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Stay away from the Barking Crab

  • l

My husband was craving crab and we were still celebrating his birthday week, so five of us went to the Barking Crab on Saturday night. What an awful, disgusting, offensive experience. It was overpriced, the food was terrible, and I really felt like this tourist trap of a restaurant was taking advantage of its patrons.

Let me start with the positive - our waitress was phenomenal. She was friendly, sweet, and a real asset to the restaurant. I wish I could remember her name because a real restaurant should come and scoop her up.

Now the bad. Four of our five dishes were inedible or ridiculously overpriced. I'll start with my own dish, the lobster roll. I'm so glad that I had eaten a late lunch or I might have cried when it came out. Literally I wondered where the other half of my sandwich was. There were probably 3 pieces of lobster on a sub roll that couldn't have been more than three inches long. (see the photos with the fork for point of reference). It was ridiculous. And for $18 just so overpriced. I'd rather get a lobster roll at the Dog and Claw stand in front of the Aquarium. While not gourmet, it's a decent lobster roll for a decent price.

Two of our guests had soft shell crabs - one as a platter and one as a sandwich. Both of them got crabs that were not soft. And by not soft I mean they literally had to pick hard pieces of shell that were completely inedible out of the dish. I was shocked. How can you possibly serve soft shell crabs that you can bite into?

Finally, the birthday boy got his crab bowl. At $80 this is four pounds of crab in the shell, served in a big bowl with crackers. There were 3 types of crab (and I don't even want to bother going to their website to figure out what kind they were). Two of them were good, one tasted rotten. But still, it was just cold crab in a bowl. $80? Really??

Drinks were weak and also overpriced and I just felt so ripped off and offended. I went in knowing I wasn't going to have a great culinary experience, but this was just the last straw for me. Given all the other great places in the Boston area to get seafood and all the other caring restaurants serving great food at affordable prices I'm just dismayed that this place continues to pack them in. So heed my warning. Stay away.

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The Barking Crab
88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

 
 
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  1. Sorry you had such a rotten experience here - one that seems to be mirrored by a LOT of other folks, both here on the board, and in my personal experience. I would feel pretty cheated at a bowl of cold half-rotten crab for $80.

    I think the BC is good for having a beer or two and enjoying the nice weather. But that's it. Plan to go somewhere else for dinner. :)

    Have you tried to tell anybody (e.g., manager) about your poor experience? I wonder if they'd even care... And if they did, they may offer you a gift certificate to come back.. run away! :)

    1. I've always found this place offensive in a multitude of ways, but yes, your lobster roll really takes the cake. They seriously served you that? It's embarrassing!

      1. That lobster roll is a disgrace.
        Someone needs to write a strongly worded letter

        1. The Barking Crab is maybe the most egregious of many local examples of how a waterfront place can be completely terrible yet trundle along for years. I don't think it was ever anything but awful: a fratty pit smelling of stale beer with nasty food. The incident where their own restrooms' sewage was getting sucked into their lobster tanks always encapsulated the place perfectly for me.

          http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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          The Barking Crab
          88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

          1 Reply
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Some people like the stale beer smell.

            I was confusedly disappointed by the lobster roll I got there a few weeks ago. (I went only because I had never had the roll at BC, and felt it was only fair to give it a shot.) While I had more lobster on my roll than lypp, it just didn't taste that great, and I couldn't figure out why. The lobster didn't appear to be frozen, and it wasn't over-dressed, so what gives? Also, the fries were mediocre, to be kind. Well, I gave them their shot; never again.

          2. This is a sad experience but your picture of the lobster roll with the fork as a reference metric is wonderful! =)

            1. The questionable quality Mixed Crab Bowl is actually $84, to make matters worse.

              1. Yuck, sorry about your experience. I was in Baltimore on Saturday and had 8 large crabs for $40 bucks at a local joint, shared with a friend - maybe not 4 lbs of meat, but they were delicious and fairly meaty. $80+ is definitely a ridiculous rip off.

                1. this place is notoriously bad -- how on earth did you even wind up there?

                  the gouging really sux too.

