Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack – Fall Menu Launch
Cross-posted from Calgary is Awesome.
Disclaimer: I was invited by Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack to attend their media fall menu launch. I was not obligated to write this post and opinions are 100% my own.
I’d driven past Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack many times coming into downtown on the 4th Ave flyover. Despite being around for 15 years, I never knew much about the brick building adorned with the big alligator-and-Mardi-Gras bead mural, except that there was probably seafood, and maybe live music. So I was really excited to finally have the chance to check it out when Bookers invited me and a few others to try some of the items on their new fall menu.
Bookers is quite spacious, with a casual, pub-like atmosphere. I was mostly right about the seafood (there’s all-you-can-eat crab on Sundays & Mondays) and live music (Fridays), but a big part that I missed was Bookers’s focus on southern BBQ.
It’d been a long week, so I decided to kick off the evening with a Cajun Caesar ($7.50). The caesar is prepared with a honey-pepper vodka, garnished with a crispy piece of house-made double-smoked bacon and a steak spice rim.
This was a solid Caesar, with a combination of sweetness, smokiness and a tiny kick at the end. The steak spice rim was an awesome touch that I loved.
After catching up with some fellow bloggers, executive chef Myles Learning and others in the management team came out and explained some of the new items on the menu. The team had recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where they were able to experience some new ingredients and flavour combinations – the result is a combination of southern classics like fried baloney sandwiches and crab & shrimp boil, and more innovative dishes like pulled pork poutine and the “Big-Ass Potato” – a baked potato stuffed with pulled pork, smoked cheddar, bacon, BBQ sauce, sour cream and green onion. We were able to try some of the new dishes, as well as some Bookers staples.
For starters, we were treated to deep fried pickles ($11.95), crab buckets ($16.95), smoked chicken wings ($11.95), fried mac & cheese bites and slider-versions of their fried bologna sandwich ($11.95).
The fried bologna sliders contained a thick slab of baloney on a bed of coleslaw and pickle, nestled between a white fluffy bun slathered with mustard. The baloney was definitely tender and flavourful, though quite heavy – a few of my fellow diners and I agreed that we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to eat a whole sandwich!
The starter I was most anticipating was the fried mac & cheese bites – my guilty pleasure!
It was the perfect crispy outside leading to warm, gooey innards, but the mac and cheese was a little too bland for my taste. Otherwise, the other starters were good – including the award-winning smoked chicken wings – the only miss for me were the crab legs, which tasted almost watery and had to be dipped in melted butter for flavour.
After an impressive spread of appies, the table was cleared and quickly turned into an equally – if not more – impressive spread of mains, with the star of the show being the BBQ platters of brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork ($62 for 4 people), which came with baked beans (a little too cloyingly sweet for me) and coleslaw. Also on the table were jambalaya ($17.95), crab & shrimp boil ($25.95) and mini cast iron skillets of cornbread ($2.95).
My favourite item on the platter were definitely the ribs – bold, smoky and sweet, the meat was perfectly cooked and juicy. The brisket was also a pleasant surprise; though the outside looked a little dry, the meat flaked very easily and was actually quite tender.
The jalapeño cornbread was a little on the sweet side for some and could’ve used a little more corn flavour, but still hit the spot, and I definitely took the last two cornbreads home with me!
Again, sadly, the seafood dishes were a bit of a miss.
The crab and shrimp boil was quite flavourless again, though I did enjoy the creamy boiled potato that I snagged from the basket. The rice in the jambalaya tasted like tomatoey Minute Rice, though the shrimp and andouille sausage were both delicious.
Despite all the food, I still managed to make room for a little dessert.
The double chocolate brownie ($4.95) was the perfect little sweet treat to end the meal. Despite the name, I was still pleasantly surprised by the slightly gooey chocolate chips nestled inside the still-warm brownie. I easily finished my little ramekin while my fellow diners looked on in awe.
I was glad to finally have the chance to try Bookers, and it seems like a fun place for large groups. Service was casual and friendly, though one particular server was a little over the top. While Bookers does bring a taste of the south to the north, for those who like the real deal, it seems to be missing a certain je ne sais quoi.
Bookers BBQ & Crab Shack
10 – 316 3 St SE
Calgary AB T2R 0C5
Open Mon-Thu 11:30 AM-10:30 PM; Fri 11:30 AM-1 AM; Sat 5 PM-1 AM; Sun 5-10 PM. Some free parking available.