Crown Heights’ The Crabby Shack (613 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn) sits on Franklin Avenue close to Atlantic, up the street from the Brooklyn Yoga Collective, Lily and Fig Bakery, and Little Zelda Coffee Shop. The shack pushes the neighborhood’s gentrification a little bit further, and with bright white walls and popping orange and blue accents, it stands out among the bodegas and mom-and-pop shops.
Owners Gwen Woods and Fifi Bell-Clanton are longtime friends, and they opened their seafood-centric eatery after successful careers in music and fashion. The Shack had always been a dream, but for a long time, it was one that seemed unattainable. The hunt for a space took time; every location they scoped was either in a neighborhood over-saturated by restaurants or not financially viable. “We were looking for an emerging neighborhood,” says Woods.
They settled on Crown Heights, and after a 30-day Kickstarter run, they had enough backing to open — they’ve just made their official debut.
Woods and Bell-Clanton are chipper and enthusiastic, if inexperienced. They’ve worked together before, and that’s what brought them together in this venture. “Every chance we got when our worlds collided and we were together on job — and we were on somebody else’s budget — we would go eat crabs,” says Bell-Clanton.
However, neither has worked in the restaurant industry, though they’ll try to make up for that with passion. Woods, admitting this is the first time she has gone without a manicure in 20 years, says, “I loved to cook as a hobby. When I would come home [from work] cooking was my release.” And both women developed signature dishes for entertaining that got raves from their crowds of friends: Bell-Clanton had her butter sauce soaked crab rolls, and Woods had her seasonally flavored lemonades. Those items serve as the anchor to the menu that, beverages aside, exclusively comprises crab dishes. There are crab tacos with flavored lemon and chipotle aiolis, whole steamed crab dinners with corn on the cob and potatoes, and crab sliders. (To the disappointment of Spongebob fans everywhere, these are not called Crabby Patties.)
The space is small but airy. Diners can cover tables with brown paper and crack the big orangey-pink Alaskan crab legs. A short chalkboard menu hangs above the front counter. Bright orange stools sit along a full glass window front, and white rope accents and blue mason jars adorn the space, giving it a summery New England vibe.
And the team is optimistic about how the summery shellfish concept will translate come fall: Woods, talking through the menu, says she has big plans. “I’m going to add a shrimp dish, a crab mac and cheese, and a crab bisque,” she says.
See more photos on the next page.