What you should absolutely never order at Joe's Crab Shack

Joe's Crab Shack is seafood heaven. You have to love a restaurant that will serve you an entire cooked crab in a bucket and encourage you to break it apart and eat it with your bare hands. You so rarely get a chance to have this much fun with food in public. They'll even give you a bib, which we mistakenly assumed only happened in the movies, but as it turns out crab really does get everywhere. (If you do it right.) 

Joe's is fun for the whole family, with its beachy, almost Disneylandish, Frontierland-meets-Pirates-of-the-Carribean vibe and famously yummy food. You may be surprised, however, at what we recommend you never order. Some things might be your favorites, some maybe not. With one or two of them you may actually be taking your life in your own hands. No matter what, after you're done with this list we can pretty much guarantee you won't be ordering what's on it anytime soon. 

Joe's Crab Shack's crab and shrimp dip does not make a good impression

Have you ever been sitting in a restaurant, perhaps with a friend or two, when the waiter came along and presented the table with a plate of questionable-looking slop and wondered, who in the world ordered this? And then quickly realized it was, in fact, you who ordered it, and therefore were obligated to eat it? If not, then you've probably never had the crab and shrimp dip at Joe's Crab Shack. It's tragic. 

Not only does the cream cheese look curdled, but it also appears to be sweating as there's a fair bit of watery-looking liquid on the outskirts. It actually looks less like dip and more like a bunch of random ingredients that got into a fight. It's the kind of thing that kind of tastes good once you dare to try it, but the presentation is so off-putting you almost can't enjoy it. Needless to say, this is not something we recommend you put it in your stomach.

Joe's Crab Shack's fried calamari is way too heavy

When it comes to seafood, there's nothing like a big ol' plate of deep fried squid tentacles. And the fresher, the better. Fresh calamari is light and delicate, like sponge cake. Joe's calamari, however, is heavy and crunchy, like onion rings. This would almost be fine if every day was Super Bowl Sunday, but since it isn't, there's really no excuse for such heavily battered food. It's also slightly rubbery, which leads us to suspect it's either been thawed out from a previous frozen state, or they fry the living daylights out of it. Most likely both. 

But short of being able to choose your own squid out of a tank, then hovering behind the chef while he fries it up, whispering, "easy now, OK, that seems like long enough," there's pretty much nothing much you can do about it. And if you're thinking a little squeeze of lemon juice on there might be a good idea, don't. Lemon is the enemy of battered food. It gets everything all soggy, and then you're just screwed. Do yourself a favor and skip the whole thing.

The shrimp scampi at Joe's Crab Shack is kind of boring

Shrimp scampi is one of those dishes that's hard to mess up. One good way to do it would be to use no discernible amount of flavorings or seasonings whatsoever, and that's exactly what we have here — a serving of bland shrimp, surrounded by what might amount to a quarter of a tomato diced up and a pool of olive oil. 

The good news is, you can really taste the shrimp. The bad news is, you can only taste the shrimp. Nothing against shrimp, but scampi should be slightly more exciting than that. Sizzling, even. It should arrive in a cast iron skillet, still broiling and trailing steam, smelling of lemon and hot, buttery garlic. After all, isn't that why we go to restaurants, to eat something a little more thrilling than you can make at home? Something with a bit of pizazz, perhaps? Or, at the very least, some flavor? 

Don't settle for the chicken at Joe's Crab Shack

Because not everyone digs seafood, Joe's has a menu section they call Stay on Shore with herb chicken, steak, and pasta options. One problem: it's a seafood restaurant. We understand how steak and pasta made it on there, but how much effort do you really think they put into the chicken? It's not exactly the main focus here. 

The description alone seems rather uninspired, not to mention misleading. "Chicken breasts topped with herb butter," it reads. Um, hello, topping something with herb butter is totally not the same as cooking it in herbs, as the name "herb chicken" clearly implies. We're not even sure why anyone would want to put butter on their chicken in the first place, unless this is a typo they have yet to fix. The point is, you shouldn't have to settle. If you're not a fan of fish, you're probably better off just going with the steak

Joe's Crab Shack's Voodoo Chicken Bites are scary, but not why you think

First of all, hat's off to Joe's Crab Shack for coming up with one of the catchiest food names since Denny's gave us Moons Over My Hammy. And second, yum. This is some mighty fine tasting chicken, bursting with Cajun spices (hence the name "voodoo," as in the thing from New Orleans everyone thinks is scary, but is actually a very misunderstood religion) and lightly fried to a golden brown. 