                  1. in regards to that pic - they should call it what it obviously is: a lobster slider.

                    and more than anything - this is a disgrace to boston, because for so many people from out of town this is their only new england seafood experience. what a shame.

                    1. Lypp, thanks for the report. I have never gone to the Barking Crab based on reports like yours and many others here.

                      But I am baffled that you did not send back that lobster roll and demand a refund. I completely agree that it is ridiculous, but I am guessing it may have had something to do with your guests, not wanting to make a scene - but that portion is so obnoxiously small...Words fail me...

                      Did you say anything to management? I think that so-called roll constitutes consumer fraud.

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                      The Barking Crab
                      88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                      1. Ok, so I have a serious question.

                        Everyone bashes on Barking Crab/Legal Seafood/No Name, etc. Where am I supposed to go in the city if I want a decent new england style meal made up of fresh seafood in a casual atmosphere, preferably outdoors? I consider myself a foodie, but do at times value the atmosphere over food. I know the best of these sorts of places are located outside the city, but is there anywhere that fits the bill in or near Boston proper, or should I just keep settling for the Barking Crab?

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                        The Barking Crab
                        88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: doctor15

                          Legal's is miles above the Barking Crab. I always enjoy a meal there. I think people like to bash it because it has become a chain and it's not cutting edge and is well-known by tourists. But, the fish is always fresh. No Name I haven't been to in many years, so I can't comment. The Barking Crab is OK for steamers and beer, maybe a sandwich when the weather is nice. But, it really is too bad that there isn't something better in that great location. I like Atlantic Fish for seafood. Yes, it is part of the small local Boston Restaurant Group chain, but I think it's pretty good.

                          -----
                          The Barking Crab
                          88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                          Boston Restaurant Group
                          729 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116

                          No Name Restaurant
                          151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                          1. re: pemma

                            Doctor15, I'd say go to Neptune Oyster and take a nice walk outside afterward.

                            Water views and good food of any stripe have long been largely mutually exclusive in Boston proper. There are a few exceptions: I think Rowes Wharf Sea Grill is very good, but it's in a luxury hotel with all the markup you'd therefore expect, and a bit swankier than most people want. Sad, but there it is.

                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                            -----
                            Neptune Oyster
                            63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                          2. re: doctor15

                            For outdoors with seafood you need to get in a car...

                            1. re: doctor15

                              I like the barking crab for beers and atmosphere. It cannot be exagerated how overpriced and poor the food is.

                              I think yankee lobster is pretty good and there is a small outdoor seating area. No Name has great chowder but everything else i've had there has been meh to vile.

                              You could always pick up a lobster roll at James Hook and then walk to the Barking Crab for a beer after.

                              Or you could grab

                              -----
                              The Barking Crab
                              88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                              No Name Restaurant
                              151-2 Fish Pier, Boston, MA 02210

                              1. re: doctor15

                                I second the suggestion for the James Hook Lobster Roll and keep on walking to BC for drinks.

                                1. re: doctor15

                                  I have to admit that I did like the atmosphere of the Barking Crab the one time I was there. And the onion rings. But for casual New England style seafood itself I'd much prefer Out of the Blue. It's not the chain-ness of Legal's that I don't like, it's the bad food that I don't like!

                                  -----
                                  The Barking Crab
                                  88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                  Out of the Blue Restaurant
                                  215 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144

                                  1. re: doctor15

                                    I'll agree with penma - I don't think Legal is a bad restaurant (the food has never been terrible), but it's not particularly chowish. Their crabcakes are quite good in fact. Barking Crab on the other hand is just gross based on what I've heard from friends who've dined there (never by choice). I'm not even tempted to find out on my own. No one has given me a tepid review of Barking Crab - they say it's downright to be avoided.

                                    -----
                                    The Barking Crab
                                    88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                    1. re: doctor15

                                      The outdoors part is harder. I know Summer Shack doesn't always rate highly here, but I've have very good experiences there, particularly when Jasper is in the house. Also, this place looks promising, though, I haven't been yet: http://themarketrestaurant.com/
                                      Oceanaire, though corporate, does a nice job on sourcing its fish. I just don't love the space there. Neptune Oyster is also a board favorite and rightly so. You can also get lobster rolls and other local seafood around town, but not necessarily at a restaurant devoted only to seafood.

