Eating at the Red Crab isn’t just about enjoying a good meal. It’s about having an experience. 

I’ve heard about the Red Crab since it opened. On the North Carolina scene since March, the restaurant is quickly becoming a Triad favorite. It’s part of a chain of seafood joints called J&C Crab, which operates restaurants in Florida, North and South Carolina, and Massachusetts. The Greensboro location is in the old Ham’s building at 3017 W. Gate City Blvd. and the Winston-Salem location is in the former Hooter’s at 120 Hanes Square Cir.

Most nights there’s a wait—to avoid the crowds, arrive before the dinner rush or take my lead and opt to visit for an early Sunday brunch. The friendly staff greets customers as they arrive, ushering them to tables in the spacious, natural-light-filled dining room, or roomy booths that line its perimeter. There’s also a lively bar area with seats surrounding the bar on all sides and several tables on a slightly elevated platform. 

One of the first things you notice at Red Crab is the graffiti-covered walls and columns. With remnants of past guests offering advice on what to order, words of wisdom, or simply declaring love for a sweetheart. (You can ask for a Sharpie and leave your own mark as well.) The beach vibe is immediately apparent, and appropriate for a seafood place. 

First things first: the cocktails—which have fun nautical-themed names such as “Castaway,” “Off the Deep End,” “Shark Bite,” “Ginger,” and “Gilligan”—are on point. I ordered the “Love Boat,” a brilliant concoction of gin, sparkling wine, fresh-squeezed lemon, and simple syrup. My dining companion had the “Crabby Patty,” Red Crab’s signature version of the Bahama Mama. Both were delicious. It was definitely the best drink I’ve had at a chain restaurant in…Well, probably ever! The bar also serves a wide variety of beer and wine. 

You’ll find the usual suspects on the appetizer menu—oysters (raw or steamed), hushpuppies, cheese sticks, calamari, onion rings, and wings—which are available breaded or unbreaded. Wing fans can choose from a variety of sauces including barbecue, Buffalo, Cajun, lemon pepper, and sweet Thai chili. You’ll also find several fried seafood baskets (shrimp, tilapia, catfish, oysters, chicken tenders), which are served with either French fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings. 

The house specialty is Cajun-style seafood boils, which is what the Red Crab is known for. You can choose from daily specials ($25.99–29.99), which include various combinations of shellfish on different days, or a create-your-own platter based on market prices. Here’s how it works: once you’ve chosen your seafood, pick a sauce (Cajun, garlic butter, lemon pepper or “juicy,” a combination of all three) and a spice level (mild, medium, hot, or extra hot). You can also add rice, boiled eggs, or sausage. 

I came to throw down, so I went for the Sunday special, which includes a half-pound of headless shrimp, a half-pound of snow crab legs, and a lobster tail. Since it was my first visit, I went for the medium heat, which I later thought was very tame, and the “juicy” sauce. My friend ordered a combination of black and green mussels and clams so that we could sample most of the shellfish offerings. 

Next comes the fun part: servers bring out bibs and gloves in a large, brightly-colored pail, which is placed in the center of the table. The seafood and its accompaniments are served in a clear plastic bag atop a large metal platter. Dining at the Red Crab is a primal experience, so come prepared to eat with your hands and really get in there. Open the bag, pop on the plastic bib and gloves, and go for it! The bucket is for your shells, napkins (you’ll need plenty), and gloves, which are neatly and easily whisked away when you finish eating. 

Looking around the restaurant, I saw a good mix of young people, families, and groups of friends. “Customers love our food and vibe,” the manager told me. “Many of our guests—who come from all over the Triad and Virginia—feel Red Crab is unique because of how good and fresh our seafood is.”

Should you have room for dessert, you have two quality options: cheesecake or chocolate lava cake. We ordered one of each, and while I am typically not a chocolate lover, the lava cake was outstanding. 

I’d read mixed reviews about the service since it is still new, but our server was excellent. Shout out to Braylin, a polite young man who just completed Army basic training. He’s home on leave before starting his advanced individual training as a combat medic. Thank you, Braylin! 

All in all, the Red Crab is a fun place to enjoy a laid-back meal with loved ones. It’s definitely doing its own thing, and I’m already dreaming about my next visit.  

Davina van Buren is an award-winning freelance travel and food writer based in High Point. Follow her on social media at @highpointfoodie.

Wanna go?

The Red Crab has two Triad locations at 3017 W. Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro and 120 Hanes Square Cir. in Winston-Salem. It is open from noon to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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