Grub Scout: Joe's no schmo when it comes to tasty seafood

Joe's Crab Shack has been open in Sevierville for almost a year, but I waited this long to try it out, because I try to avoid traveling to Sevier County in peak season. And while I'm sure waiting for a table at Joe's would probably be no day at the beach during summer, The Grub Spouse and I cruised easily down the Parkway last week, found an empty parking spot near the front door and were promptly escorted into the main dining room.

Joe's interior exudes somewhat of a cookie-cutter corporate feel, but it's still visually engaging. A mixed motif of surfing paraphernalia and roadside kitsch come through in pastel and neon to create a comfortably fun setting.

Our server stepped up in short order and gave us a newbie's introduction to the main menu and an auxiliary menu featuring even more seafood goodies. After placing our beverage orders, we set about wading into the deep waters of Joe's saltwater bounty.

Appetizers range from New England clam chowder and crab dip to fried calamari and garlic mussels. We were lured in by the crab-stuffed mushrooms and put in an order.

Entrees are grouped into several categories. Naturally, you can get crabs by the bucket, with varieties that include king, snow, and Dungeness. Shrimp is emphasized through a host of recipes ranging from coconut and crab-stuffed to popcorn and grilled, and the auxiliary menu offers a number of lobster options.

For a change of pace, you might look at other fishy dishes like grilled salmon, Maui mahi, catfish and blackened redfish as well as crawfish, crab cakes and shrimp pasta Alfredo. Non-seafood items include steaks, ribs and chicken tenders are also available.

You'll find the most variety in their big platters and steampots, both of which include various combinations of their main seafood fare. The Spouse decided to try the Shrimp Trio platter featuring coconut, crab-stuffed and grilled shrimp. I went with Joe's Classic Steampot. Inside are snow crab, Dungeness crab, boiled peel-and-eat shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes and corn on the cob.

The service was very friendly, and the kitchen was working efficiently that night. My server even tied my bib on for me, although it quickly became annoying, and I removed it. While we waited for food, the servers entertained the crowd periodically with group dances and guest birthday songs.

All the food was quite good. The portions were fair, the seafood was as fresh as an inland restaurant could offer, and we enjoyed the variety. All three types of The Spouse's shrimp were on the mark, from the sweet coconut to the crab-stuffed, although the stuffing used in the shrimp and in our mushroom appetizer had roughly a 50-50 crab-to-breading ratio.

The crabmeat in both the snow and Dungeness was ample, although every time I order crab, the work involved reminds me of why I don't eat it more often. But overall, the steampot was a tasty adventure, even down to the sausage and accompanying veggies.

We managed to save room for carrot cake, and are we glad we did. The basic cake formula was pretty darned good, but Joe's twist of topping it with warm caramel and coconut shavings really helped make our trip to Sevierville a bon voyage indeed.

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Food: 4

Service: 4

Atmosphere: 4

Overall: 4

Address: 1605 Parkway, Sevierville

Phone: 865-774-3023

Hours: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Full bar service

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Bottom Line: Set sail for Sevierville and this seafood restaurant where "Peace, Love & Crabs" are always in ample supply.

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