Opening a seafood restaurant in a landlocked Midwestern state in the midst of an unpredictable pandemic sounds like a near mythical feat. But that’s exactly what the owners of Crab Attack Cajun Seafood did, and with delicious results.
Owners Stephanie Johnson, Nichole Davis and Gerald Seals wanted to bring something different to Cedar Rapids. Johnson and Davis are sisters and Chicago native who have lived in CR for seven years, but found themselves missing food options that had been available to them back home. Davis is a trained chef with a love for French and Cajun food, Johnson was already an entrepreneur running a cleaning business and Seals, who is also a partner in the cleaning business, had previous experience in the restaurant world. They all shared a love of seafood and saw a niche they could fill and so an idea was born.
The restaurant was originally slated to open in March 2020, then COVID-19 came to Cedar Rapids and with it delays in inspections and hiring, and a vastly different landscape in which to do business. Nevertheless, they were able to open in early May on a takeout only basis, a model which they have continued.
Crab Attack is located on First Avenue in Cedar Rapids, the former location of Daisy’s Garage, and if you’re an old school Cedar Rapidian, once the site of the Sip N Stir. The menu features Cajun style seafood, including a build-your-own seafood boil option.
The star of the menu is the seafood boil. You can try one of the combos listed or you can build your own boil by choosing your type and quantity of seafood—three different types of crab, lobster tails, crawfish and shrimp are all offered at the current market price per pound—and then adding on your sides. Both the boil combos and the build-your-own options offer your choice of sauce and heat level. The menu also features a variety of entrées including some well-known Cajun classics like étouffée and jambalaya.
My boyfriend and I placed an order on a Wednesday night. We ordered a pound of snow crab, part of a “hot deal” they were offering that evening which included the pound of crab and two potatoes for $19.99. We also added on the crawfish étouffée and the Cajun shrimp and grits at $15 each.
Due to COVID concerns, Crab Attack is only offering curbside takeout at this time. You can place your order by calling the restaurant at 319-363-1175. Crab Attack’s parking lot is located behind the building, and that is where you’ll want to pull in to pick up your order, rather than on the street in front of the building. The parking lot can be accessed by a drive right next to the restaurant or by turning right on 12th Street and then entering the alley. Additionally, they are currently only able to accept cash tips, so come prepared!
I made a 30-minute drive to Johnson County after picking up our order, so the crab required a little reheating on arrival, but the two entrees were still hot. Make sure you have a tool to deconstruct your crab legs! (We used kitchen shears.) The crab was tender and sweet, mildly spicy and drenched in garlic butter. I’m something of a grits enthusiast, I order it whenever it’s available, and Crab Attack’s version did not disappoint. The grits were buttery and had actual corn kernels mixed in which I really liked; the shrimp was flavorful and well-cooked and the tails were removed, which was a touch I appreciated. The dish also featured Andouille sausage, cubed instead of cut into thick slices, which made it a subtle addition instead of overpowering other flavors.
The standout and fan favorite was the crawfish éttouffée. We had tried the dish at other restaurants in the past and been unimpressed, but this version was delicious, featuring a hearty but not heavy sauce with a mild flavor reminiscent of red beans and rice and generous amounts of crawfish.
Overall, Crab Attack’s food exceeded our expectations. The dishes were rich without being heavy, the portions are very generous and the price point is affordable — the holy trinity. This local and Black-owned restaurant is a fun and delicious addition to Cedar Rapids’ culinary landscape.