Dining trend alert: Louisiana-style seafood boils, served family style. I will unshellfishly explain. Also this week, I visit the enormous new tasting room of a local brewery, a suburban diner in an unlikely spot, and a cantina with a happy-hour snack you won’t want to miss.

If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.

No laws when you’re cracking claws

A seafood boil, including snow crabs, black mussels, potatoes, corn, and sausage, at Shaking Seafood, 243 S. 10th St.
A seafood boil, including snow crabs, black mussels, potatoes, corn, and sausage, at Shaking Seafood, 243 S. 10th St.

Paper place mats on the table, bibs on the neck, plastic gloves on the hands, fish nets and nautical art on the walls.

Down-and-dirty seafood eating — once fairly commonplace at local crab houses — is coming back, as the Philly area is seeing a string of new restaurants specializing in Cajun-inspired, family-style seafood boils that include a choice of shellfish (usually sold by the pound), corn on the cob, whole potatoes, and perhaps sausage.

I found seven restaurants, from Cherry Hill and Mount Laurel to Bensalem, the Northeast, and Center City. The basic menus seem fairly interchangeable — with various crabs, clams, shrimp, mussels, crawfish, and lobster — but each puts its own spin on the food and offers additional choices.

Crack Crab, on Grant Avenue near Northeast Philadelphia Airport, for example, offers teriyaki-spiked hibachi entrees, while Shake Seafood on Cottman Avenue in the Rhawnhurst neighborhood sells Cajun fried rice. Boiling Pot on Market Street in Old City and Boiling House on Route 70 in Cherry Hill do a seafood fried rice with crab cut fresh to order, as well as stir-fried crab with ginger and scallions, served over garlic noodles. All the restaurants offer fried fish and appetizers such as wings and onion rings, as well.

This Week’s Openings

Chiu’s Kitchen | Chinatown

Casual Cantonese corner spot opened Sept. 10 at 122 N. 10th St., in the former Hidden Gem.

City Winery | Chinatown

Syndicated music venue/winery/restaurant bows Sept. 19 at 990 Filbert St., at the Fashion District (former Gallery).

HipCityVeg | Radnor

A second Main Line location for the plant-based fast-casual mini-chain opened Sept. 9 at 232 N. Radnor Chester Rd.

Queen & Rook | Queen Village

Board-game cafe takes the former Hikaru at 607 S. Second St. on Sept. 13.

Flannel | South Philadelphia

Chhaya Cafe at 1819 E. Passyunk Ave. gives way to a Southern-inspired concept; target opening is Sept. 12.

Melrose Diner | South Philadelphia

The popular diner at 1501 Snyder Ave. is back Sept. 11, six weeks after a fire.

Tin Can Bar | Port Richmond

Chill corner bar has replaced Bait & Switch at 2537 E. Somerset St.

Triple Bottom Brewing | Poplar

Brewery/taproom with a social mission opens Sept. 12 at 915 Spring Garden St.

Umi Seafood & Sushi | Chinatown

Reading Terminal Market gets a sushi stand.

This Week’s Closings

Hidden Gem | Chinatown

Hong Kong-style eatery has given way to Chiu’s Kitchen (see above).

Osaka | Chestnut Hill

Sushi specialist had been dinged by the state for $1 million in a wage-theft case.

Where we’re enjoying happy hour

Carnitas steamed bun at Pistola's Del Sur, 1934 E. Passyunk Ave.
Carnitas steamed bun at Pistola's Del Sur, 1934 E. Passyunk Ave.

Pistola’s Del Sur, 1934 E. Passyunk Ave., 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday

The happy hour drink deals are decent enough at this South Philly cantina ($3.50 cans of Yards PPA and IPA, $5 Corazon Blanco shots, $6 wines, and $10 off marg pitchers, for example), on the Broad Street end of the East Passyunk strip.

The food, though, makes it special. Chef Adán Trinidad makes it worthwhile with $4 tuna and salmon belly tiradito, $5 steamed carnitas buns, and $7 cocas (the filled pastries).

It’s all served at the bar, in the dining room, and at the outdoor tables.

Where we’re eating

Benedict Florentine at Gateway Cafe, 555 Flint Hill Rd., King of Prussia.
Benedict Florentine at Gateway Cafe, 555 Flint Hill Rd., King of Prussia.

Gateway Cafe, 555 Flint Hill Rd., King of Prussia

Say “King of Prussia,” and you may think of endless malls and strip centers and oceans of parking lots and macadam. But 10 minutes away, still in the 19406, is a different side of Upper Merion Township. Flint Hill Road, home of industrial-type businesses and a FedEx depot, also has something uncharacteristic of KoP: an independent restaurant.

The Mahoney family opened their cozy, little throwback breakfast-luncher in a freestanding stone building in the mid-2000s as the Gateway II, an offshoot of their diner in Wayne’s Gateway Shopping Center, which lost its lease in 2012. (The family also owns the similar Corner Cafe in Collegeville.) It has a completely homespun look and feel, down to the knotty pine and kitschy decor. The outdoor patio is under an overhang, too.

Nothing fancy on the menu, either. Eggs, waffles, and skillets are the way to go on the breakfast side, particularly if you have the chance to order the potato cakes, which are, for all intents and purposes, seasoned latkes. For lunch, go for any sandwich — a full slate including steaks, hoagies, “grillers,” and clubs. Great prices, too.

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Beet hummus at Dock Street South, 2118 Washington Ave.
Beet hummus at Dock Street South, 2118 Washington Ave.

Dock Street South, 2118 Washington Ave.

Besides quadrupling its beermaking capacity, Dock Street has scored another win with the opening of its brewery and taproom at 22nd Street and Washington Avenue. It’s given the neighborhood, which has seen extensive development over the last decade, a spacious, family friendly destination.

Witness the early side of last Saturday night. Groups of people in their 20s and 30s were gathered at the high-tops and at the bar. Clusters of friends, having ordered food at the register next to the bar, were seated at communal tables awaiting the delivery of their food. Amid it all were babies and toddlers, including one happy guy who paraded around the place waving his parents’ order number on a stick like a baton; there’s a small children’s menu.

There’s plenty of action here, aside from the big-screen TV, and the Mediterranean-influenced menu is much more advanced than your typical taproom’s. Beet hummus, one of the vegan options, was served with pita, radishes, and haricot vert for dipping. (Pro tip: Avoid if you’re wearing white. Oh. It’s after Labor Day, anyway. Never mind.) Pay special attention to the herb-marinated octopus socca, which brought chunks of octopus, heirloom tomato, and black olives on a flatbread of sorts made of chickpea. The specialty is rotisserie, available as Sicilian herb chicken, za’atar chicken, and Moroccan-spiced chicken, and it’s served with one side for $15.

A dozen beers are on tap, plus a cider and, right now, a Negroni made of Best Boy (an American pale ale), sweet vermouth, gin, Campari, and lemon juice.

During the day, it starts as a coffee bar with cappuccino, espresso, and pastries.

Hours: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday.

Craig LaBan’s Q&A does not appear this week.