My friend and I went to Art’s Crab Shak last night. Now this is an Oakland experience. And by that, I mean a real, old-school, home-style Oaktown experience. Not for the faint of heart.
I’ve wondered about this place for years… I used to live right around the corner on 49th street and would drive past regularly, visit Mama’s across the street frequently, and yet never made my way in… until last night.
The first thing you notice is the sign that says “since 1963” – not an easy feat for a restaurant in the Bay Area. But originally it was Art’s Steakhouse, until 1992 when Milouda Kelley took ownership, switched the menu to seafood, and added “Crab Shak” to the old sign.
The second thing you notice when you enter, is how the interior is almost as much bar as it is restaurant. With the lack of windows, dim interior, and vintage vibe, it definitely feels more dive bar than fine dining. I wanted to take some pictures inside, but felt like dorky tourist, so refrained. You’ll just have to go see for yourself.
The third thing you notice after taking your seat in one of the the vinyl upholstered booths framed by circa-70s corkboard chock full of Christmas cards from years past, is that the menu says you must “pay before food comes.” Now that’s a twist. But it’s likely due to the fact that despite it’s divey aesthetic, this crab don’t come cheap!
But this is what you love about Art’s. It’s an experience.
We shared a “bucket” for two, which – if I had done my research beforehand – I would have known would not truly be a bucket. Instead it was a large platter heaped with gorgeous crab-legs steeped in garlicky mushroomy goodness. It’s not your classic east-coast style crab (what I grew up with), but it’s damn good, nonetheless.
“Buckets” come with a basket of garlic bread, a plastic bib (you will wear it!), a huge stack of napkins, and sani-wipes. Definitely not a first date place, unless you’re a bit wierd.
My only complaint would be the poor beer selection: basic bud, MGD, corona, etc. Can’t a girl get a nice pale ale to go with her crab?!?