I spied a large billboard a few weeks ago with brilliant happy colors and a crab on it that said Crabster Seafood Grill – Progresso. Since I´d not been out there in half a dozen years I decided it was my duty to give it another chance to seduce me. My past experiences of sequin sombrero wearing American cruise ship tourist vomiting cliche spanglish phrases at the top of their lungs could not deter me. Hot pants and sunburned blubber would not deter me. After all I´d seen many happy selfie faces on Facebook and nice appetizing dishes on Instagram all tagged #Crabster. Twenty minutes from the billboard and I was driving through the new improved town of Progresso. A place that was once as beautiful as the Paseo Montejo but hurricane Gilberto wiped that slate clean decades ago. The town has really cleaned it´self up and the malecon looks clean and inviting. So far so good the terrace at Crabster looks comfortable with the ubiquitous upscale synthetic wicker chairs. Nice marble top tables until you sit down. At once you feel like a toddler again. The table is about 3 inches too high for the chairs and the base of the table is a pyramid. This precludes any possibility of comfort as your feet won´t fit under the table. Well at least the napkins are nicely embossed.
The menu comes and it is huge. This always discourages me in a seafood restaurant. How do they keep it fresh? Why so many choices and sauces? A gigantic sea bass and grouper are presented to us by a waiter who could barely lift the tray, which is garnished with a lobster tail and crab claws. They may have been impressive yesterday. What is that strange odor I start to wonder. It reminds me of walking through Bloomingdales and being spritzed with Halston back when there was a Halston. Alas it is my fingers. The napkins are scented with the sort of perfume your elementary teacher may have sprayed around the class room after lunch if your teacher were on a budget. Good lord who thought that was a good idea? Suddenly I feel like I´m having lunch in an Uber.
The waiters are very attentive and so we order from the yuge menu where the starters are all about 200 pesos. Still it was the day after the US election and we were there to stare at the sea and escape reality and the internet. The peso has fallen as far as our spirits so we decide to splurge. First came the Red Snapper carpaccio with it´s garnishes. We refused the cheese and had it with a dressing (mistake), capers and avocado (another mistake). It would have been fine with capers some lime and a good olive oil. That was 25 minute behind us at Costco I suppose. The ceviche was fresh and good, if a little watered down. It was nothing to compare to the better and cheaper ceviches and aguachiles at Apoala. In fact it was nothing to compare the bigger better and ceviche at La Pigua, or Muelle 8 or even Marlin Azul in Merida. Third came the soft shell crab tacos which were good but not great. At least they were big! Last and least came a big heap of fried octopus served on a cutting board, with a side of tomato sauce and tortillas and habanero. Either we were full or it tasted like shoe leather or both.
Now, I have learned over the years not to expect much. To say I was disappointed would not be accurate. Let´s just say I was not surprised. It wasn´t very good but I was surprised the place was full by the time we left. Everyone else seemed happy to be over paying for mediocrity by the sea. A fitting analogy for the election I suppose. I vow to not be deceived by good graphics again. It took several washings at home before the cheap perfume left my fingertips. I should have remembered Susan Sarandon´s trick in with lemons in the film Atlantic City. I´d rather not ever think about Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City or Crabster again for as long as I live.