Archaeologists believe there’s a scientific explanation for contemporary humankind’s predilection for seaside vacations and trips to the beach. Evidence–stone tools used to cut through animal flesh–seems to support the theory that the first humans migrated out of Africa by following the eastern coastline. This, the theory posits, would have led to Australia being discovered before Europe. As noted by Professor Chris Stringer, the head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London: “The earliest evidence of modern humans in Europe is 40,000 years old whereas we find evidence dating to 60,000 years ago in Australia. This (migrating along Africa’s eastern coastline) provides a possible explanation.”
In addition to the tools used by our beachcombing ancestors, the archaeologists found the remains of several edible marine animals, including oysters, mussels and crabs. Whether or not this also explains humankind’s pescatarian propensities, many of us are passionate about seafood–and not in the way Dolly Parton meant when she proclaimed “I’m on a seefood diet. I see food, I eat it.” According to Seafood Source, “on average, Americans consumed 16.1 pounds of seafood in 2018, a per capita consumption rate of 16.1 pounds, the highest since 2007.” Shrimp remains the most popular of all seafood.
As children growing up in landlocked and agrarian Peñasco, my siblings and I led a very sheltered life. Our extremely provincial experience with “seafood” was limited to Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks which we dipped in Kraft’s sandwich spread (we didn’t know about tartar sauce) and (gasp, the horror) Mrs. Paul’s fried shrimp. Sure, we snared the legal limit (yeah, right) of German brown trout, cutthroat trout and rainbow trout in the cold, rocky waters of the mountain streams in our backyard, but that wasn’t “seafood.” That was fish!
During my senior year in high school, my parents took me to a “fancy” (when you’re from Peñasco, back then this meant not Bonanza’s or Sizzling Sirloin) steak restaurant where instead of a slab of beef, I surprised them by ordering lobster thermidor. Despite not having a clue what to expect, I quickly fell in love with the presentation of a red carapace generously stuffed with creamy, rich lobster. The presentation quickly gave way to revelations in deliciousness my bumpkinly taste buds had never before experienced. It was love and lust in every bite. Pandora’s net having been splayed before me, I had to have more.
The United States Air Force had the answer to my prayers, stationing me at Hanscom, about seventeen miles northwest of Boston and much closer by eight-hundred miles to fresh, just-off-the-boat seafood. For two years, I did my best Diamond Jim Brady imitation, devouring lobsters and crab by the pot, oysters by the sack, tuna subs by the truckload and so many fried clams my friend Paul Venne told me I’d eventually become a clam. A few years later, my Kim and I were stationed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where our proximity to seafood-rich waters could literally be walked. Succulent seafood courtesy of Air Force postings mitigated the pangs of missing New Mexico’s incomparable red and green chile.
Much as we loved the propinquity and promise of superb seafood, the siren’s call lure of the Land of Enchantment proved insurmountable. We returned to La Tierra Encantada where over the years, we’ve seen seafood go from scarce and expensive to plentiful and reasonably priced, especially at mariscos restaurants. Then in September, 2013, a revolutionary seafood concept named Down N Dirty Seafood Boil introduced Duke City landlubbers to a Cajun-style seafood boil. In 2015, Crackin’ Crab Seafood Boil followed suit.
In February, 2020 (scant weeks before the world closed down), Storming Crab, Albuquerque’s third Cajun seafood boil restaurant launched its galley, this one in the commodious San Mateo edifice that previously housed Groundstone. Unlike Down N Dirty and Crackin’ Crab, Storming Crab has a national presence with restaurants in Kentucky (including the original in Clarksville), New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois. There are currently nineteen Storming Crab restaurants under spacious skies.
