes early or something (and the cooks were probably gone already, explaining why they couldn't fire up anything).

                      I also feel like there’s some sort of Pythagorean explanation for their behavior. Something like: Good seafood can only be found at places where a salty swordboat captain would frequent, and anywhere a salty swordboat captain would frequent would have rude service. Now I’m not saying The Barking Crab is the Platonic ideal of a seaside dive, but relatively speaking, my hypothetical swordboat captain would be quite comfortable at the Barking Crab, but you’d have to drag him by his peg leg into Jasper White’s. There’s nothing touristy about all the cranky 18-year-old local girls waiting tables and no hospitality degree to be found for miles. Also, it IS a really great place to get stinko, again, think swordboat captain…

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: joypirate

                        I like a drink as well as the next fellow, and probably more than the next-next fellow. The Crab is a fine place to hoist a few.

                        I also don't have a problem with no atmosphere and boisterous service, if -- IF, the food is any good. But every single meal I've had at the Crab either sucked, or just barely didn't suck. I've given up on them. Too bad: Boston's waterfront needs a decent waterfront place.

                        1. re: joypirate

                          Very good post. Once you start closing down a kitchen it's hard to open it back up. Especially when deep friers are involved. Once those things cool down it will take some time to get them to the proper temperature.

                          Personally I would never expect a kitchen to re-open for me. However I do understand that the communication that person received was very misleading. If they say it's open till 10:30 then it should be open till 10:30.

                          I also agree with you about what to order at the Barking Crab. Stick to the basics. I've enjoyed everything I got there.

                          I do however prefer Jasper White's.

                          1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

                            If they shut down a 350 degree fryer at 10 oclock as they claimed,it would still be 300 degrees at 10:19 p.m. when the op arrived at the restaurant.It would take all of 5 minutes to bring it back to 350 degrees.If it were me,it would not have ended there and then.Also,after reading this post,I will not ever step a foot within 20 yards of the place.Stick it where the sun doesn't shine.

                            1. re: raf945

                              raf945, have you noticed that this post is five years oldl? I'm not sure how helpful it is at this point.

                              1. re: raf945

                                That is a bit technical. I just was speaking in general terms. I don't get the need for your hostility.

                                If the kitchen is closed, it's closed.

                                1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

                                  hvfb, no hostility intended. It's just that more recent threads tend to give a clearer picture of how a place is functioning now. Five years sounds pretty distant to me. Apologies if my tone sounded harsh.

                                  1. re: bear

                                    i think he was talking to raf945.

                                    1. re: bear

                                      I actually meant raf945 seemed a bit hostil, not you. It's all good.

                                      Yeah, I didn't realize it was this old till I had already replied.

                                      1. re: hudsonvalleyfoodblog

                                        I think raf945's "stick it where the sun don't shine" was aimed at Barking Crab, not you, hudsonvalley.

                                        1. re: pollystyrene

                                          oh ok, that makes much more sense. You can see why I was a bit caught off guard with that one. Thanks for helping to clarify.