Brooklyn’s Seafood Boom: “The Crab Craze Has Moved Up Into New York” 

Brooklyn’s Seafood Boom: “The Crab Craze Has Moved Up Into New York” 

Over the last year, the influence of Brooklyn’s seafood-heavy coastal neighborhoods has started spreading inward. We’ve reported the openings of new seafood boil, crab, and lobster spots, not in the typical Sheepshead Bay, Red Hook and beach neighborhoods, but instead in East Flatbush, Crown Heights, and Bed-Stuy.

The Crab du Jour location at 888 Utica Avenue. Courtesy of Crab du Jour.

Crab du Jour, a national chain that began in Raleigh, North Carolina, with locations mainly on the East Coast has alone recently opened 10 individually operated franchises across the borough.

Jeffrey Schroth, the regional general manager, says that this is one trend that’s here to stay.

“It’s always been that you go to seafood restaurants and you pay an arm and a leg for good seafood. [Here] it’s affordable seafood, it’s always fresh. [There’s] the boil bag that comes to your table. The steam hits you, the smell hits you,” Schroth said.

Those who’ve had the good fortune to eat seafood boil know what he means. It’s a hands-on, ten-napkin minimum kind of meal that’s fairly easy to customize and make unique.

The new spots are mainly reminiscent of this style, classic in Louisiana and other parts of the south, but rarer the more North you go. The seasonings, usually Cajun, are spicy and buttery, differing from the more traditional lemony, Maine style of Red Hook Lobster Pound, or the Italian seafood pastas and stuffed clams of Randazzo’s or Nick’s Lobster House.

They’re by no means the first in the area, though. Claw Daddy’s has a similar style, as does Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook.

One of the first, The Crabby Shack, has been serving a wide variety of seafood, including the boil bags, since 2014. The spot is owned by Fifi Bell-Clanton and Gwendolyn Woods.

“We were definitely the pioneers and I think we did something right. When you do something right and you show how right you are you’re absolutely gonna have copycats, that’s business,” Bell-Clanton said.

The saturation can be concerning, and they say that they would look elsewhere if they decided to open a second crab restaurant. Both Woods and Bell-Clanton emphasize the support and loyalty they get from their customers, the Black community in particular, and how the restaurant is personable in a way that a chain sometimes lacks. The Crabby Shack is also beginning to ship nationally as they branch into retail, and opened recently in the Barclay’s Center.

The pair have noticed more of the spots opening in recent years, and attribute it in part to the rising popularity of the protein.

“Being in New York, lobster has been the main star in terms of high-end seafood. That was because of the trickle down from New England,” Woods said. But now, “the crab craze has moved up into New York.”

Schroth says that Crab du Jour already has plans to open six more restaurants just in Brooklyn, as well as over 100 more nationwide by the end of this year.

“Brooklyn is to me, and in the eyes of a lot of the owners, the trend capital of the world. Everybody knows Brooklyn. Why not just keep opening and opening and opening,” Schroth said.

Several of these new seafood spots are Black-owned, including Crabs in a Barrel, The Crabby Shack, and BK Lobster, making them a perfect destination for this Black History Month.

Another Brooklyn Crab du Jour location. Liena Zagare, Bklyner.

While the menus of these new spots vary, they are affordable. Crabs in a Barrel has snow crab legs starting at $16.50, Sonia’s Crab and Finn’s boils start at $18.50, snow crab legs at Crab du Jour start at $14.50, and crawfish boil by the pound starts at $11.00 at Ocean Treasures.

Recently Opened Seafood Spots:

Aloha Krab, opening soon at 354 Myrtle Avenue between Adelphi Street and Carlton Avenue.

BK Lobster, opening soon at 4th Avenue and 13th Street, open in Williamsburg at 340 Bedford Avenue, between S. 2nd and S. 3rd streets

Crab du Jour: 10 locations.

Crab Dynasty, located at 82 Livingston Street, between Court Street and Boerum Place.

Crabs in A Barrel, located at 825 Flatbush Avenue, between Lenox Road and Linden Boulevard.

Hook & Reel, opening soon at 430 Albee Square, between Fulton and Willoughby Streets

Ocean Treasures, located at 1706 Church Avenue, between E. 17th and E. 18th streets.

Sonia’s Crab and Finn, located at 670 Nostrand Avenue, between St. Marks Avenue and Bergen Street.

Classic Favorites

The Crabby Shack, located at 613 Franklin Avenue, between Bergen and Dean streets.

Claw Daddy’s, located at 31 3rd Avenue, between Atlantic Avenue and State Street.

Brooklyn Crab, located at 24 Reed Street, between Conover and Van Brunt Street.