If you’ve got ties to New England, you know what a summertime feast should look like: a picnic table piled high with lobster, shrimp, clams, and mussels; drawn butter in shallow bowls; and—eventually—a heap of empty shells and crumpled napkins. In other words, a straight-from-the-sea, lick-your-fingers-good mess.

Now, take that concept, add a hefty dose of Cajun spice, and shoehorn it into a nautical-themed eatery in a South Federal Boulevard strip mall. Do that, and you get the Crawling Crab restaurant in Denver. At a friend’s suggestion, we arrived there starved but unsure of what to expect. The space, although strewn with ocean decor (cue the ceramic seagulls and lighthouses), was immaculate. And the aromas were spot-on. Even so…seafood on Federal Boulevard? With some trepidation, we ordered.

When the server set our bounty down on the wax paper–covered table, we were surprised to see that everything—a whole lobster, plus a table’s worth of shrimp, crawfish, and snow crab legs—was encased in giant plastic bags. The kitchen’s technique: Fill a bag with shellfish and seasoning, toss it, boil the whole thing, and serve the entire steaming concoction on the table.

The result was nothing short of brilliant. Two bites in, we were up to our elbows in broth, butter, and spices (and thankful for the hand-washing station outside of the bathroom). Props were in order: We toasted our friend for having discovered the city’s best seafood place you’ve never heard of. 781 S. Federal Blvd., Unit A, 303-936-0123, thecrawlingcrab.com



Whole Lobster
($8.99 per pound)
($6.99 per pound)
($6.99 per half dozen)
Snow Crab Legs
($8.99 per cluster)