NOTE: Due to technical difficulties (i.e., shitty iPhone pictures), this post doesn’t have any awesome photos. You will have to use your imaginations!
Bookers BBQ Grill and Crab Shack, in case you are not familiar with it, attempts to capture the old charm of New Orleans cuisine. Slow-cooked barbeque meats and buckets full of succulent seafood – sounds like my kind of place! Kent and I checked it out with a few friends during the Big Taste (formerly Calgary Dine-Out week), figuring that we couldn’t go wrong with what appeared to be a Calgary institution.
The exterior has all the indie cred that you could ask for – rustic brick exterior, hand-drawn signage and across the road from the Cecil to boot. Inside, however, it takes on a trendier look with shiny benches, stools, and attractive glassware coupled together with equally attractive waitresses. Bookers’ website suggested that crab races used to be held during Mardi Gras but I saw no evidence that would suggest that it is anything but propaganda.
Unsurprisingly, this place is pretty unaccommodating to vegetarians, so it was just as well that we checked this out while Kiran was out of town. The menu is fairly extensive, with a variety of BBQ and seafood based appetizers, entrees, and platters. It also happened to be All-You-Can-Eat snow crab night, but at north of $40, it was a tad expensive and we wanted to try a larger variety of foods anyway.
A cursory glance at the menu suggested that the Big Taste special – consisting of chowder, jambalaya and chocolate cake – was a good deal, until we found out that it actually consisted of half-sized portions of chowder and jambalaya. Blasphemy! At that rate, it ended up being $21 worth of food for the cost of $25 – clearly, arithmetic is not a strong suit at Bookers. Given that our dinner-table discussions were revolving around how “pasta in restaurants is way too expensive because it is so cheap to cook at home,” such a scam left some of our friends quite affronted. We ultimately settled on sharing a BBQ platter (brisket, ribs, wings, fries and biscuits), a crab platter (snow crab, king crab, crab-artichoke dip and crab cakes) and an order of jambalaya. Sides of beans and coleslaw came standard with the platters.
Our anticipation began to build as they brought out our dipping butter and crab-eating tools, some of which I had never seen before. Just as my appetite began to peak, the platters arrived. And what epic platters they were! While everything looked terrific (except the wings, which were amongst the smallest I’d ever seen, though there were tons of them), the food varied in quality from terrific to average. The highlights to me were the jambalaya (the perfect mix of ingredients with just the right amount of liquid – on the edge of soupiness), brisket (smoky and tender, if somewhat unevenly sauced) king crab (succulent and almost lobster-like in its meatiness) and biscuits (dip them in butter for the ultimate artery-clogging experience!). One casualty of the “huge-ass-pile-of-food” method of plating was the set of crostinis used for scooping up the crab dip – half of them were too soggy to use. The wings were rather disappointing, being both small and dry, and were the only meat product that we weren’t able to finish.
One thing that there was no shortage of was butter – not only was there additional whipped butter on the side, but there was bottomless dipping butter for your crab (and biscuits, and fries…), which they refilled using coffee-pots full of liquid butter! F*cking ingenious.
The final bill came to around $40 per person including drinks – certainly not cheap by any means, but reasonable for the level of gluttony that we partook that evening. All-in-all, it was a good venue that I’d recommend to anyone looking for a taste of the South. I don’t have the credentials to comment on the authenticity of the food, but I can say that if that’s how people from Louisiana eat on a regular basis, I totally understand why so many of them are morbidly obese.
BBQ Brisket, Biscuits, Butter, Buckets of crab – Brilliant.
||27.5/36 = 76.3%