Get Ready to Make a Delicious Mess at Bag O’ Crab’s First Oregon Outpost

A laminated menu lists the many things you may have boiled and brought to you in a bag: crawfish; shrimp; snow, king and Dungeness crabs; and a whole-ass lobster.

Bag O' Crab (Courtesy of Bag O' Crab)

Looking for a good time? Call Bag O’ Crab.

There is no way to feel serious about anything—except, perhaps, demolishing a large bag of Cajun-sauced crustaceans—the moment you step through the doors at this new restaurant on the corner of Northeast 82nd Avenue and Klickitat Street.

From the mural of a giant lobster breaking through a brick wall as lightning strikes from above to the small “fireplace” created by red lights and water vapor to the robot waitress that could be the love child of Rosey the Robot and a Roomba, Bag O’ Crab is a whole scene.

This is the place you—and everyone else, judging by the frequent hour-plus wait times—will want to hold your next celebration, or simply have dinner to jazz up an ordinary Tuesday.

To settle in at your table, pull the branded Bag O’ Crab plastic bib over your head, slip gloves on your hands, and arm yourself with scissors and crackers—tools for your upcoming task. The ritual of it all makes it feel like you’re suiting up for something epic. Bring on the crab claws.

A laminated menu lists the many things you may have boiled and brought to you in a bag: crawfish; shrimp (heads on or off); snow, king and Dungeness crabs; and a whole-ass lobster, among others.

Bag O' Crab (Courtesy of Bag O' Crab)

For the uninitiated, a boil is an extraordinarily messy and super-fun affair most associated with Louisiana. There, when crawfish are in season in the spring, even grocery stores have massive tanks of the freshwater crustaceans for sale. You grab those and lots of spicy seasoning and throw it all in a pot with red potatoes, corn and sausage. The steaming medley is then dumped out on the table, and you stand around picking tail meat out of them water bugs, pausing only to slurp cold beer from a can. At Bag O’ Crab, the method is similar: Throw your shells anywhere on the table—large strips of butcher paper are rolled out and refreshed between each seating.

There are a few other boil restaurants in town, including My Brother’s Crawfish and Rockin’ Crab & Boiling Pot, but the large space and party vibes fostered by owner Gary Lin and his daughter Yuxin Lin make Bag O’ Crab special. There are locations in California, Washington and Texas; this franchise is the first in Oregon.

Bag O' Crab (Courtesy of Bag O' Crab)

I suggest going for one of the combos, particularly Combo 4 ($83.95): a lobster or Dungeness crab, 1 pound of head-on shrimp or three-quarters of a pound of headless, 1 pound of crawfish, 1 pound of clams, two corn segments, two potatoes and four sausage slices. This feeds three people easily, but spring for an additional order of potatoes ($1.50 for three pieces) and corn (95 cents), and do not miss out on the garlic bread ($3.95 for three pieces) and garlic noodles ($7.95), which all act as carby sponges to sop up the spicy, buttery boil mixture.

There’s a mess o’ sauces—I say go classic Cajun—with heat levels ranging from “not spicy” to “on fire.” I’m not a spice wuss by any means, but I think venturing above medium isn’t recommended for anyone except capsaicin freaks.

Bag O’ Crab has other items on the menu that are not crab, nor in a bag, such as grilled fish ($12.95) and wings ($7.95 for six, $12.95 for 10). Why order them, though? (This is not a comment on their quality, but everyone is here for the bagged shellfish.)

When the robot arrives (recently crowned with a witch hat for Halloween), grab your bag, pour it into the provided big metal bowl, and get moving. A tip: You can lightly press down on both sides of the tail of a crawfish and sort of push the meat up from the bottom. Things will feel almost frantic as you’re cutting into a fatty lobster claw and getting at those first bites, but you and your tablemates will slow, ultimately picking at the last of the shrimp and finishing off the garlic noodles.

Bag O' Crab (Courtesy of Bag O' Crab)

You will leave satisfied, maybe a little tired and, if you’re me, certainly resolved to have your next birthday party there.

EAT: Bag O’ Crab, 3255 NE 82nd Ave., 971-716-8888, 3-10 pm Monday-Friday, noon-10 pm Saturday-Sunday.

Bag O' Crab (Courtesy of Bag O' Crab)

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.