As might be expected, the space has undergone a complete make-over. Over-the-top nautical themes dominate. Taut ropes, more than you’ll find in a rodeo, feature prominently in the theme. So do helms, the “steering wheels” that control the course of a vessel. A green kayak is suspended from the ceiling and a toothsome shark from another. Graffiti, nearly as much as you’ll see under any of the city’s underpasses, is everywhere. As you walk in, a Captain Jack lookalike (from Pirates of the Caribbean) glares at you from behind his wooden helm.
The menu is designed with five specific dinner combinations up front, all served with corn, potatoes and sausage. Seafood options include crawfish and shrimp; Dungeness crab, shrimp and clams; a whole lobster, brown clams and crawfish; snow crab legs, crawfish and shrimp; king crab legs, crawfish and mussels; and snow crab legs, lobster tails and shrimp. Each is priced by the pound, by market price. Each serves anywhere from one to two or two to three people. There’s also a family combo which feeds Feeds five to six people: one pound each of king Crab, snow crab, green mussels, shrimp and white clams.
You can also opt for just one seafood item, be it mussels, crawfish, lobster or a choice from several types of crab. Each individual platter includes corn and potatoes. You can choose the flavor profile of your “sauce” from among crab house Cajun, garlic butter, Old Bay butter, Old Bay dry no butter or plain, and your spice level from mild to super hot. If boiled seafood isn’t what you’re into, the menu also features classic fried seafood as well: calamari, shrimp, catfish, oysters and more. Landlubbers can have chicken strips, too. Fresh raw oysters also are available, not to mention a couple of Cajun dishes: gumbo and crawfish etoufee.
5 September 2020: As you’re perusing the menu, two pieces of seafood bread are ferried to your table. At first glance, seafood bread may look like cheesy garlic bread, but there’s much more to this staff of life than that. The rich, creamy cheese on top is infused with crab, garlic and other herbs. In short, it’s absolutely delicious, a precursor of what’s to come. In addition to the seafood bread, our server equipped us with plastic disposable bibs emblazoned with a bright red crab, plus tools to help us extricate the delicate seafood from its spiny carapace. Two thick pieces of paper are laid out on your table to help contain the predictable and inevitable mess.
5 September 2020: But first, the appetizers. Would it be crab cakes, hush puppies, onion rings or stuffed jalapeños? It certainly wouldn’t be (gasp) fish sticks for me. Nah, our choices were in honor of the two seaside locations the Air Force graciously assigned us to. First were clam strips, hand-breaded and deep fried as I loved them intensely in Massachusetts. Even though these were not the whole belly clams I preferred, they were certainly not the desiccated, insipid clam strips (sorry, Bob) of Howard Johnson’s. A lush, crunchy breading gives way to sweet, “meaty” clams that in my mind’s eye took me back to Massachusetts. Similarly, the boudin balls (whiter link sausage, rice, vegetables, seasonings all deep fried) transported us to the first time we enjoyed the Cajun culture staple in Bayou country. Though they resemble donut holes, these savory orbs have a surprisingly complex and intensely satisfying flavor. They’re not quite as addictive as fried clams, but boy are they good!
Your food arrives in thick plastic bags inside a bucket. No plates are provided, just two bags brimming with seafood absolutely saturated with the sauce you selected (garlic butter for us). You’ll remove the seafood from the bucket which you’ll then use to discard the “empties.” This is not refined eating. Basically you just reach into the bag and extract what it is you wish to attack first. Exercise a bit of caution, however. This is steaming hot stuff that requires handling with care.
5 September 2020: My Kim and I opted for dinner combo 2, a “feeds two to three people” bounty comprised of a full-pound Dungeness crab, a pound of shrimp and a pound of clams along with a quarter-pound of sausage and three half ears of corn-on-the-cob. Though your humble blogger usually eschews food which “requires work” to eat, Dungeness crab is an exception. With some of the sweetest meat of any crustacean, Dungeness crab are a tender and delicate delicacy you can’t get enough of. The shrimp were almost an oxymoron in that they were much more “jumbo” than “shrimpy.” They, too, were delicious, even with the profusion of garlic butter. We handled the potatoes and corn gingerly as they were both scalding to the touch, but oh so good. When we finally uttered “no mas,” we still had a staggering amount of food left — enough for another full meal from what was left.
