Shack attack

Feed your fried-food need at Crab Louie
By BRIAN DUFF  |  July 3, 2007
SUMMER FEEL: Picnic-style eating and a blackboard menu.

Crab Louie | 127 Commercial St, Portland | 207.772.6200 | Sun-Wed 11-9; Thurs-Sat 11-midnight | Visa, Mastercard
Recently Pearl Oyster Bar, a place in New York City (run by a displaced Mainer) that serves lobster rolls, fried clams, and the like, sued a similar Manhattan establishment, Ed’s Lobster Bar, for theft of intellectual property. We should be excited about this. If the suit goes anywhere, then maybe the entire state of Maine can sue New York for something akin to “taste infringement” for every restaurant that drops a dead sea creature into hot oil, or a live one into hot water. If we could just get a fraction of what those arrogant bastards are dropping on their presidential campaigns then we could solve “Maine’s fiscal crisis,” whatever that is. Manhattan will rue the day it aspired beyond its inferior red chowder.

The time for lawsuits is particularly ripe because, as last week revealed, we are now in possession of a Supreme Court that is completely unhinged and capable of anything. They have declared independence from precedent. They have ruled unconstitutional anti-trust laws dating back to Teddy Roosevelt. They have embraced de facto racial segregation as quintessentially American (sadly, they have a point there). Unexpectedly, they may make it harder for states to kill mentally retarded people. Soon they will make pregnant women have babies.

Crab Louie, a new restaurant in that familiar Maine genre, has opened to feed the coming surplus of babies and mentally retarded criminals, as well as the rest of us. What I really wish is that the dearly departed (someday to return?) Scales of the Portland Public Market had good reason to sue the new Crab Louie in the Old Port. They don’t. While Scales had the brilliant idea to take lobster-shack cuisine and render it into something sublime, Crab Louie renders it into, well, pretty good lobster-shack food.

Crab Louie is named after a West Coast salad that involves iceberg lettuce, but the restaurant does not serve the salad. Possible lawsuit? It also does not normally serve fried oysters, which is the ultimate test of a lobster shack. But it offers everything else you would expect, and even manages to look a lot like a beachside spot once you get through the door.

Many will tell you that the lobster roll is actually the real test of a lobster shack. I think reactions to Crab Louie’s version will be fine. The smaller size is a cute little thing on a toasted bun lined with a touch of chopped lettuce. The meat looks more finely diced than it actually is, and is well mixed with a light mayo and butter.

Crab Louie’s best options were the fried scallops and the fish taco. The medium-sized scallops had a slightly darker and a touch spicier coat than the rest of the fish, and had been cooked just right. The fish taco seemed like a fish quesadilla without cheese. Big pieces of haddock were folded into a thick, flaky, greasy tortilla with purple cabbage and scallions. I could have used a bit more of the tangy sauce. The clams, with a lighter and moister coating than the scallops, offered a nice chew in some places, and melted on the palate in others. You could taste the brine and the sea in them.

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