The Crab Cooker
The Crab Cooker, oh how we stumbled upon this Balboa Beach gem of an eatery. While on holiday which included Disneyland for a couple of days you know the place in which you are enduring lines and stroller derby madness the so called happiest place on earth, we needed a break. So it was unanimously decided that we would unwind next to the crashing serene waves and dig our toes into the sand. We strolled down the pier in hopes of spotting a great white shark, see as we were in southern California and there was currently a string of encounters with the beasts of the sea going up and down the coastline during those couple of days. The first sighting being at Dana Point on May 21, where fifteen juvenile great whites closed the beach that day. The Orange County Police closed the beach and evacuated the water. The police chopper hovered above some paddle boarders and alerted them to the fact that they were right next to 15 great white sharks. Those lucky devils, I have waited my whole life to see one of these magnificent creatures, preferably from a land view though.
A 13-foot great white shark with real skin and teeth, caught by a fisherman off Newport pier in February 1960
Walking down main street my family and I spotted few unique beach town eateries, but being the hole in the wall foodie types, my mother asked the locals their personal recommendations of spots to get our chow on. All of the encounters with the locals we asked unanimously agreed that, The Crab Cooker, was the local spot of choice.
The whole fam bam and the 5 year old all decide to go take a peek ( well the 5 year old didn’t have much input considering he thinks goldfish, the snack that smiles back, is one of the major four food groups. As we are walking we notice it across the street and some in our group of the merry band of travelers starts to grumble about the two block walk and street crossing and says, let just go back. Now the bravest and strongest of the group urges us on and we triumphantly forge ahead. As we are crossing the street we strike up some conversation with some lovely local ladies, who are also headed to The Crab Cooker and start raving about how wonderful this place is. It was a sign, a good sign and we all knew we were destined to eat at this place. What awaited us was what seafood dreams are made of. Established since 1951 and having been originally a bank just gave this place even more charm.
Our waitress was a lovely women named Penny who spun tales about the area that kept us enchanted as we settled into our surroundings. We ordered the famous and best damn clam chowder, done Manhattan style and o so thick and chunky. Still creamy and not to much tomato with a generous amount of fresh chewy clams. The fishermen’s bread was on point; crispy on the outside, fluffy bread goodness on the inside. Baked fresh in house daily and only a $1.95 a loaf. Now everything is served on paper plates, but don’t get your panties in a bunch here’s why: some of the waitresses have been there for 47 years.
The use of paper plates enable these golden gals to still work there and offer great service, without breaking their wrists. That is just one reason, but with food that good you could serve it in a clean dog bowl for all I care. We asked Penny what she would recommend for our main dish since the bread and and clam chowder she recommended was literally a bomb of pleasure in our mouths and tummies. She said the combination plate was the biggest seller and her go to. Now if you want fried seafood this is not the place for you. This is fresh as it gets and perfectly grilled. The combination plate had shrimp, scallop and the fish of the day which for us was some melt in your mouth flaky cod goodness.
The sides I ordered off of Penny’s suggestion was the cole slaw that she was very proud of and the potatoes. Both were amazing, that was no ordinary Cole Slaw no mushy cabbage only crisp and tangy goodness filled my mouth. Normally I don’t touch coleslaw even with a foot pole, this stuff I scarfed up every last little cabbage straggler. The potatoes o lord save my hips , that was some creamy cheesy goodness. Worth every last fatty calorie. Its ok thats what the gym is for.
You see why this restaurant draws about 150,000 guests from across Southern California and the world annually. So if your in Balboa Beach and cruising for something off the beaten path, dig your toes in this local run heaven of the sea gods and have the meal of your life. Tell Penny hi and thank you. Update The Crab Cooker has been closed for complete rebuild.The insurance company stated it was unsalvageable and and paid out a portion of an estimated 5 million cost on a rebuild. It is scheduled to be all done in June 2019. The staff received a severance pay based on their years of work their and the what their current pay scale was.
By Juniper Graves