4 July 2021: My friend Schuyler used to rail against three types of food: airline food, hospital food and seafood in New Mexico. That was before a number of Mexican mariscos restaurants started popping up across the Land of Enchantment. He fell in love with those. Had he joined my Kim and I during our second visit to Storming Crab, his opinion of seafood in landlocked New Mexico would probably have led to a pejorative-laced tirade. Our dinner combo #3 (whole lobster, clams, sausage, red potatoes and corn) was that bad. The red potatoes were about as soft as a Nancy Pelosi compliment of Donald Trump. More than half of the clams remained unopened after steaming. Though unopened clams and mussels aren’t necessarily an indicator that they’e bad, prying them open and smelling them is not our idea of a fun meal.
The most disappointing component of our dinner combo was the whole lobster which my Kim had been so looking forward to. First, the only utensil we were given was a lobster cracker (which resemble plyers). No seafood forks or leg sheller knives. Fortunately my hands are like vice grips and I managed to extricate all the lobster meat sans utensils. All that hard work should have been rewarded with sweet, succulent and delicious lobster. Alas, the lobster was rubbery, “old-tasting” and overwhelmed by the butter sauce used on our combo plate. Tough or rubbery meat is usually the result of a lobster cooked too long. This is one lobster that should have been thrown back!
5 September 2020: Somehow we allowed our sweet server to talk us into dessert. Frankly, none of the options were especially enticing, especially considering we knew we’d have to waddle out of the restaurant. Still, we both had ice cream macaroons which resembled junior ice cream sandwiches. My Kim’s macaroon sandwiched vanilla ice cream while mine (our server’s favorite) was espresso flavored. Both were good, but after one bite we’d just as soon have taken them home had they not been guaranteed to melt during our 20-mile trip.
Somewhere in my ancestral lineage were coastal dwellers who enjoyed succulent seafood. I’ve inherited their passion for the fruits of the sea and may just make Storming Crab a dinnertime dwelling.
5001 San Mateo Blvd., N.E.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Website | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 4 July 2021
1st VISIT: 5 September 2020
# OF VISITS: 2
BEST BET: Boudin Balls, Clam Strips, Dinner Combo #2 (1lb Dungeness Crab – 1lb shrimp – 1lb Clams – Sausage a quarter pound – (3) potatoes , (3) corn), macaroons
27 thoughts on “Storming Crab – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
Storming Crab has opened another in the former Zio’s, that stood empty for eons, on Coors NW between Garduno’s and Los Cuates.
I ate here today with my wife and daughter. I was prepared to not like it, but was actually impressed, and will go back. Head on shrimp were very good, wife’s mussels were all opened. Good Old Bay and Cajun sauces. Didn’t get any seafood bread when we sat down. I’m always hesitant to order them in NM, but the baked oysters were great. I think they get enough turnover of their seafood that’s it all pretty fresh.
My wife has been to Crackin’ Crab and said Storming Crab is much better.
Gil, after reading about your latest venture into this place, I had to take an hour or so to reign in my urge to respond in a rather bombastic and unladylike fashion. Whatever possessed you to patronize this chain is probably an issue better left unaddressed.
The major issue is the fact that you were actually served unopened clams. No self-respecting restaurant with competent kitchen and serving personnel would ever let that happen. While you point out, per an online post, that the clams weren’t necessarily bad, I’ve never encountered a chef or cooking authority who didn’t say such clams should be discarded and certainly not ever served. While they may have been “safe” to eat, those unopened clams were likely dead or full of sand to begin with. It’s unconscionable they ever arrived at your table. And that dry, overcooked lobster would have had me summoning the manager for a detailed discussion and comping of the meal – such as it was.
