Though Tracy’s King Crab Shack is strategically located where the cruise ships disembark in Juneau, you’ve got to know about this place – or happily stumble on it. Tracy’s is just a couple of trailers and an outdoor tent tucked in near the water behind some other buildings. We first learned about Tracy’s from a friend who lives in Juneau when we got off the Holland America Oosterdam for a few hours. And it was one of the best meals of our trip.
Eight years ago, Tracy LaBarge, an outgoing woman with a larger-than-life smile, decided to take a chance and open a single trailer focused on Alaska’s famous king crab. Tracy, who comes with a background in the cruise industry, admits she never really wanted to operate a restaurant. “It just sort of happened,” she said, smiling sheepishly.
Tracy procures her signature King crab, big gnarly crabs that live deep in cold Alaskan waters, from local Alaskan fishermen. For four years, she worked the trailer by herself, putting in long hours to serve locals and cruise ship passengers. Today, she operates two trailers and a large tent with tables and chairs for outdoor seating and she employs 28 people seasonally.
I had experienced King crab served at buffet venues and found it to be watery and tasteless. Tracy told me that was King crab that had been seriously mishandled. She said real King crab was sweet and succulent and assured me I was in for a treat.
And she was right. The King crab I ate at Tracy’s was some of the sweetest, meatiest, and most delicious crab I’ve ever eaten.
King Crab Combo
We ordered the Crab Shack Combination—one big King crab leg with melted butter, four crab cakes, and 8 ounces of creamy crab bisque. The crab featured at Tracy’s is Bristol Bay Red King Crab, the same type of crab you see caught on the popular television series “Deadliest Catch.”
The crab is served simply (as it should be) on sheets of butcher paper with little cups of melted butter. The crab is flash frozen at sea and then steamed. It comes out sweet with a touch of brininess. The crab shells are soft, so they’re easy to break with your hands, easily yielding up big pieces of moist crab. All you have to do is dig in and enjoy.
The crab cakes don’t skimp on the crab and have a nice blend of crab and spices. They’re served with Tracy’s special spicy crab cake sauce and a wedge of lime. She also serves Coconut Crab Cakes with a sweet chili sauce that I’m definitely going to try next time I visit.
Tracy’s crab bisque is a winner, creamy, with plenty of crab and a hint of heat. In 2010, her crab bisque took 3rd place in the Great American Chowder Cook off in Newport, RI.
The atmosphere at Tracy’s King Crab Shack is fun and casual. All the food is cooked to order and sometimes the lines get long, but it’s worth the wait. Folks belly up to the plastic tables under the big tent and Tracy can often be seen delivering orders or cruising the crowded tables to make sure her customers are happy. The Crab Shack is open daily May-October.
You don’t have to travel to Southeast Alaska to enjoy Tracy’s King crab or her crab bisque. She sells both online and the crab comes with instructions on steaming it just like they do in the restaurant. – by Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor, photos by Anne Weaver, RFT Editor