Love Shack: Angry Crab Shack in Mesa Delivers Seafood by the Pound
Originality is dead. It is a universal truth that we have come to accept, whether it be with regard to Hollywood's inability to produce anything but sequels and remakes, fashion's predictable cycle of "what's old is new again" or restaurateurs who seem to latch on to a popular idea and perpetuate it ad naseum. We could have solved a litany of societal woes if any one of them garnered as many resources as does trying to discover the next Chipotle or a new twist on sushi.
Jackie Mercandetti One pound of crawfish from Angry Crab Shack in Mesa.
But almost without exception, the old adage hold true: The imitator is rarely as good as the original.
And that brings us to a curious exception in the realm of restaurant game theory, a case where he who copies is far better than who he copied.
See also: An Homage to the Classic Caesar Salad
Make no mistake about it: Angry Crab Shack is a blatant rip-off of Hot N Juicy Crawfish, a Cajun seafood concept founded in Las Vegas by a Vietnamese entrepreneur that has started its regional expansion and recently opened an outpost on Tempe's Mill Avenue. Hot N Juicy gained national notoriety when Food Network buffoon Guy Fieri anointed it, although, by then, the idea had already caught on. I was excited when I heard that Hot N Juicy was coming to town; it was always one of my first stops in Las Vegas. But my experience in Tempe was missing a certain je ne sais quoi; it was good, but not as good as the original. It was too clinical compared to Las Vegas, lacking the edginess, grit, loud music and service staff consisting most of off-duty strippers biding their time before the night shift started.
So it's ironic to find that missing grit in Mesa, an otherwise safe-haven of conservative values under the tight grip of the Mormon establishment. But given the quantity of cold beer and Hurricane cocktails being served in plastic cups on a crowded Friday night, no one in those parts seems to care much about the church-imposed moral code. Angry Crab Shack serves up culinary hedonism in a hokey Neptune-themed space where the walls are covered with faux fishing nets, schlocky nautical themes, and graffiti from the diners. It's loud, messy and decidedly unexpected. It's also fantastic, a better facsimile of the concept that it copied.