As for seafood boils – well, let me just say that I generally find them to be amateurish productions unless prepared by well established experts that know how to add proper seasoning and in places within close proximity of the coastal areas of New England, the Chesapeake Bay, the Carolina Low Country, and Louisiana Cajun country. I know, Gil, that you’ve eaten your fair share of seafood in these places and that you’ll agree relative to quality. In the future, I think you’d better consult with Betty Mercury before setting out to satisfy a seafood craving.
Here’s a video of Gil at work on his Storming Crab lobster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSL4cmFW_GU
Well done Schuyler – that’s just too funny! I guess diner’s at Storming Crab would be well advised not to order the lobster boil unless they’re equipped with “vice grip hands” and they’ve reviewed the technique provided in your link.
Thank you, Betty
Gil is like Edward Scissorhands without the gentle finesse or like Freddie Krueger without the fashion style.
Well, Gil is very proud of those hands so it’s best that we don’t tread on his ego too much…. LOL!
Considering you have never been able to become master of your own domain, I’m surprised you don’t go around shattering bricks with your right hand.
A national chain, a *good* national chain, and it wasn’t even Kim’s birthday. Gil, you might get another reprieve from Olive Garden this year! Surely it won’t take much coaxing for her to want to come here instead.
Sarita, you know how my devious mind works. Unfortunately so does my Kim. She figured the trip to Storming Crab was an avoidance ploy on my part (it wasn’t) so we didn’t have to visit Olive Garden. As such I also took her to Forghedaboudit in Las Cruces. You’ve got to go there. The Yacone family is performing magical culinary feats with their Southwest Italian concept.
Agreed, it’s just a bar that I usually avoid but the reviews said they had the best whole belly clams, which I agree with having eaten them for a week there. The lobster bisque in the photo wasn’t that great, but the clams were. Yes, the Freuben sounds gross. Am a New Mexican since 2007, originally from Chicago, just went to Maine for the first time this summer, zero connection with the Thirsty Whale.
Am I the only person who thinks the Freuben would be pretty good? I wouldn’t eschew my beloved whole belly clams in favor of the Freuben, but would probably order both.
Paul, next time you visit Maine, take in the Maine Diner in Wells and order the world-famous lobster pie. It might make you think about moving to Maine if it wasn’t so darned cold up there.
Gil, the Maine Diner menu is impressive, the “Clam-O-Rama” plate has me drooling. Another place to check out is Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, https://moodysdiner.com/ I didn’t make it there but it has a great reputation. In case anyone gets tired of seafood (I didn’t), lots of these good restaurants also serve New England pot roast and roast turkey year round.
Another Maine food observation, the beautiful old New England churches have Bean Suppers the first Saturday night of the month, anyone can come. Served family style.
Yes on the rough Maine weather, leaves were beginning to turn already when we were there in late August. Although a few people were swimming in Acadia National Park, the water was about 50 degrees.
Another gratuitous soft-shell lobster meal photo. You can see a few Jonah crab claws on the plate too. That was a feeding frenzy, one of the best meals of my life.
Yes, I remember walking by Geddy’s recently, right by the park and water. Check out this item from their menu, Atlantic Seafood Pie:
“Wild-caught haddock with a shrimp, scallop, lobster, and Jonah crab crust, topped with a lemon butter sauce and offered with jasmine rice and day vegetable.”
Alas, while Atlantic Seafood Pie must be yummy for many, I think my flavor “challenged” palate can’t discern more than two flavors simultaneously…LOL! Curiously, I also peeked at your Whale menu: Seriously???!!! A “Freuben ($12.99) Our fried haddock sandwich topped with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and swiss cheese.” That ‘seems’ like an abomination!
~ With due respect to today’s need for privacy, are you now a Mainiac or other New Englander somewhere or out there just passing through and leaf peeping https://tinyurl.com/y2756sea?
Whole belly clams from Maine last week….
