Joe’s Crab Shack: Roseville, MN

July 15, 2009
Eat at Joe's!

Joe's Crab Shack is a sensory experience, to say the least

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.

Joe's Crab Shack

The beach-themed Joe's Crab Shack. No, they don't take sand dollars as a form of payment, but it would add a touch of authenticity if they did

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

Joe's Crab Shack had a kiddie playground. What, is this McDonalds?

Joe's Crab Shack had a kiddie playground. What, is this McDonalds?

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.

The dead Joe's Crab Shack

Such a festive setting

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 abandoned Joe's Crab Shack Playland.

The abandoned Joe's Crab Shack Playland.

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.

Eat at Joe's

Eat at Joe's

Another view of the Roseville Joe's Crab Shack

Another view of the Roseville Joe's Crab Shack

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4 Responses to Joe’s Crab Shack: Roseville, MN

  1. Pseudo3D on July 16, 2009 at 1:40 PM

    There was a Joe’s Crab Shack on the Galveston, Texas bay…which was a shame, because I heard it was once a local restaurant. After Ike slammed the island, with many homes now gone, the restaurant reopened a few months later while the local stores are still struggling to reopen.

  2. Dave on July 17, 2009 at 5:28 AM

    My wife and I went to the MG one one time when our first child was like 3 months old and couldn’t offer up commentary on where she wanted to go. Service was ok, as you said though – very loud and they didn’t like that we wouldn’t leave our 3 month old at the table and conga line with them! Food wasn’t anything special and spousal unit and I decided that for the money RL was as good, quieter and more “Family” oriented.

  3. Anoka Joe on September 16, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    My wife and I ate ate the Maple Grove location in sometime around 2005. When we entered we asked for a table for two, the hostess told us we would have to wait for a few minutes which I found odd since half the restaurant was empty. We waited a couple minutes while nothing happened, and as we were about to leave the music started and all of the employees started dancing in the isles. They made us wait for a table for a good minutes so that they could get the dancing out of the way. It still upsets me five years later.

  4. Charlie on June 20, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I worked at the one in Maple grove from October 1999 to November 1999. Worst. Job. Ever.

    Apart from sucking the happniess out of my brain for six weeks of my life, they also conned everyone into joining “the dining program”– you agreed to pay $8 per week out of your paycheck, and in exchange, they wouldn’t charge you for fountain drinks while you were working. So the drink that cost the company less than 2 cents to produce (and sell to customers for $2.50) would pay for itself if you did 4 shifts or more in a week! And furthermore, if you came in on your day off (why would you), you could get 50% off your food for up to four people (not drinks).

    Everyone was sucked into this. It was really busy then too as it was pretty new- people would come in and we would quote them 2-3 hours waiting time. Then they would check back every ten minutes to see where they were on the list. I had no patience.

    The customers were rude, the staff were rude. Every day I drove to work, I said a silent prayer that God would have burnt the place down the night before.

    And to this day, when the song “the hustle” comes on– usually at weddings– I feel a bit of sick in the back of my throat and have to leave the room.

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