The get-up is courtesy of Joseph Harris, who has opened for business right there near the alley. While eight to 10 helpers mill around tending cooler, condiments and three hissing propane burners, Harris sits back on a bar stool in dark shades, shaking hands, pointing powerfully to slowing cars and taking calls on his red cell phone, all while palming a thick wad of cash.
The sidewalk boil, which Harris has planned for every Friday and Saturday through June, is merely the seed of a much bigger vision. The brick walls behind Harris and his bar stool will eventually house Tolliver's, his all-you-can-eat crab shack, which is currently under construction and is something Harris claims this town desperately needs.
"I just got inspired entrepreneurship-wise," Harris says, when he can finally break away for a word. "This is a busy thoroughfare. I wanted to do something where people could get something on their way home from work. Ribs and crabs. That's how the whole vision started." Tolliver's will open in about a month, he says. In the meantime these curbside boils are doing the trick, whopping up enthusiasm for the restaurant and raking in a few bucks to boot.
Aside from the crabs ($14-$18 per dozen; all you can eat for $25), Harris and company also make ribs, wings and a little gem referred to as the "Soul Smoke." "You ever had one of those?" says Victor Johnson who, scratching his head with an adjustable wrench, suddenly appears from working inside. Harris looks at him like he's given away their dirty secret, and is now obliged to tell.
"It's something my mother used to make," says Harris, to which Johnson adds: "It basically looks like an oversized hot dog." But this, of course, is doing the Soul Smoke no justice at all, and the two go on to describe the thing, grilled with garlic and peppers cooked right into it. "I never heard of a Soul Smoke until I met him," Johnson says, nudging the wrench at Harris, and his tone suggests it'd be reckless of me to wait another day to eat one.
Soul Smoke aside, the crabs are undoubtedly the centerpiece here on the sidewalk. Harris also claims to be the only one in the area serving fried crabs, which, he says, are an old Smithfield tradition. When asked just how many bushels they've sold this weekend, Harris and Johnson both seem overcome. "Oh my god. Oh my god!" they say. But if the crowd gathering there on Overbrook is any indication, they still have a few more left to cook. S
The crab boil takes place Friday (3 p.m. - 'til) and Saturdays (10 a.m. - 'til) at the corner of Overbrook Road and North Avenue.
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