Food & Drink

Put on a bib and get cracking at these Cajun seafood boils at Connecticut restaurants

Sad news. It’s several months before the shoreline’s seafood shacks reopen. But if you’re missing that experience, consider an indoor alternative: a seafood boil. Connecticut has seen an uptick in these Cajun-inspired restaurants over the past few years, which first popped up in New Haven and surrounding suburbs and then made their way to Hartford County over the past 18 months.

The format is similar at each restaurant: Pick your seafood options by weight, then customize your meal with choice of seasoning, with options like Cajun, garlic butter, lemon pepper and Old Bay, and your preferred level of spice — mild if you’re tentative, “fire” if you’re fearless, or something in between. The cooked-to-order seafood arrives wrapped in a plastic bag, often containing add-ins like corn, potato and sausage.


And this is where you get down and dirty, eating shellfish from the bag or pouring its contents — sauce and all — onto a tray (or a paper cloth-covered table.) Most restaurants wisely provide plastic bibs and gloves to minimize the mess, crackers and forks for optimal meat extraction, and wet wipes just for good measure.

Here’s where you can get cracking on crab legs, crawfish, lobster and more.


Chosen 1 Cajun Seafood

2074 Park St., Hartford


Chosen 1 opened earlier this year on Park Street. The space that formerly housed Majorca — and before that, O’Porto — has been transformed with a fish-camp theme with brightly colored metal chairs and decor featuring anchors, fishnets and seashells.

Guests choose from an assortment of shellfish (clams, mussels, crawfish, whole Dungeness crab, shrimp, scallops, snow and king crab legs, and lobster tail) to create their own dinner, with smaller items available in half or full-pound portions. (Seafood choices start at $8; half-pound portions require two items minimum per order.)

Predesigned orders include the Hartford Bag ($38) with one lobster tail and a half-pound each of scallops and Gulf shrimp; the Atlantic Bag ($75) with lobster tail, snow crab, shrimp, mussels and clams; and the Shovel ($129), designed for 4 to 5 people with two lobster tails, two pounds of snow crab, 2 pounds of shrimp and 1 pound each of mussels and clams.

If that sounds like too much work, Chosen 1 also serves starters ($3 to $12) like soups, chowder, fried calamari, clam strips and chicken wings, and baskets with fried shrimp, cod fish and oysters ($12). Other seafood options include hot buttered lobster rolls and po’boys with shrimp and oysters ($8 to $15). If you’re not feeling seafood at all, there’s also a Philly cheesesteak, veggie burger, chicken po’boy and fried chicken tender basket ($8 to $12.)

Chosen 1 boasts a full bar, with happy hour Sunday through Thursday from 3 to 8 p.m. Specials include $5 margaritas and cocktails, 2 for 1 well shots and $5 top shelf shots and $4 beer bottles.

The Hungry Crab

1114 New Britain Ave., West Hartford



Fishnets line the walls at this Cajun seafood joint in West Hartford’s Elmwood neighborhood, which opened in August 2018. Seafood boil combos start at $22.99, with options like clams, shrimp, crawfish, mussels, king and snow crab legs and lobster tail, or you can choose your own shellfish options by the pound.

The menu also offers plenty of options that don’t require a bib and gloves: appetizers ($7.99 to $13.99) like chicken wings and tenders, fried baskets with seafood and chicken ($8.99 to $16.99), catfish sliders, crabmeat rolls and po’boys with crawfish, shrimp and oysters ($11.99 and $12.99)

A daily happy hour (Monday through Thursday, 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. and all day Sunday) features specially priced appetizers and deals on beer, wine, well drinks and cocktails. Large format “fish bowl” cocktails for two include the “Blue Haven,” with Malibu, Hpnotiq, blue curacao, lemon-lime soda and pineapple juice, and the Pink Paradise, with citrus vodka, watermelon schnapps, triple sec and orange and cranberry juices.

Cajun Boiled Seafood

72 Church St., New Haven, 203-691-5682,

Cajun Boiled Seafood is the New Haven sibling to Hungry Crab. Pick your seafood (nine different types, with the addition of blue crab in season), sauce and spice level, and create your own meal. Or, choose a pre-designed combo, starting at $23.99, with choice of three or more types of shellfish, corn, potatoes and sausage.


Other menu items include fried baskets ($9.99 to $19.99) with crab cakes, wings and chicken tenders, soft shell crab, fish and scallops; po’boys with crawfish, shrimp and oysters ($11.99 and $12.99) and special seafood entrees, like hot spicy shrimp and Szechuan spicy crawfish ($25.99.)

Boiling SOHO

758 State St., New Haven


Boiling SOHO’s traditional seafood boil options feature nine different shellfish options (from crawfish to whole lobster and Dungeness crabs), eight different sauces and seasonings, and four spice levels, from mild to “fire.” Combos start at $19.99, with choice of three smaller items, and go up to $59, with more expensive options including king and snow crab legs. The shellfish bags are served with potatoes, corn, sausage and broccoli.

The menu also offers raw bar items, fried appetizers and baskets with fried chicken and fish; sides like fried rice with shrimp, crawfish, crab and lobster; steak and seafood entrees and teriyaki dishes. A full bar features colorful cocktails, martinis, margaritas and mojitos.

Mr. Crab

25 Temple St., New Haven


3488 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport

Seafood boils are served with corn and potato, with your choice of shellfish (whole lobster, king and snow crab legs, mussels, clams, crawfish, shrimp), a sauce like Cajun or lemon pepper butter, and your desired heat level. A feast for two ($45) features 1 pound each of shrimp, clams and mussels, and a combination for four ($96) includes 2 pounds of shrimp and 1 pound each of mussels, clams, snow crab and crawfish.

Mr. Crab also offers appetizers ($5 to $12); po’boys and sliders ($11 to $14) and entrees ($14 to $25), like lobster rolls in hot and cold preparations; beer-battered fish and chips, Cajun blackened salmon, fish or shrimp tacos and BBQ baby back ribs.

Hook & Reel Cajun Seafood & Bar

385 Boston Post Road, Orange


Hook & Reel, a chain with locations around the country, opened its Orange restaurant in October, and lists on its website as “coming soon" a Hartford location at 71 William Shorty Campbell St. The menu offers more than a dozen different types of shellfish for a “pick your catch” meal. Assorted weekly boil specials start at at $27.99, with two or more shellfish options.

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Appetizers include hush puppies, mozzarella sticks, wings and paella, and baskets are available for those who prefer their seafood from the deep fryer, with shrimp, oysters, flounder, soft shell crab and catfish. Sandwiches include catfish sliders and po’boys with chicken, fish, shrimp and oysters.

Hook & Reel also offers a full bar, with happy hour running Monday through Thursday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. (half-priced appetizers, $3 16-ounce draft beers and $4 well drinks.)

Crab Town

2380 Dixwell Ave., Hamden


“Juicy never tasted so delicious,” Crab Town’s menu announces. “Get your hands dirty” with boils featuring shrimp, mussels, crawfish, lobster tail and king, snow, Dungeness and blue crab (when in season.) Choose from 1-pound portions, or make your own combo with two or more half-pound selections and your pick of sauce and spice level. Pre-designed combos with two or more items start at $24.95.


Appetizers ($2.95 to $20) include spring rolls, fried dumplings, shrimp shumai, raw and steamed oysters, and fried baskets ($11 and $12), with Cajun fries, include shrimp, tilapia, catfish, oysters and chicken tenders. Crab Town also offers a full bar, and bubble tea in a variety of flavors.

Leeanne Griffin can be reached at