2012 update: Joe’s is back in business. …Hooray?
Installment #2 on Dumpy Strip Malls’ Roseville Restaurant Trilogy – the closed Joe’s Crab Shack off of Snelling Avenue.
So yep, another abandoned building/former restaurant post with complementing photo essay. These places look so sad and creepy when they’re all boarded up & lifeless like this. But, hey, I like this kind of stuff and that’s why I have this blog. I’m the weirdo pulling off the side of the road, taking pictures of run-down buildings & weedy parking lots.
The Joe’s Crab Shack chain arrived in Minnesota in 1999 with two locations — Roseville and Maple Grove. Minnesota suburbanites love their chain restaurants (me included — I don’t mind a chain restaurant, as long as it’s GOOD), but poor Joe couldn’t make it work in this town. Maybe because of the abundance of Red Lobsters around, there wasn’t room in this town for another french-fried seafood chain? Or perhaps people just wanted to go to dinner to RELAX and EAT (what a concept!) & not have their server bully them into joining their conga line every 15 minutes? Whatever the reason might’ve been, the Roseville location closed in March 2007 and the Maple Grove location shut down in early 2008.
The Roseville location is still standing in development limbo, with nearly every fixture still intact, making this former non-stop summer beach bash locale look exceptionally creepy.
The Maple Grove location is now a Broadway Pizza, which is located along the northwest area of Elm Creek Blvd. There’s been a fair amount of restaurant turnover in this particular area. Former food eateries in this area include Green Mill, Krispy Kreme (which has been completely remodeled and is now a bank), Hops Restaurant & Brewery, and Baker’s Square (being torn to pieces to make way for a strip mall addition).
Unfortunately (…probably not the best choice of wording), I never ate at the Minnesota locations. My only experience with Joe’s Crab Shack was in 2000 in Gurnee, IL after a long day at Six Flags Great America (apparently, at the time, none of us knew that Joe’s Crab Shack had already infiltrated the Twin Cities area). I have pictures of this “event” but hell if I’m posting them. I would if it had been at one of the Minnesota locations, but it’s a Joe’s in the Chicago area, so no dice.
Unlike the lovely Fridley Crab House, this dining establishment is a chain, so location usually doesn’t matter, and most of this could apply to one of the MN locations. Whether it’s Chicago or Minnesota, you’re still in a landlocked state thousands of miles from the sea, leaving few choices for authentic and fresh-off-the-liner ocean seafood. Unless you want to fork over some big bucks for a meal at Oceanaire (which, by the way, isn’t doing so hot), places like Joe’s or Red Lobster will have to do. The people in my group thought
it would be way cool to eat here based solely on the building’s semblance of a weathered seaside frathouse that takes a yearly beating during hurricane season (Well, we were college kids). With the tiki posts, the Christmas lights strung from the deck beams, and the sheer amount of ear-numbing NOISE coming from this restaurant, it seemed like a potential hotspot for some crazy drunken shit to go down! We were all for it. (Evidently, we didn’t notice the huge outdoor KIDS play pit smack dab in front of the restaurant. Quite a perceptive group!)
I’m not crazy about seafood, but I didn’t complain — it looked like a fun place to eat. If anything, I can just grub on the popcorn shrimp and get a lil’ tipsy. Hey, it’s better than getting smashed in a depressing hotel bar.
Even though the atmosphere has that “forced-fun-designed-in-a-corporate-boardroom” feel to it, they do an okay job making you feel like you’re at the beach. The beach = throngs of people smelling like dogs & dirt from getting wet and sweating all day…which is exactly what you’d find when dining at a restaurant right next to a major amusement park. It was packed wall-to-wall in here with the same people who were at the amusement park, sporting the putrid clothes they wore all day, still damp from riding the Roaring Rapids. (same thing as Valleyfair’s Thunder Canyon). Pretty gross — but this could be said about any restaurant located near a Six Flags. I’m sure this wasn’t the case at the Minnesota locations.
