Are you ready for sugar and salt?
That’s what I asked myself about 30 minutes after taking a seat at Soul Crab. Perhaps that question would have arisen a bit earlier, but service is slow here.
As you wait for a plate of seafood, there’s barely more than saccharine to sip. Will it be Red Kool-Ade Sangria, an oversized goblet filled with frosé slushie, or the layers of brandy, sweet and sour cocktail mix, grenadine and mango lemonade in the College Park cocktail that might taste better if they were stirred together? Even a glass of basic wine takes time to arrive.
There will be ample time to look around. Not much has changed since chef Darius Williams, the same person behind Greens & Gravy in Westview, took over the old Radial Cafe space on Main Street in College Park to offer diners a taste of the South via seafood. Actually, the wooden floors are dirty and mats need vacuuming.
When the food finally comes, salt is ever present. A pair of Maryland crabcakes, touted as having zero filler, come with a heavy shake of sodium. Is anyone in the kitchen tasting anything?
Actually, is anyone in the kitchen even looking at what’s cooking?
Shrimp and Crab over Grits was, as one dining partner described it, “glopulent.” Though the portion is massive, the grits were gloppy — soupy one day, soupier the next — and studded with mediocre seafood. Try asking for a spoon. Let me know if you have better luck getting that utensil than I did.
Mediocre seafood would also be Char Broiled Oysters Tyrone. The meat was so dinky it was doubly outsized by a blob of lemon aioli, which did not help things. The jerk shrimp in a bowl of linguine was strangely sugary, which was stranger still, considering that the menu warns diners not to order this dish if they don’t enjoy spicy food. Did someone season the shrimp with brown sugar instead of cayenne pepper?
The menu also specifies that a half-dozen items will take 25 minutes to prepare. That would include the Hot Crab and Collard Green Fondue that is unpleasant to eat once it gets cold, which happens quickly. That would also include the aforementioned oysters, and a baked crab mac and cheese whose crabmeat is lost among noodles only made passable thanks to too much — and too many varieties (six) of — melted cheese. The dish worth the wait was the grilled lobster tail. Then again, butter has a way of making most things taste better, just as with an order of steamed mussels here.
There are some fun ideas coming from the Soul Crab kitchen. If only they were better executed. Egg rolls stuffed with collard greens and crab were bland. I suppose the accompanying serving of commercial sweet Thai chile sauce was there to right what the kitchen got wrong. Old Bay Okra “Potato Chips” is a misnomer. I imagined a dish of slivered okra, treated like fries. Well, that’s part of it. The other part, the main part, is what looked and tasted like store-bought ridged potato chips given an oily bath in a deep fryer.
There is a dessert menu. Sometimes a server will offer it. Other times, not. If you can find your server, don’t wait around. Quickly order the cornbread. It is listed as a starter on the menu, but being that it’s more cake than bread, moist and with a divine honey butter on top that looks almost like icing, this is the way to end a meal at Soul Crab. It is the one dish here that comes with heart and soul.
SOUL CRAB ATLANTA
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-midnight Fridays-Sundays. 3725 Main St., College Park. 404-228-2835, soulcrabatl.com.
Recommended dishes: Old Bay Okra “Potato Chips.” Hot Crab and Collard Green Fondue. Grilled Jerk Lobster Tail. Butter Pecan Cornbread.
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