                                      -----
                                      Neptune Oyster
                                      63 Salem St Ste 1, Boston, MA 02113

                                      Summer Shack
                                      310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                      Oceanaire
                                      40 Court Street, Boston, MA 02108

                                      1. re: SuperFineSugar

                                        The Market Restaurant looks promising, but it's on 127 in Gloucester, close to Annisquam. Not a real alternative to the Barfing Crab.

                                        But thanks for turning us onto it. Looks like an interesting North Shore place, particularly if the Lobster Pool's a zoo.

                                        1. re: SuperFineSugar

                                          The Market Restaurant in Annisquam sounds promising. Love that area, and the views are terrific.

                                        2. re: doctor15

                                          The Barking Crab tends to serve New England beach town fare in the city. Its a lot easier to find Greek, Portuguese, Italian, upscale comfort seafood which is fresh and high quality than a better version of the barking crab. Sumer Shack for a better (but imperfect and still expensive) alternative to beach fare, Neptune for interesting twists on all sorts of seafood including some new england favorites. You can get good lobster rolls at Courthouse (along with all sorts of fried seafood and usually mussles) -- they only tend to carry steamers on the menu when they offer it with lobster, but you can buy steamers at the market and they will prepare them for $1/lb. You can get takeout fried calamari from the Daily Catch and eat it at Christopher Columbus park or catch a ferry to the islands (someday to have a summer shack too). Moulton's certainly has fresh fish (I am not personally a fan, but I see the appeal) and isn't so difficult on the T. Wollaston and Revere beaches offer decent fare near the city. At Rendezvous and East Coast Grill you can get quality seafood, not prepared new england style though, for not much more than the Summer Shack. Greek-oriented places like Jimmy's and Dolphin do decent baked stuffed a new england popular tradition. Not only are there limited ocean-front dining places, but bringing the beach shack to the city is a relatively new trend based partly on marketing to tourists.

                                          -----
                                          The Barking Crab
                                          88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                          East Coast Grill and Raw Bar
                                          1271 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          Summer Shack
                                          310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                          Daily Catch
                                          2 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                          1. re: itaunas

                                            i don't know how "new" the concept is: barking crab opened in 1994 and summer shack opened in 2000.

                                          2. re: doctor15

                                            I am very glad that I looked up the hours of the Barking Crab and came across these reviews. I would have been really disappointed had I made the long trip into Boston and had these same experienceses. Thank you all for letting it be known. As far as Legal Sea Food is concerned, that is one of the very best seafood restaurants that I have ever been to. Some people say it is a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for in this instance. The service is great, the food is always fresh, the restaurant (including the restroom, which I know for a fact the owner & company do surprise spot checks on when they pop in, which is often. I have actually seen this with my own eyes) is always spotless and the food is excellent. The next time you are in Boston I definitely suggest you try Legal Sea Food -- try their Caesar salad and their New England Clam Chowder, which is the BEST clam chowder I have EVER eaten -- the thought of that amazing taste is making me want to take a run to Legals right now! Try it, I promise you, you WILL NOT be disappointed!

                                            1. re: rchandl3

                                              Visitors to Boston and locals alike can certainly do better than salad and chowder at a drab and extraordinarily overpriced chain restaurant.

                                              Their chowder USED to be very good but it has jumped the shark.

                                              1. re: C. Hamster

                                                since it's one of the few places my very picky eater son wants to go (and yes I know I should get him not to be picky, but he was adopted as an older child from foster care and has lots and lots of food trauma), we do go once in a while ..... ok, the rolls are good. I understand the drab. etc. complaints and the overpriced chain, but I have to say I do like the tuna burger very much. It's spicy and garlicky and the fries are not half bad and if you don't get the overpriced entrees, it's not that much more expensive that a lot of other places. Spicy calamari also fine as is the summer gazpacho. I'm not a big defender here, just that it's not as bad as Bertucci's has become, for example, and if we are going in to please the kid, a greek salad isn't that bad either.

