I have seen photos of their soups and sandwiches circulating on their branded wood boards and within their printed tin cups. Therefore, I was delighted to be invited down to “Crab Park Chowdery” to try a few items off of their menu myself. Because, truth be told, I could not see myself taking the trip down to Gaston just to visit them otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all that I had and would definitely visit them again, it is just that they are less of a destination and more a trip out of convenience. Their little shop is frequented by casual dinners grabbing a cup and a barstool. That little shop in the neighbourhood that serves as and ideal lunch spot, or that place to grab a snack at after work. And with reasonable prices that marries up to their delicious food. If already downtown I would walk from the west end to Gastown for a seat, and better yet I would frequent the spot if there was a location by my work place.
You scan through their menu, a scroll of parchment suspended high on their red brick wall. A collection of 4 different sandwiches and 5 different soups are spelled out before you. You pay then pick an empty place to sit. The restaurant has a few high tops and more stools in front of benches and at the bar. There isn’t much in terms decoration. A few nautical elements help set the tone for this seafood restaurant. A painting of a blue gradient wave, another of a lighthouse on a rock, and a miniature ship’s wheel as an ornament.
As I mentioned earlier, everything is served on their heat scorched and branded wooden boards. They include two circles where your meal and its side are placed over each, with the “Crab Park” logo centring both. Then there are two little prongs, perfect for keeping your spoon in place should you decide to order soup.
Today we had their most popular soup, the “New England clam chowder” with bacon in their bread bowl, which costs extra. But who doesn’t love being able to eat the vessel in which their food is served in? The soup was chunky with plenty of clam, bacon, celery, and green onion to chew through. I liked its creamy finish, but found it all a little too salty with the naturally briny nature of the seafood. It was best taken with bits of bread bobbed in like a dip. I didn’t really feel that the bacon added to anything, especially given how salty everything already was. Instead I could have used it as a garnish below, and taken the tomatoes from it, here for a better, lighter balanced soup.
If you want a little less bread with your soup you can order your serving in either a 10 or 18oz tin cup. Here they come with just half a loaf of bread, the same fresh and chewy sourdough loaf that served as our bowl above. This is the “loaded baked potato soup”, a tasty vegetarian option or something that doesn’t have seafood, if you don’t like seafood but decide to visit a restaurant with “crab” in its name anyways.
The soup is everything you want in a drinkable baked potato. Thick and creamy like a mashed potato with that sour cream tang, the leek base and fresh chive topping gave it some freshness. The only thing that felt out of place were the chopped up tomato chunks. Here, I would have preferred some bacon overtop to round out the baked potato imagery, although that removes one of the only vegetarian options from off their smaller menu.
Soups are best with sandwiches so we got a couple to share. Each sandwich is served on the same broad as the soups, but paired with a cup of super crunchy, lightly dusted bbq chips instead. The chips were a great change of texture and tastes in between bites.
The “Lobster salad sandwich” is made with lobster, shrimp, and celery in a creamy sauce, but it is the buttery hot dog bun that it is served on that makes it. Deliciously good, no complaints.
Their grilled cheese comes with the possibility of add ons to make it your own: tomato, crabmeat, and/or bacon. We got the crab and really couldn’t tell that any of it was in between our slices of crispy toasted bread and strands of ooey gooey cheese. The dill was the most noticeable flavour, it and the add-on of tomato are ideal for their help in breaking up the richer flavours. As a whole the grilled cheese was greasy, and got worse so the more it was allowed to rest. Although I was very impressed that its crispy texture held up, well after my intense photo shoot. The easy remedy for the above is a dip into one of their tomato based soups, because grilled cheese and tangy tomato is a classic flavour combo.
At each table setting there is a caddy of squeeze bottles for your to sauce up your meal with. 6 different flavours, with some bottles nearly empty. Although we found our meal above so rich that we didn’t even reach out for one.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Once again a great option for lunch, and even better as a warm and comforting snack in between meals on these cold days. Worth checking out during your next shopping excursion downtown. Don’t deny your cravings.