In 2018, Vice writer Dan Q. Dao declared that “Vietnamese-Cajun Crawfish is the American Food of the Future.” This Nov., local restaurateur William Chan plans to open Viet-Cajun seafood restaurant, King Claw, at 1734 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., a space formerly occupied by a Japanese steakhouse.
A “refugee-born” specialty that first took off in Houston, Viet-Cajun seafood boils consist of fruits de mer like crawfish, clams, oysters, crab, shrimp, and more boiled in a bag with potatoes, corn, and spices.
At King Claw, manager Mackenzie Jennings says that you’ll be able to choose what kind of seafood you want, then select from garlic butter, Cajun spice, or the Claw’s signature spice mix. “It’s more of an experience than a meal,” says Jennings. Guests will get a bib and gloves and the necessary tools (i.e. crackers for crab legs), and the server will bring out the big bags. The husks of the devoured critters go in buckets.
“Viet people love noshing and in particular, hands-on eating experiences — in Vietnam, it’s fun to spend hours at a seafood joint where you pick out the live seafood, then have it cooked the way you want it,” says Vietnamese food expert and cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. “Here in the States where those kinds of open-air sidewalk experiences don’t exist, you gather at people’s homes for those kinds of food fests, called nhau.”
King Claw is not the first restaurant in the Lowcountry to explore this very specific cuisine — Seafood Pot in North Charleston opened July 2018, with seafood boils, gumbo, and fried platters.
Jennings says the full-service, sit down restaurant will seat around 80 people, with a large horseshoe-shaped bar (serving the usual suspects) and outdoor patio. They plan to be open daily starting at noon, with evening hours until 11 p.m. on the weekdays and midnight on the weekends.
The King Claw menu, which you can find on their website, features apps like hushpuppies and raw oysters, and half-pound boils with choices of shrimp, blue crab, Manila clams, snow crab legs, green mussels, black mussels, lobster tail, crawfish, regular clams, and Dungeness crab. Choose one favorite seafood and get a full pound. There are also a range of sides, desserts, and lunch specials on boiled seafood and fried seafood baskets.