Thank you for sharing the great photo. In which Maine restaurant did you find such glorious whole belly clams…which only BOTVOLR would dispute rule like a benevolent sovereign beloved by her subjects.
Sir, that was the Thirsty Whale Tavern in Bar Harbor, ME, said to serve the best whole belly clams in town. I can’t disagree. Whole belly clams are everywhere in ME, when a restaurant says ‘clams’ they mean whole belly clams.
Another ME seafood revelation was soft shell lobsters, I never knew such a thing existed. They are much sweeter and more tender than harder shell lobsters. Photo here.
Ahoy! Avast yez gabbing in order to take a “nostalgic” look-see at a bit of Baah Haabaah…to which I’ve never been…LOL! This is a year round viewing https://geddys.com/geddys-cams/ near one end of Main St. from Geddy’s restaurant; click ‘go Live’ at the bottom of the vid screen and Control then Pano and the enlarge icon. (Previously their system let ya tilt and really zoom in. I but wonder if they finally got complaints from Folks caught…how shall we say…arriving to tryst for a noonday lunch?!) This is what Geddy’s looks like https://tinyurl.com/yyuht2j6 otherwise, being just a few blocks from your Thirsty Whale. Indeed, what a tidy village to spend a few days pigging out on seafood fare in quaint surroundings!
Sorry, another photo try.
Alas RE Storming Crab: Indeed, they’ve redeco-ed much of the short-lived Groundstones. Upon entry, don’t be distracted to read the nonsensical graffiti scribbles on the walls/posts…a cheap decor to appeal to the younger crowd?..which readily catch your eyes. For some, you might appreciate they did not go far enough with a nautical theme. Hosts and waitstaff are welcoming and prepared to explain the somewhat out-of-the-ordinary offerings if you haven’t done a delicious/social ‘seafood boil’ before. If you are getting a seafood boil, I recommend when ordering that you ask that extra ‘seafood bread’ be brought when the meal is served because the sauce the ‘boil’ is in at other places, just begs for sopping up!
~ For me, I came for the Fried Clams (sans bellies). It’s no problem they are not offered as a meal, but as an appetizer instead, as that leaves some room for choosing Fries or Onion Rings, the latter of which are fine. As pictured, the Clams come in a basket and I’m thinking the price-to-amount ratio is currently comparable to a meal “back East”. I.e. it is a bountiful serving in a basket with almost no ‘just breading’ in sight! The coating of the Clams was not overdone! and the Clams were not chewy! I’d prefer plain old Tartar Sauce. The Clams tastewise? Alas and unfortunately, I’m staying with LJS’s of all places, for some, tho not perfect, Fried Clams.
~ My take (‘snapshots of moments in times-past’) on HJ’s Fried Clams in MA/anywhere!: Clams with bellies are UGH with their squishiness and are often the source of beach-sand/grit. Strip Clams are the only way to go! Circa ’25, Howard Johson started serving ice cream in a pharmacy setting which itself turned out to be the major source of income in the pharmacy. [Not necessarily an HJ, but the size of typical “drug stores” (i.e. not today’s Walgreens/CVS) back then https://tinyurl.com/yxvt4nd4 ] The reason for the growing popularity of his ice cream was reportedly brought about by its addition of higher butterfat content. Per his risk-taking of his time and talent and a $2K bank-owned loan, he set up several “stands” selling sodas/hot dogs/ice cream. Per success, he opened his first sit-down restaurant by the end of the decade…in the jaws of the Depression apparently…wherein he began serving Fried Strip Clams amongst offerings. Johnson actually went to Woodman’s restaurant in Essex to be taught how to make the Fried Clams which were “invented” therein ’16. My last visit to a HoJo’s (never cared for that updated branding v https://tinyurl.com/y25nhoho) was in the later ’60s enjoying dinners of Strip Fried Clams with FFs when we sat on the edge of a devastating Dorothy/Toto tornado wrecking across Topeka. As such, I swear on a pack of Malboros or Kools if I had one, those clams were the next best thing to those of Woodman’s. Lo, I consider myself a self-proclaimed expert given having bought many dinners-for-two of same for less than $10, which included two Frappes (aka ice cream shake like thingies) with Steadies after record hops/movies/walks in the park etc. E.g. (Pardon undated) menu https://tinyurl.com/y4ogs7k5
[As an aside (LOL), Johnson started out in Quincy, MA. 5 years earlier and just 20 miles up the coast in Lynn, MA, the first tins of Marshmallow Fluff https://tinyurl.com/y2ffezlj were being produced! I.e. it is MFs Centennial Anniversary! Especial in New England, a PB&J sans the J, is called a Fluffernutter. Personally, a PB&J WITH the MF on toast cut on the diagonal, is Primo!]
