On a normal Shackin’ Up outing, I might go solo or maybe bring my wife. But this week’s adventure involved such an abundance of seafood, I was forced to call in for some serious, next-level backup in the form of Scott Cronick.
Of course you all know Cronick as the portly director of entertainment publications for The Press of Atlantic City — aka The Big Cheese — as well as one half of the Fat Boy Munch Club (the other half being yours truly). So his resume made him the perfect choice for this special hybrid Shackin’ Up/Fat Boy Munch Club story.
Yeah, yeah, I know: Chickie’s & Pete’s in Egg Harbor Township might not fit some of the traditional rules for the Shackin’ Up column — but rules were meant to be broken. And, to be honest, one could argue that the seafood selection at Chickie’s & Pete’s is far more extensive than what you will find at your average crab shack anyway. Yes, it’s more of a sports bar than anything, and no, it doesn’t have a ramshackle, beachy vibe — although their Atlantic City location at the Tropicana does overlook the ocean — but their seafood game goes way beyond their famous Crabfries, as we found out first hand.
Ryan: I have to admit, although I have been to Chickie’s & Pete’s for beers and wings in the past, I never really paid much attention to the menu as a whole, so I was unaware of just how focused it was on seafood. But it is. And they have just about all of the classic dishes you could hope for … plus a few outside-the-box options, too.
We went completely overboard with this meal — ordering far more food than even we could consume, our table often appearing as some sort of makeshift seafood buffet that only we were permitted to graze from. It was glorious.
We kicked things off with two versions of their Crabfries — first up was the Ultimate Crabfries ($12.99), a kicked-up version of their famous app, this time topped with crab meat, their famous cheese sauce and a mustard aioli. It was tasty, and they weren’t stingy with the crab, but you better like mustard, because the aioli is loaded with it.
Next came the Lobster Crabfries ($19.99), an item from their new Summer of Shellfish menu which really hit the spot for me. Generously topped with cheese, chives and poached lobster in a garlic butter sauce, these were my favorite of the fries. The lobster pieces even had a bit of char on them from being finished off on the grill. And the mustard aioli was absent from these, so that overpowering mustard taste is gone. Very nice.
Scott: The special summer menu boasts one of the best calamari dishes I ever had, and this Fat Boy has consumed A LOT of calamari over the years. The Sicilian Calamari featured panko-breaded calamari fried to super crispy perfection and tossed in a tomato-based Sicilian red sauce and then drizzled with balsamic glaze, creating a perfect balance between the savory and the sweet. We then went from that modern calamari dish to an old-school dish they call Chickie’s Riverboat but is simply clams casino. They wisely use the smaller and more tender topneck clams and fill them with a traditional combination of seasoned breadcrumbs, bacon, bell peppers and onions, bake them and top with lemon and drawn butter. They are as good as clams casino get … and a steal for $9.99.
Ryan: The app train continued with a full pizza — this one was a white pie topped with fresh lobster known as Lisa’s Blonde Lobster Pie ($26.99). It was thin like a bar pie, which made it perfect for a pre-entrée snack. And they made sure each piece had a nice chunk of lobster on it, so nobody pulls the short straw here. I found that the lobster meat actually stood up nicely against the cheese and didn’t get lost in the mix.
Next up we sampled some shrimp tacos ($10.99), which were light with a nice kick thanks to some sliced jalapenos. They came topped with pico de gallo, roasted corn, cilantro and a chipotle lime cream sauce that brought the whole thing together perfectly.
Scott: I am not a seafood taco guy, but those may have been this Fat Boy’s favorite dish of the day. But any seafood fan should run — not walk — to dig into the Seafood Sautee, another steal at $21.99 — most places would charge at least $10 more — for what is basically a giant seafood bowl filled with mussels, clams and shrimp in Chickie’s red, white or Sicilian sauce. I recommend the hearty Sicilian sauce if you are looking for more flavor a bit of heat. To make things even more decadent, they top all of that with a beautiful lobster tail, which Ryan didn’t share at all. Tremendous!
Ryan: The seafood saute was damn good — especially the lobster tail on top that I promptly helped myself to. And yeah, that red sauce – wow. But for me the absolute star of the show was the Crabfeast ($65.99). If you love crab like I do, this is about as good as it gets. A pound of snow crab, three blue claw crabs, corn on the cob and a giant Dungeness sitting on top of the whole thing — it was an impressive pile to say the least. The only thing that might have made it better would be the addition of king crab, but regardless, this feast was excellent. I was also fortunate at this particular meal because Scott — by his own admission — is too lazy to work for his food, finding the crab-cracking process laborious, which meant the lion’s share went to me.
At this point we had consumed quite a bit of food, so I stuck mostly to the snow and Dungeness — the blue claws are tasty, but I will admit they are a lot of work for small rewards. But the giant pieces yielded by the other two varieties were succulent and sweet, and with a quick dunk in the drawn butter, they left me quite satisfied.
Scott: Yeah, the only place I work for my own food is my kitchen. When I go out, I want to basically pay so all I have to do is lift my fork. Pure Fat Boy laziness. I did, however, try to play along and broke open some snow and blue claws, and I just don’t get it. Sure, they are tasty, but there are so many great options on this menu where they prepare everything for you, why get messy? It’s not worth it.
Even though we were treated to an amazing array of seafood, we didn’t touch the surface of what is offered at Chickie’s. We would love to go back and try the fried crab mac & cheese, nachos with lump crab, their famous shellfish and New England chowders, their king crab, crab cakes, as well as items off that summer seafood menu, including baked oysters, Cajun crawdad tots, lobster roll and giant seafood boils.
Ryan: Though it breaks many of the Shackin’ Up rules, I have to admit I really enjoyed my meal at Chickie’s & Pete’s. It’s certainly not a normal shack, but it’s nice to see a sports bar brave enough to dive head first into the seafood game.
Scott: And if you really want to get into the spirit and get closer to Shackin’ Up style, head to the Trop, grab a cold brew, order some seafood and take in the ocean view. It doesn’t get much better than that. True Fat Boy heaven!
Rating: 400 pounds
Chickie’s & Pete’s is located at 6055 E. Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township. Go to ChickiesAndPetes.com.