Most people, on their days off, prefer to escape and relax by enjoying the outdoors, shopping, being creative, cheering on their favorite sports team or who knows what. It offers a break from reality and a chance to let go and be yourself.
If you want to dress up like a Storm Trooper and pretend your fighting the Empire – knock yourself out.
If you want to dress up like a Forest Fairy and save the dying Elm Trees – have at it.
If you want to pretend you are the next James Bond, looking for the drop at your local Starbucks – why not.
I, however, enjoy something completely different. On Wednesdays this summer, instead of doing the obligatory household chores and warding off the evil empire of dust bunnies…I chose to work at Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau, Alaska.
Located right on the docks, next to the parking garage and library…Tracy’s little crab shack services thousands from May thru September. Having known Tracy for years, I thought it would be fun to work one day a week for her. I wasn’t wrong. This is my second year as the beer wench…..and I love it!
There are two shacks….I’m in shack one. I’ll take your order, your money and provide your beverages…beer, wine or soda. Shack two cooks up your crab and brings it out to you.
How do I describe Alaskan King Crab? Nom, nom, nom…..that pretty much covers it.
What’s on the menu? King crab of course! Her award winning crab bisque….
Yes, I did say award winning. Her bisque won third place in the Rhode Island Chowder Cook Off and is the People’s Choice of Seattle and Anchorage. HA! Take that Food Network Iron Chefs! I am of the mindset that you could just cover me in the bisque…I’d be content to lick it off myself. It’s amazingly good.
There’s also silver dollar sized crab cakes. Regular or coconut. You could have Snow Crab, Dungeness (when in season), Alaskan prawns or scallops. Each and every item is delicious. You can’t go wrong.
What’s great about The Shack is the reputation. People come from all over. “Friends of ours from Belgium said we had to come here.” Or “The Captain of the ship said this was a must have lunch.” It’s fantastic. Of course, you also never know what to expect…
I found it’s best to show up to work each Wednesday as frisky as a feline on premium catnip. It came in especially handy when the husband, with his camera in hand, couldn’t stop looking at me while his wife was ordering. Finally, he broke down and said:
“Do you mind if I take a picture of your chest?”
Sure! I thrust my oranges out there and he snaps a photo of me. Why? Well, duh. My shirt says, “Best Legs in Town!” Of course, he wasn’t taking a picture of my legs was he? Hummmm, weird. Chalk that up to the strangest moment yet in life.
Tracy’s is so popular, we get HUGE lines. I am talking enormous. You would think the latest Tickle Me Elmo was being released at the shack – that’s how big the lines are. If you don’t believe me, check out my photo below. Yes, it’s definitely worth the wait. Someone could offer fortune telling services while folks wait in line to get to me….they could make a coke dealer’s bank roll in 30 minutes of searching the tourists’ future.
The beauty of a line, is it gives you ages to decide what you want to eat. Would you like:
A King Crab leg?
Half a Snow Crab?
Dungeness – if in season?
Bucket of King Crab?
The menu, is very easy. However, I’ll be damned if people don’t wait until they get up to me before they even look at the menu. One of three things occurs when they reach the front of the line:
1. They know exactly what they want and rattle it off like a Drill Sargent.
2. They want to know what I recommend.
3. They haven’t looked at anything and can’t make up their mind.
Those who are in the first group are fabulous. Ring them in, get their beverage and off they go. If ordering their meal was an Olympic event, they’d get gold. No messing around. Straight to the point.
Those who need recommendations come in two groups. Those who, after hearing your recommendation say, “Perfect! We’ll go with that.” And the doubters. You make your recommendation, based on their group size, how hungry they are and your gut instinct.
“Is it good?”
Okay. Seriously? I mean really?
I’m looking at you now out of the corner of my eye. Did you just ask me for a recommendation and then ask if it was good? No, I’m suggesting you eat crap. Are you kidding me? Why ask for a recommendation and then doubt what I recommend?
Let’s take a moment here and ponder which one of us is the professional?
I am…so listen up.
However, it is the third group of people that absolutely, positively, without a doubt, drive me insane. I’m talking like crazy Norman from The Bates Motel….nuts. These are the ones that cause me to drink, chew my nails, roll my eyes and curse silently under my breath.
“We just don’t know what to order.”
Alright. Let’s do this.
You’ve been waiting in line for 15 minutes and you still don’t know what to order? It’s a one page menu for crying out loud! There’s fewer items on our menu than on a McDonald’s lunch special.
Well, I hope you’re hungry for crab, cause that’s what we’ve got! (Note: It’s helpful when you can flip a little bit of shit their way as part of the ambiance.) This declaration only leads to one question:
What kind of crab do you have?
We have King, Snow and Dungeness – explaining the differences between the three along the way.
Huh. (Imagine far off gaze, as if I suggested marshmallows tasted like motor oil….really?)
I don’t know what to get. What do you suggest?
And there’s a big speech I could bore you with about Combo Number 1 and Combo Number 2 – but I won’t do that. Most people decide the Combo 1 is perfect for what they’re looking for and we’re off and running….god bless them.
Still, there’s others that are completely in a stupor. These folks tend to travel in groups. Which is probably smart as I don’t know how they’d survive otherwise. The conversation usually goes something like this ….when dealing with a gaggle of clueless and bewildered diners:
“What do you recommend?”
Well, it depends on how hungry you are. The number 1 combo is very popular, it’s like a sampler. You get a King Crab leg, some bisque and 4 crab cakes.
“Does anything come with it?”
No, but you can order a side of rice or cole slaw.
“You have french fries?”
No, just rice or cole slaw.
“What about the bisque. Anything come with that?”
A roll and butter.
“What kind of roll?”
A dinner roll.
No. But you can order a side of rice or cole slaw.
>> silence <<
“I can order a single King Crab Leg. Is that the same as the King Crab Leg in the number 1 combo?”
Yep! Same kind of leg.
“You just get extra stuff in the combo?”
“Do you have chicken burgers?”
“Anything other than crab?”
Well we have prawns and scallops.
“I don’t like seafood.”
Okay, well there’s a few other food options along the pier here that may interest you then.
A few weeks ago I had a group of four little ladies who were traveling together. OMG. Just shoot me. This isn’t rocket science – it’s crab. There’s like 12 options on the menu. PICK ONE!
“What does the bisque come with?”
It comes with a roll.
“What about the crab cakes. What do they come with?”
Just the cakes. You can order rice or slaw on the side.
“Well if I get the crab leg, what comes with that?”
“No fries or anything?”
“But the combo comes with 1 King leg, bisque and cakes. Does it come with anything else?”
“Fries? Or anything?”
“Well, if I order the bisque and the crab roll sandwich, what comes with that?”
A dinner roll.
“Oh. Nothing else?”
At this point I am taking a pencil and slowly carving out my third eyeball. JUST PICK SOMETHING PEOPLE! This isn’t rocket science. It’s crab. What don’t you get?
Then the topper are the ones that run you through the 1001 questions and then say,
“You know, I’ll just get a burger and fries.”
We don’t serve those.
“WHAT? You don’t sell burgers and fries?”
No. It’s a crab shack.
“You mean you only serve seafood? I don’t like seafood.”
Put a fork in me. I’m done.
I patiently ask if they see a rock on the counter where they’re standing. Of course, they don’t. Oh, damn. I’ve lost the rock I like to beat my head against.