The Captain’s Boil Restaurant (Coquitlam)
“Hey, I know that place,” I said to my skeptical friend, pointing out a restaurant marked by a smiling pirate. “There’s one opening up near where I live.”
“The Captain’s Boil? Like a plague?”
“I think they mean a boiling pot.”
“What the hell,” quoth she. “I like seafood.”
It was the biggest mistake either of us would make that day, but we were taken in by cute marketing and a pleasing design and the promise of seafood. It’s a franchise, right? They’ve got stores all over the place. How bad could it be?
We would soon learn that everything good implied by this place was a lie.
Taking a cue from some Taco Bell-ruled dystopian nightmare, the interior looked like a fast-food place but signage asked that we wait to be seated. No worries, thought we, and we were seated promptly enough. It certain places this could be kitschy and misguided and very fifties, like the mixture of cute pirate wallpaper and sci-fi nightmare tile scheme.
“Do you want anything to drink?” asked our waitress. She had no name tag and never introduced herself, and that’s fine – when I worked retail I had a tendency to “lose” my name tags and never gave my actual name. I kinda approve of that; I know corporate wants employees using their real names in case compliments come in, which I always viewed as proof that corporate had never been in an actual store. Regardless…
“Coffee would be nice.”
“We don’t have coffee.”
“What do you have?”
“Two waters, please.” I looked at my friend. She nodded. “With a couple slices of lemon.”
The waters arrived but the lemons never did.
And that’s fine. It’s fine. New restaurant opening up, there’s going to be some issues as things get sorted. The Captain’s Boil is new. I get that. At least this one is new, right? It’s cool. This wasn’t a warning sign at all. The ghastly looks that twisted the faces from the single other full table was certainly not a warning. The words they silently spoke – get out – could be safely ignored.
The decor was okay: brown paper table clothe taped into place. A full thing of napkins. The glasses were plastic and cheap. The smiling face of the mascot leered down on us, staring with one eye.
“Odin gave up his eye for wisdom,” my friend said. “What do you think that guy gave his up for?”
I had no answer and the pirate would not reveal his secrets.
The menus came and we looked them over, a single poorly laid out double-sided laminated page designed by someone with an eye for everything but practicality. There were appetizers on one side and main courses on the other, the words hidden beneath garish colors and pictures that advertised food we would never see.
How could we know that then?
“I think I’d like a crab,” my friend said. I echoed her sentiment. We ordered corn, too, and selected a sauce for the crab to be marinated in. We settled in to wait for the food. The waters were refilled. No lemons were ever found.
We did not notice then the lack of any kind of price by the crab. We would suffer the consequences later.
Meanwhile, the mascot continued to leer from the walls. “Too late to run now, matey,” it crooned.
Plastic gloves and bibs were brought out, both one-size-fits-none. The gloves groped my finger-flesh like a club-bound dude-bro with any amount of beer inside him. The bib slipped away like his would-be victim protected by her sisters. Those gloves were not coming off without tearing and that bib was lost forever.
When the crabs arrived they came in a plastic bag – broken crabs boiled apart and still in the shell, the shell still holding and strong. There were no plates offered, nowhere to discard the shells we were given nutcrackers to sort through – and the shells came unscored, so we were going to have to work for our meal.
Reaching into the bag was a process that covered our forearms in what we originally thought was the yummy sauce that we’d chosen off the menu but which we became more convinced was actually pooling and congealed blood as the meal went on and it seeped through the plastic, giving the brown paper an unhealthy shine.
Without plates, utensils, or even a bucket, we had no choice but to dump the shells we’d managed to break and get some of the meat out of on the brown paper table clothe in front of us, adding to the wreck and ruin. The shattered shells piled up, hiding delicious crab meat between bits of cartilage and shell. Were we getting all the meat? Were we even getting our money’s worth? How much was this going to cost? How much waste was this one meal going to create? Only one of those questions would be answered. The waters were refilled without lemons. The family with the haunted expressions left us alone in the Captain’s Boil with disinterested waitstaff and silenced Nickelodeon.
My phone rang but the gloves continued to hold my hands prisoner. I asked the waitstaff if replacement gloves were possible and was told they were not. Theses were my designated gloves – there could be no others like them. Whoever was calling was going to have to wait if I wanted to keep my hands free of the congealing liquids that were sopping through the brown paper.
Hey, remember that corn we’d ordered?
We found it. It was in the bag the whole time, hidden underneath pieces of crab and soaking in blood and sauce.
“You’re sure this is blood?” I asked, eyeing the corn with uncertain hunger.
“Pretty sure,” my friend said, glaring. “I deal with more blood than you do.”
She was right, I knew.
We left the corn where it was as I struggled to free myself from the gloves, then excused myself to use my phone. Another friend of mine was in my neighborhood – I had to warn her.
“Do not go to the Captain’s Boil,” I whispered, still dealing with the trauma of the seafood blood cult that was even now watching my every move. The single beady eye of the mascot trailed me, mocking, a pirate that would never be satisfied until I had paid for my suffering. Grimacing, I went back in, forced a smile at the counter and spared a glance to my friend as she eyed the corn and weighed the risks.
Did we get all the crab? I wondered. We did not know. We would never know. The question continues to haunt us.
I used their bathroom, struggling past the mop that blocked the stall door, the cleaning supplies leaking under the sink and filling the air with a heady smell that seared the blood-scent from my nostrils. I left quickly, walked back to the front.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked the person behind the counter. She smiled at me, printing off a bill. Two Dungeness crabs, two waters, two pieces of uneaten corn, no lemons: $106.53.
I could have fought it. Maybe I would have, but my stomach was already beginning to ache. I paid, tipped, collected my friend and left.
“Nothing to do now but wait for the food poisoning to set in,” she said. Later, she continued: “That was a monstrous assemblage of seafood, waste, and the failed follow-through of a successful branding campaign, all of which has culminated in an over-priced, over-hyped, and literally stomach-churning result which will neither be soon missed or readily forgotten.”
That’s an actual quote. I know the best people.
We nabbed some ginger ale and Gravol elsewhere. She had a ferry to catch and I had my life to live. Between the two of us we had shared and survived an experience and now – now – there was nothing to do but warn people and keep them from making the same mistake as us.
And now you have been warned.