We were seated at a booth that looked like a picnic table. The utensils and napkins were stored in some sort of metal bucket. I remember looking at the menu and I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat. Everything on the menu looked like the type of food that leaves me running for the toilet. If the seafood isn’t battered, I don’t want anything to do with it. This only escalates the digestive troubles. With enough breading and tartar sauce dollops, the fishy taste can be kept to a minimum. (That’s what she said!) . I ended up ordering some sort of fried seafood basket for which I paid dearly.
Their specialty drinks here are more like DRANKS. High calorie, complicated, recipe-required alcoholic beverages that look like a work of art. I thought I remember them having quite an extensive drink menu, but looking at the menu online, it pales in comparison to TGIF’s selection. Maybe it varies by location? I don’t normally like spending $10 on one drink, but hey, I can live a little. I’m at JOE’S for crying out load. The waiters are wearing hula skirts and doin’ The Butt (Owww! Sexy, Sexy). I think I ordered some blue drink (just because it was blue. Damn gimmick every.freakin’.time) — pretty sure it was the Shark Bite, and I was tipsy-doodle-do after a few sips. That’s not saying much on the drink strength though. I’m a lightweight and beer battered walleye would get me feelin’ loose. When my drink arrived, everyone in my party thought it looked wicked cool, so more Shark Bites were ordered by our crew. Gotta live every week like it’s Shark Week, I guess.
Despite this seaside shanty’s appearance of a party house for drunken beach bums, it was crawling with little kids. The outdoor playground, cheeseball decorations, and a menu made up of mostly kid-friendly seafood should’ve tipped us off, but we were pretty surprised at all the little rugrats swimming around in here. Definitely not a place for a romantic dinner.
I can’t write about Joe’s Crab Shack without mentioning the singing staff. Every 15-20 minutes, all the servers here break into a silly song and dance routine that no one pays attention to, except the kids. It’s kind of cute the first time they do it, but beyond that, it just gets annoying. Sometimes, they try to guilt-trip you into joining them. The first act, they do the Macarena. Second act is the Sprinkler. Third act, they do the Hustle. Enough already, just let me eat my soggy seafood and limp french fries!! By the way, NEVER mention that it’s your birthday. Unless you like wearing a coconut bra and dancing in the aisles to a Jimmy Buffet song…all while a pulsating strobe light illuminates the room, making you dizzy. The free scoop of vanilla ice cream just isn’t worth it.
They also had a gift shop here, kind of like what you’d find at the Hard Rock Cafe or Margaritaville, except Joe’s totally capitalizes on the “crabs” theme. Obviously. Nothing like a little STD innuendo to whet your appetite. You can buy all kinds of shit with clever puns – like shotglasses inscribed with “Peace, Love, and Crabs” or a t-shirt that reads, “Check out my mussels.” You go Joe! I surely didn’t see those jokes coming!
The food eventually came, with our server hastily dropping our grub off at our table to go do another dance. Between the Shark Bite drinks, my fried platter, and the sand pails of crab, by the end of the night, our table looked like Jaws threw up. No one complained about the food, but no one raved about it either. Or maybe they did. I don’t know — it was so damn loud up in hurrr that I don’t think anyone in our party held a conversation beyond, “WHAT?? CAN YOU REPEAT THAT?” “OH FUCK IT, TELL ME LATER.” We left this place with our ears ringing and our bellies full of grease. Joe’s Crab Shack was one big fishy pile of MEH…but I bet my cat would love to eat the leftovers.
That said, I can’t say I’m sad that this chain uprooted itself from Minnesota. I remember one time in 2001, when my sister came into town — we had just finished up a marathon shopping session over at Rosedale and we were looking for a place to eat. She saw Joe’s and noted the boisterous vibe, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go here again. We settled on Olive Garden. Free salad and breadsticks, yo!
If I had a choice, give me Red Lobster. At least they have the cheesy biscuits. Or just give me that filet-o-fish. Give me that fish.
Any memories of Joe’s Crab Shack? Feel free to share in the comments!
Photos taken June 2009.