We arrived at Joe's Crab Shack for dinner hot, hungry and — dare I say — crabby.
I took my two kids, ages 8 and 10, and their 8-year-old friend for a late bite after baseball practice last week when temps were in the 90s. We would have settled for anywhere with air conditioning and a kids' menu, but when I suggested Joe's, the kids perked up. We had eaten at the kitschy national chain a few times while visiting their grandparents in Naples, Fla., but didn't realize until recently the only Minnesota spot was back in business.
A few moments after we were seated, a voice came over the loudspeaker announcing the dancing would begin in two minutes. We knew what to expect, thanks to our Florida visits, but my kids' friend hadn't seen the Roseville staff members and their line dancing. Their friend was fascinated.
After the dancing, we placed our orders. The kids ran outside to play near the back deck while I enjoyed an oversized — and overpriced at $8.99 — margarita in the heat and marveled at the music variety booming from the speakers: first the Ting Tings, then Jefferson Starship, then ABBA and finally the Black Eyed Peas.
The kids' menu features standards like chicken tenders, pizza, burgers and, of course, fish sticks, for about $5 each. My crew was in the mood for a challenge, and each ordered the kids' $9.99 snow crab platter. They loved using the special shell crackers and forks to dig out the white flesh and congratulated each other when they extracted a large portion. It was more than a little work on their part, and I wouldn't recommend it for impatient kids or anyone younger than 6, unless Mom or Dad wants to do all the work.
I intended to share my $17.99 "big platter" shrimp trio with crab-stuffed shrimp, grilled shrimp and coconut shrimp, but the kids weren't interested in my dinner and passed on offers of broccoli and rice.
Our server was eager to get me the bill and dropped it off with a "No rush,
I knew the meal wouldn't be cheap — you don't really want cheap seafood, right? Still, I was amazed at how quickly feeding three kids and one adult added up to $75.
On our way out, we watched as the crew sang a goofy version of "Happy Birthday" and did another line dance as we made our way past all the Joe's T-shirts and other merchandise. Walking out into a blast of heat, it felt like a vacation at the seashore. That's what happens when you take kids to the Roseville restaurant with the beach motif and seafood menu: You can't help but feel the fun.
Kids' Cuisine is a one-time take on how restaurants handle kid customers. It's written by a rotation of Pioneer Press staffers with children — the real experts for this column.
JOE'S CRAB SHACK
Where: 2704 N. Snelling Ave., Roseville
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Prices: Kids' meals $5-$10, seafood selections $10-$23