Ahoy there! Have you heard? Miss Katie’s Crab Shack has permanently anchored on Smith St – and it serves the best crab boil in town
Melbourne’s a sucker for food from the US of A, and we’re spoiled for choice, from Creole offerings at Le Bon Ton, to fried chicken at Belle’s and barbecued delights at Fancy Hanks. Southern-style restaurants with a seafood inclination, however, are much harder to come by, which is where Miss Katie’s Crab Shack comes to the fore. Following residencies at the Public Bar, the Rochester and Ding Dong – this house of crustaceans has permanently anchored on Smith Street.
Chef and owner Katie Marron fuses influences from her Maryland-born mum and great aunt, a cookbook author from the South, with experience at MoVida, Eau De Vie and Naked in the Sky, to create a menu hinged on the signature crab boil ($27) and snacky dishes that don’t require cutlery. Purists might consider some of her choices – pre-grilling sausage to give the boil a smoky flavour, cooking with sriracha – blasphemous but, trust us, it works.
Marron makes her low country-style boil with water, Old Bay seasoning, garlic, sriracha and beer, throwing in corn, new potatoes, spicy pork sausage and fresh, sustainably sourced South Australian crab, and then tossing it all in garlicky butter and more Old Bay seasoning. It’s a one-pot wonder that delivers on both comfort and piquancy. In a choose-your-own seafood adventure, you’re encouraged to chuck in some prawns, mussels or more crab, don a bib, grab the crackers, and get stuck into some messy fun.
Why not also dive into fresh oysters with a Bloody Mary chaser or crunchy fried school prawns speckled with smoked paprika? If seafood doesn’t float your boat, there’s fried chicken (free-range and organic) with house-made waffles and the obligatory Canadian maple syrup. Finger-licking-good chicken ribs taste almost like candy courtesy of a Sailor Jerry spiced rum glaze; buttermilk-soaked, spiced flour-crumbed fried green tomatoes come with drops of goats’ curd and sriracha adding sourness and heat; and a crunchy red cabbage and carrot ‘slaw is dressed in a lime-infused chipotle crema. There are subs too and fries of course, served plain, smothered in cheese, or loaded with a sloppy vegan chilli of red onion, eggplant, zucchini, turtle beans, tomato and chipotle. Save room for the pumpkin pie – with a graham cracker crust and a sweet and spicy filling – baked by a Philadelphia native for a taste of Thanksgiving any time of year.
Drinks wise, a handful of daily cocktails are scrawled on the board, from Marron’s grandma’s Bloody Mary to an iced tea spiked with bourbon, but the focus is on tinnies. You’ve got a line-up of mostly Victorian microbreweries, including the Thunder Road Brewing Company and 3 Ravens.
While the food calls to mind True Blood, the atmosphere is more Gilligan’s Island. Nautical paraphernalia (think fishing nets and a shark’s head) stays on the right side of kitsch. Tables are lined with newspapers and food is served in enamel plates and retro plastic baskets. In the South, a boil is an all-day event, but at Katie’s you get all the flavour and none of the work. What a catch.
|Venue name:||Miss Katie's Crab Shack|
|Opening hours:||Mon 3-9pm; Tue-Sun noon-9pm|