I may have had one of the most bizarre dining experiences of my life. An impromptu visit to The Crabman (formerly Rue Franklin) was a real eye opener, for a number of reasons. I wasn’t sure what to expect, which is rather unfortunate, but at the same time, if you had told me what to expect, I wouldn’t have believed the person that told me. Upon walking in, I stepped right up to the front counter and asked to see a menu. After perusing the items, which mostly revolved around seafood – clams, mussels, crab, lobster, and, of course, clams – I opted for… the clams! The woman behind the counter said that that was a good choice, if I didn’t mind a little sand with my clams. Ok, well, I guess a little sand in the clams means that they weren’t farm raised in a warehouse, so why not?
I asked if there was any seating on the patio, since it is one of the most glorious patios in all of Buffalo. There was no patio seating, which was fine. So I walked around, checking out the Sponge Bob decor, thinking how I had not had steamed (or boil in a bag it turns out) clams all summer, and this was going to be a real treat.
A couple of minutes after I sat down at a table in the dining room, I was handed a takeout bag with my food, upon which time I said that I was actually eating in. The food disappeared, and no less than a minute later, a giant clear plastic bag arrived at my table.
I looked at my waitress, thinking that this must be another takeout order. She told me that the clams were in the bag, so was the corn on the cob with a potato.
She then placed a plastic apron on the table, a pair of latex gloves, sanitized hand wipes, and packaged after dinner mints. Thank God I asked for “no straw” with my water, or the environment might have imploded upon itself, with me being forever accused as the guy whose dinner (minus a straw) was “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” I looked around at the table in front of me, staring at the giant plastic bag, wondering what I had gotten myself into. Then, as I was contemplating the plastic-filled oceans, a large can arrived at the table, filled with… you guessed it… another large plastic bag (this time black). At that moment, I actually looked around thinking that I was on Candid Camera… or maybe one of my friends was somewhere nearby concealing his or her laughter. No such luck.
When my waitress came back to the table, I couldn’t help but point out that this meal was an attack on the planet, and for a restaurant serving seafood, I would think that they would be concerned about all of the plastic in the oceans. I could tell that she was immediately nervous. I also got the feeling that suddenly I was someone to be observed, as I was making some noise about the plastic situation that I was faced with.
But now that the deal was done, I decided that I might as well venture into the bag, to see what was at the bottom. I turned out that the sand was not as much of an issue with the clams than the tiny broken shards of clam that I occasionally bit into with a CRUNCH!
If you’re thinking that I’m giving this place a hard time, I must say that the clam broth (a mix of Cajun, garlic butter, and lemon pepper) was actually quite good. I even used the broth to douse the dry hush puppies in (side ordered, since they didn’t have any edamame, which was listed on the menu). The corn on the cob was tasty because it was drowning in the broth, which, of course, made it soggy. And the whole… round… potato at the bottom of the bag? I’m not really sure what to say about that.
If the clams had been served in a bowl, instead of a garbage bag, I think I would actually give this place another try – the broth was that good.
On the way out, a woman (who was probably the owner) asked how everything was. I explained that the amount of plastic used to serve one person was shocking, and that she should be concerned for the oceans. She told me that if I came in with my family that they would serve the clams on a platter. I responded by saying, “So if I want to save the planet, I should bring my family along?” That got a chuckle from everyone.
It’s too bad that in a day and age when we should all know better, we don’t know any better. I didn’t use my plastic bib, or the latex gloves (I used my hands), or the black plastic trash bag (I put the spent clamshells in the hush puppy container), and I didn’t open the mints. So in my own little way, I tried my hardest to salvage the plastic attack. But I did use the two hand wipes, which barely did anything since I was eating with my actual hands.
Sitting at Buffalo Proper (a couple of doors down), writing about The Crabman, I have to wonder if I just stepped into an alternate universe for a hot minute. For a few tasty clams (with a little bit of sand), I feel like I stabbed Mother Nature through the heart. Therefore, I am personally expressing to her my heartfelt apology.
The Crabman | 341 Franklin Street | Buffalo NY 14202 | 716-322-6001 | Facebook