                                          3. The good thing is that you seem to have plenty of gansett pounders on that table.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I tell everyone I know and even people I don't who ask about it to avoid that place like the plague. It's DISGUSTING, dirty, the food sucks & I wouldn't even drink there. Probably the worst restaurant in Boston in my opinion.

                                              1. And no matter how much we knock it, people will still go there. Remember, more people eat at McDonald's than anywhere else in the world. YIKES!
                                                CocoDan

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: CocoDan

                                                  Most people (not those on Chowhound though) don't care about good food per se, they care about getting more bang for their buck and if the food sucks, well, at least there's a lot of it to chow on. It's sad.

                                                  1. re: CocoDan

                                                    Hey, Mickey D's has addictive fries though. I'll give them that.

                                                    1. re: CocoDan

                                                      I would rather eat 1,000 filet o' fishes than the flabby piece of steamed...err, I mean fried fish they served me the one time I was forced there. There beer is terrible - if they aren't cleaning the bathrooms, I doubt they are cleaning their tap lines either -and it shows. The plastic cups they serve it in are just low class.

                                                    2. wow what a rip.

                                                      very surprising but had a pretty decent one at Coolidge Corner Clubhouse, $19.99, pic here:

                                                      http://www.flickr.com/photos/tatsuuuu...

                                                      sorry, terrible food shot wasn't prepared to shoot it, but it was a good roll. totally undressed, just really freshly cooked lobster a lot of it on undressed iceberg and some sort of toasted sweet eggy hot dog bun. i didn't miss the mayo at all and lemon seemed unnecessary. hit the spot, i gotta admit.

                                                      -----
                                                      Coolidge Corner Clubhouse Restaurant
                                                      307 Harvard St, Brookline, MA 02446

                                                      1. I saw 2 lobster roll pics and figured it was 2 halfs to the sandwich.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: trufflehound

                                                          no it's the same "sandwich" in each pic, look at the pattern of the bread. she just opened it to show the paltry 3 lobster knuckles inside.

                                                        2. Last time I was at the Barking Crab was in the mid-90's. It was meh, not great, not awful. We paid cash and left a 20% tip for the waitress, who like the food, was meh, not great, not awful. We figured, lesson learned, waterfront rule (great location, don't try hard) won't be back.

                                                          Then we were mugged in the parking lot by our waitress.

                                                          The charitable explanation is that someone palmed her tip, the uncharitable one is that she was scamming, but she actually tracked us down outside the restaurant demanding to know why we had left no tip. My then fiance, now husband was so embarrassed and frazzled that he gave her money. Um, honey, no.

                                                          I waited tables when I was (much) younger, and I've been stiffed before. I might have talked trash about it in the back of the house, used some, erm, creative language, but never --- not in a million years --- would I have even thought of stalking the customers out of the restaurant and demanding a tip. When I called the manager the next day, he was totally nonchalant about it. I got the impression that it wasn't the first time he'd heard the story.

                                                          To this day it remains my most bizzare Boston dining experience ever.

                                                          -----
                                                          The Barking Crab
                                                          88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: sablemerle

                                                            Man, reading this, and everything else said about this place, gives me the creeps. I can't imagine they give enough of a sh** to want to improve, either.

                                                            1. re: Prav

                                                              By pass the menu entirely except for beer and go across the street to Panera and get one for $17 that is an entire lobster+. It was the best I had ever had and they make their own bread.

                                                              1. re: artwmn

                                                                They used to buy 100% hard shell DRY PACK lobster meat.
                                                                Now they use cheap "shedders" that are cooked in Sodium Tri-poly Sulphate (stp)
                                                                Stay away....very far away

                                                                1. re: sysco kid

                                                                  lypp;
                                                                  I know from experience that The Barking Crab doesn't care a bit about the suspect food they serve, or their questionable pricing. But one of the best lobster rolls in town is found nearby (although only in the mornings and afternoons) at James Hook Lobster Co. It is a simple sandwich with just lobster (and lots of it ! ) and mayonnaise. Since they are probably the best local retail and wholesale lobster company, with the liveliest lobsters to be had in Boston, the lobster is always superb. They had a fire a while back, and they are in a temporary space now, but there are picnic tables out front, and it's a great place to have a light lunch in the Summertime, and look at the attractive urban garden space where the elevated expressway used to be.

