Barking Crab pleasant surprise
I had dinner at Barking Crab with a bunch of friends earlier this week and overall I was very pleased with the experience. I’d been there years ago in the summertime and eaten at the picnic tables under the tent, and it was nothing special, but with that side closed for the season, the atmosphere is entirely different. The year-round dining area and bar is actually quite small, with the wood-burning stove (which wasn’t going since it was a pretty warm night) as the focal point of the room. The décor is “nautical, ” which usually raises a red flag for me, but either my shtick-meter was off for the night or it’s aged into authenticity, as the place just feels comfortable and lived-in. (In contrast to Summer Shack, which always seems to shout “Look! We’re a clam shack! In the city!”) I could absolutely see coming here after the ICA for a drink and some fried seafood, especially on a cold night. There’s a pretty view at night over the channel, which somehow adds to the coziness; feels like you’ve found a hideaway in the shadow of the financial district high-rises.
The chow was mostly good – we shared a couple of fisherman’s platters ($20 each), which had fried clams, squid rings, scallops, and a piece of fried fish. Not the quantity you’d get up on the north shore, but the quality was very good – non-greasy and a tasty coating, although the fish was a bit overcooked. Clams were not big bellies, but that was just fine with me. Came with those ubiquitous battered fries, which although officially a Very Bad Thing, are probably the best way for clam shacks with limited frying space to get decently crisp fries. I thought the tartar sauce and slaw were both good but I’m not an afficianado.
We also had the bucket of crab claws – I believe they were Dungeness ($17 or $18, I think). These were tasty – they provided drawn butter but I didn’t think they needed it. A few people had lobster bisque and said it was very good, although a little light on the lobster meat; I didn’t try any. An appetizer of mussels in saffron-tomato-cream broth was also excellent – properly-cooked mussels, nice broth. We also got the cold seafood antipasto which I wouldn’t get again – shrimp, rubbery baby octopus, some kind of crab salad and greens. Not horrible, but not their strength
I don’t know if I’d like it as much in the summer when the crowds come and the volume rises, but in the colder months, sticking with the simpler items on the menu, I’d say it’s a very good bet.
I have to agree about the indoor side of it. I was there late fall and had the same pleasant surprise. I've never been a big fan of the food there, but I recall the tuna tartare was surprisingly tasty. And I really like the atmosphere; you described it perfectly. Thanks for reminding me to check it out again before it gets too warm!
I had a good fried clam plate and steamers a few weeks ago. Not quite "North Shore great" standards but very good...love the room.
I've had hit-and-miss experiences at Barking Crab. However, I will say that their chowder is usually quite good --- and I particularly like their fish sandwich (made with the "catch of the day"). The fries aren't good, but the fish has consistently been very tasty and fresh.
They've got a pretty good draught beer selection. Plus, it's got great charm --- especially for a dive bar on the waterfront.