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Joe's Crab Shack: First bites

The classic steampot at Joe's Crab Shack in

The classic steampot at Joe's Crab Shack in Westbury. (October 2013) Credit: Newsday /Joan Reminick

Joe’s Crab Shack makes a mean Margarita ($8.99). And a super strawberry peach sangria ($8.99). Plus you get to take home the Mason jar your drink is served in (actually, they give you a new one).

As I learned recently at the Houston-based seafood chain's third Long Island location, in Westbury, (others in Oceanside and Riverhead), what you also might take home with you is a headache. The cavernous space, with its beachy-wacky decor,  reverberates from both the crowd and the dance music that plays sporadically, impelling your tie-dye attired server to drop everything and boogie to choreographed routines. You’re encouraged to get up and join in, disco lights twirling above.

If only all the food came up to the festivities. A classic sampler ($11.95) did show promise. On the platter: a retro-style crab dip, served with nachos. Not bad. While the “great balls of fire”— fried seafood and crab balls with jalapeños and cream cheese — were neither great nor fiery, crispy calamari were exceptionally tender.

But a classic steampot ($23.99) with Dungeness crab, snow crab, shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn, was undermined by what tasted like powdered and dehydrated seasonings. Shrimp and grits ($16.29) had a certain comfort factor, but the accompanying biscuit could have been used as a curling stone. And a crabcake platter ($18.95) featured flat cakes as salty as the sea itself.

If you’re planning to join in Joe’s ongoing party, better call a few days in advance for a reservation. Otherwise, the wait can be well over an hour. Whether it’s worth it depends upon the kind of evening you’re looking for.

Joe’s Crab Shack is at 1195 Corporate Dr., Westbury, 516-745-6728 and also at 355 Long Beach Rd., Oceanside, 516-255-3705 and 1490 Old Country Rd., Riverhead, 631-727-2783,

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