Tabled manners: The soft-shell crab Royale

June 13, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself staring down the soft-shell crab Royale at Lula Cafe in Logan Square and thought: How am I going to eat this thing without looking like a scene out of Alien?
 
Or Prometheus, to be au courant.
 
It was a buttermilk-fried soft-shell crab sandwich with a sunny side up farm egg, bacon, coleslaw, pickled ramp gribiche, on a soft buttered bun—with a side of "Cajun" spiced potato chips. The Royale is the title of Lula's "breakfast sandwich series" only available during brunch, which is actually served daily.
I'd arrived at the Logan Square Farmers Market too early, and a cup of coffee turned into this decadent dilemma.
 
The dish is a head-turner. The kind of plate that stops conversation, all eyes follow, from kitchen, through dining room, to table, with a lingering question: How do you eat that?
 
So faced with the potential face-hugger, I strategized. I didn't want to deconstruct the sandwich completely. And then I attacked. I pulled off each of the meaty legs first, swiped them in the gribiche under the bun, and ate them them like fries. I then cradled the whole sandwich in my hands, bacon end first, and bit through. I anticipated soft pop of the runny yolk and slurped it like à la soup dumpling.
 
But I'm curious: How would you eat this sandwich? Or any of the new piled-on high American foods? 
 
Please note that the soft-shell crab Royale will only be available at Lula through Friday. The soft-shell crab season is nearly over.
 
On Saturday a new Royale shall take reign.