They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. It’s equally true that you can’t judge a restaurant by its exterior. Crab-in-a-bag is unassuming from the outside, but give it a try and you’ll be amazed at your dining experience!

If it weren’t as new as it is, I could totally see Crab in a Bag being a “hometown secret,” with a cult following. It’s the type of place that may be unassuming from the outside, but those who have tried it immediately fall in love with it. From the bibs, to the casual décor, to the communal dining, a meal at Crab in a bag is more than just “dinner”; it’s a dining experience to share with family and friends.

Starters and Sides

Traco Matthews on the corn: Typically at a restaurant like Crab in a Bag, the sides are just thrown in as fillers. Not the case here. The corn was quite delicious, cooked to just the right, hearty consistency. Soaked in the Cajun sauce from the bag, it offered a textural contrast to the crab, mussels, prawns and other dishes that were served. Corn is usually pedestrian, but this hot, spicy vegetable was good enough to go for two to three pieces.

Josh Fitzpatrick on the fried shrimp: One of my pet peeves with fried shrimp is when there’s too much batter, so when you take a bite, all you taste is the “fried,” but not the shrimp. That was definitely not the case with Crab in a Bag’s fried shrimp appetizer. First of all, the shrimp were huge, about 16 to 20 “extra jumbos” for those in the shrimp-know. And they were fried perfectly in a light, tempura beer batter (the owner, Carlos, wouldn’t tell us the secret kind of beer he uses). The only reason I stopped eating these was to save some room for the main course.

Jeremy Hearron on the crab fries: So you would think french fries should be great everywhere, but it’s sad to say that is not always the case. You get fries that don’t have enough breading, or too much breading, or too soft, or no seasoning. We’ve all been there, but not at Crab in a Bag. They do fries right. They are the perfect thickness, a little bigger than a No. 2 pencil. The crunch is ideal, and the seasoning – nailed it. I only have one complaint: I wanted three times as much in my order. Not Carlos’ fault; his portion was generous. I just loved them.

Henry Sanchez on the shrimp in a bag: Next to hit the table was a bag full of shrimp immersed in the house garlic butter Cajun sauce. The shrimp themselves were huge; you needed a few bites to take one of these bad boys down. They were succulent and had the right amount of chewiness. The Cajun sauce was the kicker: full of minced garlic and spices that complemented each other perfectly. I love garlic, so this sauce was my personal favorite of the night. We chose the medium spice level, so we got hit with a little heat in every bite. But I’ll be back soon to try the hotter sauce. The best way to eat this is to grab a shrimp, peel it and drench it in the Cajun sauce. Just don’t forget your bib.

Entrees

Jeremy Hearron on the crawfish in a bag: Crawfish at Crab in a Bag is an experience you cannot often find in Bakersfield. Getting messy while I ate brought me back to my childhood. It was great pinching the tail and the head and slowly turning until they separated, releasing the tail meat. One great bite of crawfish meat and then a slurp of the head to get the goodness left inside. All the while having Carlos’ butter-and-spice sauce run down your hands and arms. The sauce contained a generous amount of chopped garlic, rich butter and a spice oil that gave the right amount of heat. Enough heat to make your mouth feel the burn for a couple seconds, but not overpowering Crab in a Bag’s unique flavor profile. If you want an experience you cannot get anywhere else in Bakersfield, you’ll need to get messy.

Josh Fitzpatrick on the crab in a bag: The signature dish of Crab in a Bag did not disappoint. This is where the real experience begins. Alaskan snow crab boiled and soaked in a Cajun sauce? Yes, please! This is definitely a meal to share – but not with a potential employer during a lunch interview. If you don’t know the people you’re sharing this crab with before the meal, you definitely will afterward! I wore the bib, but passed on the gloves – and that was a mistake. But in the end, the mess was worth it. The legs had an abundance of meat, and the flavor was spectacular.

Traco Matthews on the mussels: I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a big mussels guy – just your average skinny nerd. However, the steamed Italian-style mollusks served at Crab in a Bag changed my mind. They were fresh, hot and tender, replete with smoky flavor. The buttery garlic base they were steeped in was sensational. The sauce was so good, I could have drunk a cup of it and been happy. I ate a dozen at least, which was a record for me. It felt good to be persuaded off of my no-mussels platform by a dish so memorable.

Henry Sanchez on the fried cod: Before the bags of crab came out, we started off with some deep-fried Alaskan cod. The cod came straight from the fryer with a side of fries and the house tartar sauce. The fish was beer battered and the batter itself was crisp, which gave the fish a nice crunch with each bite. When you break the fish in half, you get that instant puff of steam and snap. The cod was moist, flaky and tasted like it was fresh out of the sea. I hit the fish with a squeeze of lemon and a dab of tartar, making it one of the better fried fish dishes in Bakersfield. 

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