It's not some gimmick from a chain restaurant, but rather, a new concept tucked away in the basement of an oyster bar, from the folks at Lettuce Entertain You.
When one of the partners from Shaw's Crab House decided to reinvent the basement of his Lincoln Park oyster bar, his thoughts turned to king crab and burgers. And due to the limited number of seats and high-quality product they're using, that basement has suddenly become one of the most in-demand eating destinations for surf and turf lovers.
The bibs and drawn butter are dead giveaways. They serve crab here. But to get to The Crab Cellar, you must first enter Oyster Bah in Lincoln Park, near the corner of Armitage and Halsted, and descend a flight of stairs.
"Crab Cellar is Chicago's - and maybe the country's - only limitless Alaskan king crab and burger restaurant," said owner Bill Nevruz. "I think it's a nice way to sneak in the surf 'n turf in a very fun, and unexpected way. When you sit down, you get these wonderful garlic rolls, this country club coleslaw that is really delicious, and then it just starts and we take it from there."
First, the surf. Alaskan King crab legs are placed into an enclosed steamer for just a few minutes, emerging fully cooked and warm.
The crabs are placed into gentle steamers to hold, and are brought to the table, one or two legs at a time.
The turf is a USDA Prime, eight-ounce burger.
"It is a burger that has fried onions, a Roquefort cheese sauce that we make and a dijonaise that we spread on the bun and it's a beautiful brioche bun," said Nevruz.
Those brioche buns are lightly buttered and griddled; the Roquefort is placed onto the cooked burger so it melts a bit; dijonaise is spread on just one side. A generous handful of fried onions is crowned on top, then the burger is wisely split into quarters, so everyone can have a taste. You can always get more, remember?
You can also add on a side, like mac and cheese, French fries or Parmesan-laced broccoli. Hush puppies are kind of decadent, but they're just going to take up stomach space you could otherwise devote to the gorgeous, meaty, succulent and sweet crab legs (which do require a bit of work on your part). A frosty beer or a slushy cocktail make fine companions.
Nevruz says customers come knowing they're going to be settling in for a bit, and find the endless eating option a value.
"And when people come because of the all-you-can-eat factor, when they leave they know it's much, much more," he said.
And in Steve's Extra Course Video, he takes a closer look at their coconut cake.
EXTRA COURSE: Coconut cake at Crab Cellar
1962 N. Halsted St.