Unfortunately, they're terrible for you. A single serving of Voodoo Chicken Bites has a massive 2,080 calories, and 148 grams of that is fat. That's two and half times the recommended amount of fat you should have in a single day, and in just one appetizer. Kinda makes the pile of french fries and side of ranch it comes with seem a little unnecessary. Obviously, you have two choices here: regret the whole thing and starve yourself for the next 60 hours, or just don't order it in the first place. 

The pasta Alfredo at Joe's Crab Shack is not worth it

Sometimes restaurants put things on their menus hoping you won't realize how ridiculously overpriced they are, and pasta is one of them. Generally speaking, pasta is cheap. Seafood, on the other hand, is not cheap.

Twin lobster tails at Joe's will run you around $20, but the penne is about $5 less, leading you to believe it's a better deal. Well, it ain't. The markup on pasta can be upwards of 800 percent in restaurants. Yeah, you may be saving a few dollars, but what you're getting is nowhere near worth it. You just think it is because it costs less. This is restaurant trickery 101, along with using exceptionally flowery language to describe a dish and eliminating dollar signs from menus so it won't seem like the numbers next to the items represent actual money. While we're at it, you should probably also steer clear of soups, coffee, and the second bottle of wine on the list, because they're all notorious rip-offs.

If you care about trans fats, avoid Joe's Crab Shack's steampots

Unless you live in a closet, you've heard about trans fat and how awful it is for you. Trans fat is the ultimate artery-clogger. What starts off as liquid ends up solidifying in your system like chewed gum, and too much of it can increase your chance of heart disease, diabetes, everything bad. 

Unfortunately for Joe's, in 2014 the watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) found several items on the restaurant's menu contained "whopping amounts" of trans fat, despite a 2007 pledge to eliminate it from the menu. "Joe's Crab Shack," the CSPI said in a statement, (via Take Part), "is a nutritional shipwreck of a restaurant chain, ruining expensive seafood with cheap, industrially produced trans fat designed to simulate butter." Ouch. Specifically cited, among other things, were Joe's steampots. 

Since Joe's Crab Shack doesn't list their nutritional info online, it's hard to tell if they've made changes to the steampots (and it's possible that ingredients vary by location), so it may be best to just stay clear. They may be a shellfish lover's dream, but not if you're going to end up in the hospital. 

Stay away from the mussels at Joe's Crab Shack (and everywhere else)

Dining out is essentially an exercise in trust. The restaurant staff who provide your meal trust that you will remit payment in full at the end of your dining experience (and maybe even "a little somethin' for the help"). In turn, you trust the restaurant owner and his intrepid kitchen staff will not inadvertently poison you. This is especially true when it comes to shellfish, and mussels in particular — at Joe's Crab Shack and every other seafood-loving place. 

Mussels need to be kept alive until they're ready to eat, and for that reason they need special attention from people who know what they're doing. But don't just take our word for it. One need look no further than the words of the late, great Anthony Bourdain from his book, Kitchen Confidential. "I don't eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. I love mussels. But, in my experience, most cooks are less than scrupulous in their handling of them." Well then, that settles that. Keep away from the mussels at Joe's Crab Shack.

Skip the salad at Joe's Crab Shack, too

Not to sound dramatic, but eating salad these days is straight up dangerous. Just ask the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In 2013, the CDC came out with an analysis of food poisoning cases studied over a ten year period that found leafy vegetables — as in lettuce — were responsible for nearly a quarter of the problem because they were so bacteria-ridden. In 2018 alone, five people died and almost 200 others fell ill after eating E.coli-contaminated romaine lettuce. Normally cooking kills it off, but since you don't cook lettuce, that's not really an option anymore than washing it. "It is very difficult to remove bacteria from leafy greens," says James Rogers, Ph.D., Director of Food Safety and Research at Consumer Reports. "Bacteria have the ability to adhere to the surface of the leaves, and to get stuck in microscopic crevices." 

Even if you do feel like living dangerously and ordering some greens... don't. Joe's Crab Shack only offers two salad choices, and neither are very exciting — just a Caesar salad and a garden salad, as run-of-the-mill as it gets. Seriously, avoid the salads at Joe's. In truth, they're not that good anyway. So why take a chance?