Mad City Crab House
Update 11/08: Mad City Crab House is now the Tiki Shack and Crabhouse; also, recovered photos have been added to this post.
The specs: #0356
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Madison Dining Online, Isthmus, Antenna of Babel, State Street Beat, Queer Supper Club, Yelp, Ruppert Food Blog; chatter at TDPF; official web site.
JM ate the garlic penne pasta with shrimp and a lemonade.
Nichole ate the Mad City seared salmon with a diet Coke (in a Pepsi glass).
We split the clam chowder and a slice of key lime pie.
The bill was $39, or $19.50/person, plus tip.
JM gave Mad City Crab House a C-; Nichole gave Mad City Crab House an F (see our grading rubric).
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Mad City’s atmosphere is pleasant, with bright but not obnoxious colors, big leafy fake plants, and the requisite wooden fish, faux seaside signage and buoys, etc. The comfort suffers, however, because the plates are just too big for the tables. If we’d had to deal with crab leg shells we’d have been up to our ears in stuff.
The clam chowder was dirt cheap ($2 with a meal, sans crackers) and tasted quite good, with notes of thyme and rosemary and a good smoky flavor. It was incredibly thick and not quite hot, however, suggesting a neglected tureen.
JM’s hopes for pasta with seafood never quite pan out. This dish of garlic penne with four jumbo shrimp had one, maybe two flavor notes, which got boring quickly. To be more precise, it started out boring, then when the butter melted, it got interesting. By the end, though, it was again suffering from a pronounced overbuttering. His lemonade (on the bill as “juice”) tasted like RealLemon with sugar.
Fast forward to the pie, a huge wedge of key lime custard advertised on the menu as “made with Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice” and dressed up in whipped cream. Hidden underneath the cream, however, was a stratum of the original decoration, a border of thicker, commercial-style, "palm kernel, soy or coconut-oil"-based rosettes. When asked where the pie was from, our server said it was made in-house from a mix. If we were asked to guess, we might think this pie bore more than a passing resemblance to the kind Schwan’s “makes.” At least it wasn’t bright green.
Finally, the salmon Nichole ordered had a very serious quality problem that she only discovered in the leftovers. Since it was a challenge to give Mad City Crab House the opportunity to make it right (phone failed to connect at 310-6933; manager absent when we re-visited - and hostess gave us the brushoff; no email address on web site) we feel it’s not appropriate to go into the somewhat lurid details. Let’s just say that the idea of tangy raspberry sauce, creamy Brie and salmon is a decent one, worth trying at home with fish you can trust.