Mad Boiler – Casual Kick-Ass Cajun Fare
Written and Photos by Christina Ruiz
Upon entering Mad Boiler, I spotted the brown paper covering the tabletops and the two central hand-washing stations; I instantly got the feeling this was going to be a finger-licking experience. The minimalist yet trendy design includes industrial furniture, exposed brick, and globe bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Sitting at the bar was Stanley Liem: one half of this husband-and-wife of the Cajun Seafood establishment, Mad Boiler. Stanley and his wife, Sara Katekaew, are also the owners of the popular Lincoln Square sushi joint, Miku Sushi, and know how to put good food on the table. In this venture, the couple departed from their roots to expose the popular Vietnamese method of boil-in-a-bag Cajun food. A chalkboard on the wall displayed the market price for each of the eleven seafood boil options, including lobster, crab, shrimp, crawfish, clams, and mussels. In addition to the seafood boils, Mad Boiler also offers soups and sandwiches, including Shrimp and Oyster Po-Boys.
As my guest and I sat down at one of the long, papered tables, our server explained each of the options. Each boil is served by the pound with one of the four sauces Louisiana Dry Rub, Coco Curry, Sweet Chili, and Garlic Butter along any with additional fixings of your choice corn, sausage, potato, bread or rice. The meal is served in the bag which it was cooked, allowing you to grab all the juicy deliciousness for yourself.
To start, my guest and I split a Lobster Roll with an order of Mad Fries, fluffy and crisp potatoes seasoned with Cajun spices and parsley to garnish. The Lobster Roll–simple yet delicious–was also dusted with Cajun spice and topped with green onions. The heaping pile of lobster was very fresh and was highlighted by the sweet and buttery bread.
Still salivating from the Lobster Roll, my guest and I slipped on our bibs and plastic gloves and our server brought out our order. Without hesitation, we dove into our Shrimp Boil, which can be ordered with the heads on or the heads off. We chose the Louisiana Dry Rub for our shrimp, and, following the suggestion of our knowledgeable server, we requested a mild spice level. This was a smart move because the cooking liquid is already quite spicy. We vigorously peeled the hot shrimp, which were tender and sweet beneath the bright heat of the rub.
After demolishing our shrimp, we ordered Lobster Tails and King Crab Legs in Garlic Butter. The sauce was light and flavorful, highlighting the freshness of our seafood. We also took down a Clam Boil with Sweet Chili Sauce, slurping the flavorful Thai sauce out of the clam shells once I had finished the meaty morsels.
The most memorable was the Coco Curry sauce, which we ordered with our Dungeness Crab Boil, adding on corn-on-the-cob and sausage to the bag. The Dungeness Crab is served as a split whole crab, which allowed the Coco Curry to seep into all of the crevices between the meat. After cracking the upper shell of the crab, my guest and I happily picked the meat from the crab with our fingers, enjoying the creamy spiciness of the coconut sauce.
As our server cleared away the pile of shells, napkins, and saucy bags from our table, we took off our gloves and ate our dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eggrolls! Creamy and granular chocolate chip cookie dough is stuffed into an egg roll wrapping and deep fried. Served in a no-nonsense cardboard shell, the concoction is topped with whipped cream and a berry sauce. The snap of the eggroll casing and the warm cookie dough center was beyond satisfying after this hearty seafood meal.
As I expected, it was a finger-licking meal, messy, and required some cracking and peeling, but the food was definitely worth it. The delicious sauces and fresh shellfish make Mad Boiler a top-notch seafood option in Chicago. I look forward to trying the rest of the menu soon.
Mad Boiler is located in the West Loop at 1045 West Madison. They are open Monday-Friday 3pm to midnight, and Saturday-Sunday noon to midnight. Reservations aren’t available, so I’d suggest arriving early so you can snag a table at this new hot spot.