My friend and I decided to get lunch between classes where the old Szechuan China used to be. It’s just outside Campustown, so if you’re a student and have some time during the day, it’s a nice change of pace from just eating on Green Street or at the Union all the time. The restaurant has undergone some changes in the last six months and now says “Mr. Crab” on the outside, and has sea-related decorations like anchors, netting, and crabs. It’s a little confusing because you walk in and there’s this whole sea theme, but at the same time there’s Chinese characters in some places. And online, it says that both Mr. Crab and Szechuan China are open. Both Szechuan China and Mr. Crab are housed within the same building despite being completely different cuisines.

Image: Inside of Mr. Crab restaurant dining room, looking toward the window. Point of view is behind netting that is adorned with a ship's steering wheel and bottles with messages in them. Beyond the netting are tables covered in white paper with paper towel rolls on them. Photo by Anusha Bansal.Image: Inside of Mr. Crab restaurant dining room, looking toward the window. Point of view is behind netting that is adorned with a ship's steering wheel and bottles with messages in them. Beyond the netting are tables covered in white paper with paper towel rolls on them. Photo by Anusha Bansal.
Image: The inside of Mr. Crab restauarant's dining room. Tables are lined with white paper. Paper towel rolls are on each of the tables. The top half of the walls are covered in shiplap. On the left side there is a mural of a crab with Image: The inside of Mr. Crab restauarant's dining room. Tables are lined with white paper. Paper towel rolls are on each of the tables. The top half of the walls are covered in shiplap. On the left side there is a mural of a crab with "Mr. Crab" in white letter above it. Photo by Anusha Bansal.

When you go inside, you can request which menu you’d like to order from. Or, if you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can order off of both. Since both my friend and I had tried the Szechuan China food before, we decided to try to Cajun food from the Mr. Crab menu. However, if you’re in the mood for Chinese food, they have some great lunch specials. too.

Image: Poster image of Mr. Crab menu. Image from Mr. Crab Facebook page. Image: Poster image of Mr. Crab menu. Image from Mr. Crab Facebook page.

There are a lot of different options, but the basic idea is that you choose your meat, some kind of shellfish like crab, shrimp, crawfish, or oysters, choose your flavoring, and if you want, you can choose some sides. It’s all thrown together in a bag with a sauce and boiled. We went for one of the Special combos: ½ pound of shrimp and ½ pound of snow crab with a piece of corn and a potato in a medium spicy cajun sauce ($19.95). We also ordered a side of cajun fries ($4).

Be warned: If you do not like messy food, don’t order this. If you don’t mind the mess, go for it. They do give you a plastic bib and plastic gloves, which is helpful. The food all comes in one plastic bag on a plate. You get a crab cracker and tiny forks to scoop out the crab meat, but by the end of the meal there was sauce everywhere.

Top image: Crab legs sit on top of a plastic bag inside of a stainless steel bowl. The bowl is on a white table. Photo by Anusha Bansal. Top image: Crab legs sit on top of a plastic bag inside of a stainless steel bowl. The bowl is on a white table. Photo by Anusha Bansal.

The sauce was really flavorful without being overwhelming. I could still taste the crab and shrimp flavors through the sauce. Everything was in the same sauce, and everything was really good. The flavors worked well especially with the corn. The corn was juicy and sweet and balanced out the spicer sauce. Between the crab and the shrimp, I preferred the shrimp because it absorbed more of the sauce (and it was a little less work to eat). I’d say that if you want a little bit of heat, but not something too spicy the medium level is good.

Image: Seasoned crinkle cut French fries are served in a basket lined with red and which check patterned paper. To the left is a small condiment bowl filled with ketchup. Both items sit on a white table. Photo by Anusha Bansal. Image: Seasoned crinkle cut French fries are served in a basket lined with red and which check patterned paper. To the left is a small condiment bowl filled with ketchup. Both items sit on a white table. Photo by Anusha Bansal.

The Cajun fries were also really good and I liked the flavoring on them. They aren't very salty, so that just depends on your preference whether you like it or not. I personally didn't mind, especially because it comes with ketchup. I would definitely get the fries again. It's a pretty big sized portion, too — ideal for splitting with someone.

It was a really fun experience and it was nice knowing that we had two menus to order from. I would definitely go back for lunch or dinner, especially with friends because there are a lot of things that you can split. If you go with multiple people, you can order combos and get the specific kind of seafood you want. They also have a sampler platter in the appetizers that looked really good ($13) and would be perfect for going with lots of people.

I think it’s really impressive that this one restaurant is able to do two completely different cuisines really well. If I’m ever craving Chinese food or if I want Cajun food, I’m set. I also feel like there aren’t too many places that specialize in seafood, so as someone who’s a fan, it was nice to discover this place.

Mr. Crab / Szechuan China
401 S First St
Champaign
T-Su 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Top image: Crab legs sit on top of a plastic bag inside of a stainless steel bowl. The bowl is on a white table. Photo by Anusha Bansal.