Stone crab, gator and more: A first look at Hazel's Crab Trap takeover in Birmingham

Hazel Ravines & Downtown will be Hazel's Crab Trap with Gulf Coast favorites through Feb. 16

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

I appreciate a restaurant that likes to have fun, and judging from an opening-day look at the temporary Gulf Coast seafood takeover menu, Hazel, Ravines & Downtown in Birmingham is going to be a good time. 

Now through Feb. 16, the eclectic restaurant will be known as Hazel's Crab Trap and is serving a completely different menu than their usual mix of global food, comfort staples and trendy items. 

Hazel, Ravines & Downtown in Birmingham is Hazel's Crab Trap with a Gulf Shore seafood menu through Feb. 16.

The star of the show at the limited-time Crab Trap is the chilled stone crab claws, a light and slightly sweet delicacy in areas like southern Florida that you just don't see much of this far north. The crabs are harvested for their claws alone, as their body doesn't produce much meat. Stone crabs are thrown back into their habitat where they can start to regrow their limb or limbs, if they survive. 

Hazel's is selling stone crab as a dinner on its own — market price, which was $44 per pound on Tuesday — with a few hush puppies and your choice of two sides. They come with a Dijon mustard sauce, a slice of lemon and the right tools to scrape out every shred of meat. 

The black and orange claws are also served as part of a three-pound seafood feast that includes a pound each of stone, king and snow crab plus fries, cole slaw, hushpuppies and fixing for $140. 

Hazel, Ravines & Downtown in Birmingham is Hazel's Crab Trap with stone crab and other Gulf Shore seafood items through Feb. 16.

Co-owners Beth Hussey and executive chef Emmele Herrold have crafted a one-page, place mat-style menu that is full of puns and is a seafood-lovers fantasy. If shellfish isn't your thing, try the often-changing fresh catch of the day, served blackened, pecan-crusted or pan-fried. 

The appetizers list, named "manateasers," is wild, with popcorn grouper, buffalo-fried calamari, Florida fish pate with Saltines, peel-and-eat shrimp and oysters. Nothing gets more exotic than the alligator bites, which are actually on the menu as "alligators bite."

These fried bad boys are so big that the $12 appetizer basket can be shared with the whole table. The breading is golden brown and well-seasoned with a bit of a kick. The mild 'gator meat is chewy and firm; you'll need a knife and fork. It doesn't taste like chicken. 

Alligators Bite appetizer from Hazel's Crab Trap takeover at Hazel, Ravines & Downtown in Birmingham

If you're not into eating alligator or any animals, the vegan chefs at Street Beet have teamed up with chef Herrold to offer the "not-so-crabby patty," a plant-based take on a crab cake made with jack fruit and topped with cabbage, corn salsa and a spicy sauce. 

Of other non-meat options, I have to rave about the hush puppies, which are fried beautifully, are just the right size (you don't want them too big) and have a sweet onion flavor with the cornmeal. They're included in a few meals and also served as a side for $6. Other sides are cole slaw, mac and cheese, fried okra and more, including Hazel, Ravines & Downtown's awesome thin and crispy french fries. 

Come during happy hour, and Hazel's hush puppies are all you can eat for $5 per person. Running 4-6 p.m. Tues.-Sun., happy hour also has drink specials, half-off oysters and snacks, including the alligators bite for $5. 

The vibe of the spacious restaurant matches the menu for this four-week takeover, with blue-and-white checkered tablecloths, island-y music (Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, etc.) and an transformed bar menu. Sip on tropical cocktails, frozen drinks, canned beers and other "cancoctions" like sparking mead and black cherry White Claw. 

The Crab Trap motif continues through Hazel's weekend brunch service, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Pair a pink mimosa with a plate of crab cakes and eggs, shrimp and grits or huevos rancheros. 

Hazel, Ravines & Downtown restaurant entrance off of Peabody in Birmingham.

Hazel's Crab Trap takes over Hazel, Ravines & Downtown through Feb. 16. Located at 1 Peabody in downtown Birmingham, the restaurant is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat. and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. 

Make a reservation at HRD.Kitchen or via the Resy app. Diners who take a Lyft or Uber to the restaurant from a Birmingham address get their ride reimbursed. Guests from outside Birmingham will get a credit up to $10. 

More:Review: Cheese bread, oysters, curry and more, Hazel, Ravines & Downtown caters to all palates

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Twitter: @melodybaetens