Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shaw's Crab House Celebrates 30 Years of Bringing It to Chicago


Shaw's Crab House Celebrates
30 Years of Bringing It to Chicago
There has never been a restaurant like Shaw's Crab House, either before or after it opened
For 30 years now, Shaw's Crab House and the adjourning Oyster Bar (formerly Blue Crab Lounge) have cast a warm and welcoming glow over Hubbard Street, just steps from the dark underpass beneath Wabash. This neighborhood in River North was once thought to be less-than-promising for a new restaurant, even one that was part of Richard Melman's vibrant though still quite young Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE).

"No one will ever find you there," was a complaint heard more than once by Steve LaHaie, Senior VP of Shaw's Division of LEYE and one of the men behind what is now widely recognized as a culinary institution on local, national and international levels. Hubbard Street turned out to be a perfect location for a restaurant that blends the geniality of a supper club with the urbane grittiness of an old-time Chicago oyster house.

This year, Shaw's Crab House celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. Over the course of the past three decades, Shaw's has brought life to Hubbard Street and the oyster back to Chicago, brought up the bar on fresh seafood, and brought in a new era of entertainment to dining in Chicago.

Bringing life to Hubbard Street. In the 1980s, the neighborhood around the future home of Shaw's was by no stretch an entertainment district.  Now home to many new restaurants, hotels, and department stores, Hubbard Street has evolved to become a vital commercial zone, fueled in large part by the anchoring influence of Shaw's. Though no single business can take full credit for revitalizing any area of town, it's undeniable that Shaw's was a major force in bringing life to Hubbard Street. "We quietly opened the doors and business was slow," remembers Kevin Brown, LEYE President/CEO and founding partner at Shaw's. "Then one Friday night, about three or four weeks after we opened, like magic, we were jammed...and we haven't looked back."

Bringing back the oyster. Chicago used to be home to many oyster houses. Due to a number of environmental factors, oysters lost popularity around the time of Prohibition, and they didn't come back into mainstream fine dining until relatively recently. Looking back to 1984, there were few restaurants -- and certainly none as big as Shaw's -- serving several varieties of fresh oysters every day. Today in Chicago, you'll find not only many restaurants serving oysters but many restaurants specializing in them. Shaw's brought oyster culture back to Chicago, and in doing so helped drive the growth of North America's oyster industry. The influence of Shaw's was soon recognized by the brightest chefs in America and Europe. LaHaie remembers "Julia Child shucking in the Oyster Bar. She came three different times to the restaurant in the late nineties to shuck oysters with us." Executive Chef/Partner Yves Roubaud also recalls "chef visits from Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon, and Jacques Pépin."

Bringing up the bar on fresh seafood. It's called a "crab house," but Shaw's has done more than just ensure a constant flow of this crustacean to Chicago, though Roubaud confirms that King Crab remains his number one best-seller. With what is the largest selection of fish and seafood in Chicago, and high levels of customer traffic to ensure rapid turnover on all menu items, Shaw's has long been the best bet in the city for the finest the sea has to offer. And from the beginning, the chefs at Shaw's have cut fish in-house, which ensures the highest qualities of seafood freshness. "When Shaw's opened 30 years ago," says LaHaie, "our focus was on quality seafood. In 1984, we served two to three varieties of oysters and were not quite sure how to shuck them.  We now offer 12 varieties daily and many of the employees are champion oyster shuckers." Over the past 30 years, Shaw's developed many relationships with growers, fishermen, and farmers. Now in addition to many varieties of crab, Shaw's offers a constantly rotating and carefully curated menu of domestic oysters. Though wholesale prices can vary radically for oysters of different types and from different locations, Shaw's prices all oysters exactly the same so that, explains LaHaie, "people will be encouraged to experiment with ones they've never had before."

Bringing fun to dining. Reflecting a fundamental LEYE philosophy, Shaw's has made a point of entertaining as well as feeding guests. In the Oyster Bar, the annex just to the west of Shaw's main dining room, blues and jazz musicians serenade diners and create an atmosphere that's gregarious, highly sociable ... and hugely entertaining. In the notoriously risky restaurant business, Shaw's has had continuous success. "Part of the reason for Shaw's longevity is the tangible culture of the place," says Jon Rowley, who helped Shaw's get going in the early days and advocated enthusiastically for live music in the Oyster Bar. "You walk in there, and you feel it. It's welcoming. You get there and you feel, 'I'm in the right place,' and you're always glad to be there." From the start, Shaw's has been a fun and gregarious place where diners feel a certain camaraderie: Bill Nevruz, Partner at Shaw's, fondly recalls it was where he met his wife.

