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Krabby’s Seafood Joint captures excitement of a growing fusion trend

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The spicy spoils of the awesome citrus Cajun seafood boil. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The spicy spoils of the awesome citrus Cajun seafood boil.
There’s something pretty exciting happening off Star Ranch Road at Krabby’s Seafood Joint — it’s just that it isn’t happening to its full extent quite yet. But just the notion of where the new eatery goes from here excites us.

We’re thrilled every time someone brings a new (to us) cuisine to town, something nobody else is doing. Sure, we’re generally late to the party compared to the Big Cities, but hey, we’ll take it when we can get it — like the newly opened Smørbrød at Lincoln Center, catching us up to the Nordic/Scandinavian food trend, for example.

With Krabby’s, the outfit’s Facebook page mentions “Asian-style seafood boils,” when in fact that’s a hint at what’s to come. For its opening weeks, the seafood spot has actually tested local waters with Cajun-style seafood boils — still a pretty lively affair. (I mean that literally too, as postings on that Facebook page tend to feature videos of crawfish, crabs and lobsters crawling around in freshly delivered bags or boxes.) But the Asian boils will lead us to a growing trend of Viet-Cajun crawfish boils, born out of Houston, Texas (from immigrant Vietnamese communities) with a post-Katrina Louisiana tie-in to its big boom, spreading westward to California, then outward, according to a recent Vice Munchies article. David Chang also recently touched upon the scene in his Ugly Delicious Netflix series, and word is the fusion style’s ridiculously delicious — hence its new profusion.

Reportedly, there’s not too much to it other than adding spices like lemongrass in with traditional Old Bay Seasoning and similar commercial blends, covering seafood (crawfish, typically) with garlicky butter sauce sometimes enhanced with more items, like peppers or orange segments.

When I speak with Laos-born, Arkansas-transplanted Krabby’s co-owner Lucky Xayavong — who runs the spot with his sister Menia Xayavong and her husband Jay Sayadeth — he says he may do some Asian-herb specials soon, but may be a few months out from regularly serving the Viet-Cajun style, after they’ve developed more lunch items and smoothed out any opening kinks.

How service works now for the boils: Guests pick their seafood, say Dungeness crab or clams, each sold by the half-pound or pound, then choose one of three current sauces if you’re not going with a basic steamed option. There’s potent garlic butter; a still-simple garlic-lemon pepper with added black pepper and paprika for color; and finally a spicy, floral and fantastic citrus Cajun with a house blend of herbs like oregano, thyme and celery seed plus chipotle pepper for smokiness and cayenne pepper for bite. Next, you request a spiciness level and, if going full Cajun-style vs. clean seafood with just the butters, throw in $2 add-ons like potato cubes, corn on the cob, and superlative, plump, juicy and scantly sweet (almost a maple essence) smoked sausage link slivers (the Xayavongs opted against the obvious Andouille sausage for a product they like better).

Lobster bibs go well with Army fatigues: Some soldiers break claw together. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Lobster bibs go well with Army fatigues: Some soldiers break claw together.
All of this is explained to you upon seating by your server, who’ll bring sauce samples to try with crackers, by request, and also ask if you want a bib and gloves. To be clear, that’s the point where you look across the table to your dining companion and share a knowing head nod that conveys: “Shit’s about to get real.” And it does, when your boil arrives in a doubled plastic bag inside a cardboard food tray next to a metal bucket for shells, all for you to begin making a big mess all over the butcher paper table covering. Next to salt, pepper and hot sauce is set a roll of paper towels; many a sheet will fulfill its purpose cleaning fingertips and faces.

On first visit we go head-on shrimp ($10.99/half pound) in citrus Cajun sauce, spice level two of three, with all the extras, which proves a challenge not just for peeling the exoskeleton (suck the heads to find a soulful saffron flavor though none is used in the boil), but also because we’re left to devein them using only the edges of our forks. This option requires patience and a little skill, but proves wholly worth it taste-wise; everything sings in spice and, yes, citrus, with deep earthy notes from the smoked elements and a pure prawn flavor — just excellent. On a second visit we get king crab legs ($29.99/pound) with the garlic butter, relishing the act of cracking them and pulling out the stringy, tender meat to dredge in the biting butter.

Our server that night’s from Providence, Rhode Island, and vouches for the legitimacy of the fresh seafood alone (the Xayavongs drive to Denver regularly to grab shipments, both from the Gulf and elsewhere). And Krabby’s chowders, a clam or a seafood, are the best I’ve had outside of Boston. Though the fried shrimp Po Boy transports us right to New Orleans, with a soft toasted baguette lathered in tangy remoulade, hosting lightly breaded, gooey-good shrimp. Maine’s invoked with a lobster roll rendition, not of the celery and mayo ilk, but the starkly clean lobster on a buttery Texas-toast-like split-top roll, with drawn butter dip.
Location Details Krabby's Seafood Joint
669 Star Ranch Road
Cheyenne Mountain
Colorado Springs, CO
313-9472
Seafood
Our only non-seafood item is a basket of crispy, pretty perfect cheesy, highly salty fries, dressed with small pork belly cubes, corn kernels and Sriracha aioli, with garnishing scallions and parsley. We drink an odd-interesting strawberry mojito which subs tequila for rum (I upcharge to Milagro since the cocktail menu’s designed with well drinks, priced at $8.50), bursting with fresh muddled mint essence and ample strawberry from fresh macerated fruit. We should have upcharged from Kentucky Gentleman for an otherwise fine Whiskey-Rita with Triple Sec and fresh lime. From the craft beer list, grab a Denver Brewing Company Princess Yum Yum raspberry kölsch that’s a perfect, tart local stand-in for Abita Brewing Company’s Louisiana-famous Purple Haze raspberry lager — they both go well with Cajun fare, the sweet fruitiness balancing the spice.

With this bounty on display, there’s no reason to wait to visit until Krabby’s unveils its next menus with the Viet-Cajun expansions — maybe you can catch a special-of-the-day preview prior. But you, like us, will probably wish to return as soon as they do. What a beautiful mess, buttery fingers, bibs, buckets and all.

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