It’s a blast eating seafood with your bare hands. The satisfying crack of a shell opening. The payoff when you finally wiggle the tail meat out of a crawfish. Getting seafood goo all over the table and your Lowcountry-provided bib. It’s about as much fun as you can have at a restaurant.
Lowcountry (3343 N Clark St. Chicago, IL 60657) specializes in seafood boils: you pick the sea creature you wish to consume in mass quantities, they put it in a bag, spice it, and cook it to perfection.
Get it spicy. You’ll thank me later.
The joy of consuming sea creatures like a pirate aside, it wouldn’t be much fun if the food wasn’t any good. But thankfully Lowcountry delivers on flavor. You can choose to have your seafood spiced with a variety of flavors, including cajun (my favorite), garlic, lemon-pepper, or everythang. You also choose heat index – spiciness on a scale from 1-4. They get additional style points for naming the “1” heat index “Weak Sauce aka Lebron.”
My recommendation is to ratchet the spiciness above your comfort zone. The “3” is fantastic. It will leave you a little sweaty and your tongue a little singed, but that’s part of the fun of beasting out with a giant bag of seafood. You can also opt to include potatoes, corn on the cob, and andouille sausage in the seafood bag, all of which taste awesome slathered in spices and seafood juice.
The seafood is not only fresh, but gargantuan in scale. Giant mussels. Mammoth crab legs. Colossal crawfish. When it comes to seafood boils, Lowcountry proves that bigger is better.
You’re going to get messy. Embrace it.
The decor in Lowcountry is bang-on to compliment the food. It’s a hybrid nautical/backyard BBQ theme, with the centerpiece being the large public bathtub-sized sinks for washing the seafood goo off your hands. Interestingly, I’ve found that these communal sinks are excellent sources of interactions with strangers – I’ve had more than one funny offhanded conversation with say, a 65 year old grandmother who was washing her hands at the same time as me.
The one place where Lowcountry does not shine is the cocktails and bar service. Be prepared to wait a while for a drink, even if the place is relatively empty. The craft cocktails they offer are nothing to write home about – I’ve tried the Lowcountry Limeade, The Good Life, and their version of an Old Fashioned and all were disappointing – small glasses, not mixed well, and not at the same level of tastiness as the food. However, they do have a good beer list and solid whiskey selection (including my current favorite, Blanton’s bourbon) so there’s always that. Slow bar aside, you’d have to struggle to not have a good time at Lowcountry.