For the 30th anniversary, Shaw's Crab House will be working together with a number of local restaurants and chefs to present the greatest hits from a menu that continues to draw thousands of repeat customers and first-timers every day ... just as it has for thirty years. There has never been a restaurant like Shaw's Crab House, either before or after it opened.

Goose Island/Shaw's Beer Collaboration
Designed to pair perfectly with Shaw's seafood menu, Pearl: Shaw's Commemorative Common lager is actually made with oysters. This American-style lager has light salinity and minerality, with notes of roasted lemon peel. Only 18 kegs are available, and diners can enjoy this special brew throughout the early part of 2015 for $7 a pint.

Saturday, Dec. 27th: Triple Points for Shaw's Oyster Bar 30th Anniversary!
Triple points will be available at both Shaw's locations for Lettuce Entertain You Frequent Diners.

Wednesday, Dec. 31 - New Year's Eve: Ring in the New Year
For one night only, in the Main Dining Room and Oyster Bar, guests will enjoy a tower of King Crab Bites, Stone Crab claws, Empress Crab Claws, Peeky Toe Crab, Golden King Crab, and two bottles of Moet Chandon ($100, serves two people). New Year's Eve features the music of Big Dog Mercer in the Oyster Bar from 9 p.m. until 12 a.m.. In the Main Dining Room, an a la carte menu will serve Dover Sole, Nantucket Cape scallops, and Red King Crab; in both dining areas there will be a Champagne toast and complimentary oysters when the clock strikes midnight.

Wednesday, Thursday, January 1 - New Year's Day
The fun continues into 2015, in the Main Dining Room from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where guests sip Bloodies and chow down on the best brunch in town for $55/person (up to two kids under 12 can eat for free). The New Year's Buffet features make-your-own omelets, lobster bisque, beef tenderloin and crab legs, salads, and a cold seafood bar featuring sushi, oysters and crab bites. The regular menu begins again at 4:30 p.m. The Oyster Bar will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., with half-priced oysters from 4-6 p.m.

Sunday, January 18th - Shaw's Four-Course Crab Dinner, 6PM
Shaw's Chef team (Yves Roubaud, Arnulfo Tellez, Pete Balodimas, Naoki Nakashima) will feature a Shaw's dining experience paying homage to the product we know best: Crab.  This five-course menu will feature Florida Stone Crab, Alaskan King Crab, Washington Dungeness, and Louisiana Blue Crab, and a special surprise for dessert.  Beverage Director Jim Haupt will select crab-friendly wines for each course to pair perfectly with our favorite seafood. Stay tuned for details on www.shawscrabhouse.com

Sunday, February 22nd - Oyster/Cocktail Event in Oyster Bar
Join Shaw's for a special treat when guest mixologists from around the city of Chicago create customized cocktails to pair with five different oysters from around the country.  Stay tuned on guest appearances and featured oysters at www.shawscrabhouse.com
and on social media.

Thursday, April 2nd, 6pm: Renee Erickson Book Event with the Publican and GT Fish & Oyster
Cosmo Goss (Chef de Cuisine) of the Publican and Giuseppe Tentori (Executive Chef/Partner) of GT Fish and & Oyster partner with Shaw's Chefs Peter Balodimas and Arnie Tellez to celebrate Renee Erickson's new book, A Boat, A Whale and a Walrus. Erickson owns several restaurants in Seattle, Washington.

Shaw's Crab House, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, features a 1940s-style take on the seafood dining experience, with retro leather banquettes, polished wood floors and Art Deco touches. The Oyster Bar provides a more casual setting for diners and serves up live music five nights a week at the Chicago location. Shaw's- The King of Crab! For more info, call 312.527.2722 (Chicago) or 847.517.2722 (Schaumburg), visit the website at www.shawscrabhouse.com
, tweet with The Shaw's Mermaid at www.twitter.com/shellyfromshaws or keep up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shawscrabhouse and

 21 E. Hubbard St.
Chicago, IL 60611


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