                                                                  -----
                                                                  The Barking Crab
                                                                  88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                                                  1. re: Salognese

                                                                    Hook's lobster roll has celery too. If they'd lose the celery, it would be much better. Why ruin a perfectly good lobster roll with celery?

                                                                    1. re: MrsCheese

                                                                      I don't mind the celery in the Hook's roll. I don't care for the cold hot dog roll and usually just eat the meat.

                                                                      BTW, tried their chowder for the first time yesterday and it's very good

                                                            2. re: sablemerle

                                                              Wow. The waitress shakedown in the parking lot is an amazing story. Sounds like it's been a sketchy place for a long long time. I've been a few times with visitors, and was shocked at the beer stench and prices too.

                                                              Seems like the perfect spot for a Summer Shack takeover. Haven't yet been to any of their restaurants. But surely it would be an improvement.

                                                              -----
                                                              Summer Shack
                                                              310 Northern Ave, Boston, MA 02210

                                                              1. re: nightsky

                                                                I'll bet the B.C. makes piles of money, too.

                                                            3. I agree on the BC having some of the worst food in the city. However, for post work beers the place is unmatched on a summer night. They have a very good selection of craft beers on tap and have plenty of Bud/BL's in bottles. In addition the price point on the beers is VERY reasonable. Have a couple quality pints for $5 max and then switch over to Bud/BL's for like $3 a bottle. For boston, that's beyond fair.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: CapecodKid

                                                                Cheap beers, I'm all for. The taste of dirty tap lines, not so much. If you must, bottles are definitely the way to go.

                                                                http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

                                                              2. I just saw the Barking Crab on Man vs. Food and googled it, found your reviews. Maybe its shows like that, that keep people coming. Ugh.

                                                                -----
                                                                The Barking Crab
                                                                88 Sleeper Street, Boston, MA 02210

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: LuckeyOne

                                                                  Hello Fellow Foodies! I do not know why this thread has been resurrected BUT since it has , I must comment. My daughter recently graduated law school and we stayed in the Seaport area. I know about the Barking Crab and all it's..."bites". But we (being three) went in knowing what we would get foodwise. We had a great time! Wait and all! The food was great because we knew what to expect, but it was a beautiful summer-like night with great excitement and the view is spectacular. So...if you know what to expect and still go and have fun, there is nothing to complain about! Happy Summer!

                                                                  1. re: ParisLady

                                                                    So, what did you have? It's not often the board gets current reports so I for one would love to hear.

                                                                    1. re: bear

                                                                      Hello Again! You must remember that this was a weekend of fun and celebration, so we did not mind waiting in line. The food was so-so but not horrendous. We ate lots of local oysters, crabcake sandwiches, the "naked" lobster roll. It is overpriced but we had fun. Later in the evening we went to Briccos...totally different experience.

                                                                    2. re: ParisLady

                                                                      You actually waited in line to eat there? Ew, no. The last time I ate there, it was for a business dinner, so I had no choice. I swore I would never go there again. Disgusting and overpriced.

                                                                      I should add that I don't like to trash restaurants, believing everyone has a bad day. But this place is just consistently horrendous, in line with what almost everyone on this thread has experienced.

                                                                  2. My wife and I were in the Financial District for the weekend following a conference in Boston on Friday. I agree with all the posts (who wouldn't) but we did have a decent "pot" of mussels in a reasonable broth for $11. The Sunday brunch crowd was mostly college to thirties who didn't seem to pay any attention to the quality of the food or the prices. My guess would be that is the target customer base, following the trend we observed all weekend in the bars surrounding the Qunicy Market.

                                                                    We did go to Marliave on Friday for $1 Oysters which were exceptional. Well worth dropping $60 in our exuberence for finding such a great spot, and a wonderful, welcoming atmosphere. Three dozen went down smooth! Thanks to all the Boston posters.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: tigam

                                                                      Marliave is an outstanding restaurant. So glad you happened upon it. I've been a number of times and have never been disappointed.