The Visa Collector

A blog about travelling with a Filipino passport, and life overseas

Boiling Crab

Posted by admin on September 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Part of this article was posted on

Would you bother going to a restaurant where you have to wait for three hours for a table, receive your food in a plastic bag that’s served in a bucket, and then eat a messy meal with your hands? For the easily dozens, if not hundreds, of folks who troop to Boiling Crab in San Jose each day, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!!!”

BC is a Cajun seafood restaurant that serves Shrimp, Crab (Dungeness, Alaskan King Crab, etc), Crawfish, Fried Oysters, Chicken, and a number of other minor items. My wife likes to cycle through some of the selections, but I consistently go for the mildly spicy steamed garlic butter shrimp. Unless stated otherwise, I’ll be talking about this shrimp dish.

Its lone branch in San Jose is so wildly popular, you can see long lines at this place even in the middle of the week. On the weekend, its practically impossible to get a table. Any time you visit, you will see a sizable portion of its the largely Asian clientele sitting meekly on the curb outside the restaurant, waiting in a long snaking line, held in stasis by early-arrivals who are slowly savoring scrumptious shrimps swimming in sinful sauce. If patience were a virtue, BC has among the most virtuous patrons in the Bay area. I do not consider myself a patient person, but I would still consider going to this place on a weekly basis — if I didn’t fear for my arteries.

Once you’ve tried this place, you’ll be hard pressed to look for viable alternatives. Before BC, my wife and I used to happy patrons of Crawdaddy, where we were first introduced to the eat-out-of-a-bag concept. Always on the look out for alternatives to our favorites, I Yelped Crawdaddy to see what other folks thought. A common refrain amongst those who posted positive reviews about Crawdaddy was “It’s good, but its still not Boiling Crab”. Feline curiousity got the better of us, and we were Boiling Crabbers ever since.

The impracticality of sacrificing whole swaths of one’s day or evening to waiting for a table became evident very quickly. As early as our first addictive trial, my wife and I went to work looking for ways to beat the lines. Friday to Sunday evenings were hopeless. We fared better at lunch. We initially worked out that we had to be there by 11:30 for a decent 30 minute wait. Time-lines jump to 45 minutes as we get to 11:45, and we again return to hopelessness if we get there by 12 or later. As more people flocked to this place, these early tips proved worthless. One Saturday we arrived at 11:30, the resto was still closed, but there was already a line. We once followed a lead that stated that going mid-week, an hour or less to closing time improved our chances of getting in. Not true. The lines remained, despite warnings from the staff that they couldn’t guarantee the availability of seats before closing up shop. The night we tried this night-time ambush technique, we actually ended up resorting the only line-beating option that had reasonable success: BCTO = Boiling Crab Take Out.

BCTO does have its draw backs. By the time you get home, the shrimp had already cooled somewhat. Lessens the overall zing of the dish for some reason. You also had to make sure that you started eating the shrimp that was still immersed in the sauce to keep them from being overcooked. Still not the same as eating in-restaurant, but it guaranteed a quick BC fix . . .

. . . with only a 20-minute wait.

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