Hi Bob: Here’s a link to an older article that takes an opposing view to your preference for clam strips versus bellies – and denigrates the HoJo clam strips too!
https://tinyurl.com/y2d2rf76 trying to set me straight with that informative Fried Clam discourse!!!
Alas, that Dude was doing his “detective” work in a behemoth ’64 T-Bird which, right there, gives a spurious validation to his “taste”. Nothing compares to ‘doing’ the waning sections of Route 66 between ALBQ and Hermosa Beach, but driving in my ex, now late, wife’s used ’57 T-Bird, whereby you actually went through Milan, NM, St. Josephs/Williams/Peach Springs(!), AZ and especially the 2 lane section of El Cajon Pass, CA…but alas, that’s another road trip…LOLAnyway, “my time” and expanse of experiencing/tasting Strip Fried Clams was mainly in the ’50s before offing to (in some respects tasteless/ultra-tasty) LAX for college. As such, further-fatherest family travel from home was 40 miles for a day at the beach, with occasional outings up to 100 for leaf-peeping into NH! I.e. “dining out” was mostly Lowell…LOL Given most household kitchens had lard stored under the kitchen sink in a Maxwell House Coffee can, might we presume it was the cooking staple in many restaurants which thus flavored the taste of many delights including the String Fried Clams of my youth, whereby my adult years missed them in LA, KS, NV, and here in NM. Your Dave notes it is still a staple at Woodmans! which possibly explains my orgiastic/orgazmic experience during my one and only visit to W’s about 10 years ago celebrating my Sis’ birthday whereby she and her Buds feasted on whole lobstaaah, the ultimate in caveperson-like, dining rituals!Lastly, and perhaps the most telling of influences, let us not forget the effect that ambiance most likely had on favoring Strip Fried Clams, including Howard J’s. Let us recall reference often made about Guys in regard to Chicas…i.e. they make us drooling idiots. Drool is taken to be saliva and, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, drool from my sitting across from my Steady (Steadies over time) with whom I’d eat the most Strip Fried Clams, effected https://tinyurl.com/yydonjox my experience with/of/for Strip Fried Clams! (I will defer to another day my dislike for Scallops…LOL)Have a riotous-free week!
Too funny…similar to you, my introduction to “fancy” seafood was Long John Silver’s (back when it was more of a restaurant than a fast food place…or was i just a country bumpkin?)…it didnt stick at first. I thought their ketchup sucked…it was cocktail sauce… 🙂
To this day, I still can’t think of anything better than a fresh caught native trout pan-fried to perfection!
Anywho…I love seafood now, and can’t wait to try this place. As my wife does not like seafood, I tend to have plenty of leftovers…
Too funny, Captain Tuttle
Ironically my introduction to Long John Silver’s occurred after my return to New Mexico from Massachusetts. I was so desperate for fried clams that I visited a chain. What was served would have been discarded as clam scraps in Massachusetts. Similarly, the fried clams at Howard Johnson’s were akin to clam crumbs in the Bay State.
Those of us of our eras who grew up in Northern New Mexico sure had sheltered upbringings.
New England whole belly clams rule.