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Pappadeux and Joe's Crab Shack

From a succulent fresh lobster tail to a mouth-watering red snapper filet, everyone loves some type of seafood. Houstonians are lucky; the Gulf of Mexico lies at their back door. Restaurants specializing in seafood are plentiful here. Many Houstonians consider Pappadeux and Joe's Crab Shack to be the best. Although they both serve wonderful, fresh seafood, the differences in the menu, the service, and the overall atmosphere set them apart from one another.

Pappadeux offers elegant, elaborate dishes on its menu, while the food described on the menu of Joe's Crab Shack is the sort which tastes best when accompanied by an ice-cold beer and a large plate of french fries. For example, my favorite meal at Pappadeux consists of a flaky filet of red snapper blackened in hot Cajun spices and smothered in a rich Bearnaise sauce. It is then topped with lightly sauted crawfish tails and mushrooms. Once this concoction touches the tongue, it simply melts. On the other hand, Joe's Crab Shack has been made famous for its barbecued crabs. The cook begins by slowly cooking small dungeoness crabs in a large barbecue pit. Once the crabs have been seared to perfection, the cook tosses them on a large tray, and they are ready for presentation. The waiter then serves these divine crabs with a hammer, a bib, and a roll of paper towels. After pounding on the shell for five minutes, the lucky diner discovers a piece of crab meat which, like the snapper filet, melts in the mouth.

Distinguishing each restaurant further is the service; although it is impeccable at both Pappadeaux and Joe's Crab Shack, the manner in which one is served varies greatly. When dining at the classy Pappadeux, each patron is greeted by an exquisitely dressed staff. The waitstaff is clad in black slacks, white tuxedo shirts, and classic bow ties, while the hostess dons an elegant dress. The staff greets each diner with the traditional "ma'am" and "sir" and treats her or him with the utmost respect and dignity. In contrast, at the relaxed Joe's Crab Shack the entire staff wears t-shirts and shorts or jeans and treats everyone as if they are life-long friends; greeting patrons with "Hey! How's it going?" is the norm.

The final distinguishing characteristic is each restaurant's atmosphere. The atmosphere at Pappadeux reminds one of a traditional wedding reception while the atmosphere at Joe's Crab Shack takes one back to an end-of-the-summer beach party. An immaculate white tablecloth adorns each table at Pappadeux, and large, leafy, green plants dot the interior of the building. Soft, relaxing, classical music is piped through speakers throughout the restaurant. Diners feel compelled to speak in low, hushed tones, making sure not to disrupt the elegant feel of the restaurant. The atmosphere at Joe's Crab Shack conveys an entirely different ambience; lop-sided paintings and photographs cover the walls from top to bottom, and the music blares from every corner. On weekends, management provides live music, and when one of Houston's hometown favorite teams is playing, the game is on one, if not all, of the many televisions. As a finishing touch to this informal setting, old-fashioned beer buckets are placed on each table for use as trash receptacles.

In their menu, service, and atmosphere, Pappadeux and Joe's Crab Shack could not be more different. The one thing they have in common, other than great service of course, is their amazing, fresh seafood; it is delectable at both.

--Jona Roy

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