For decades, the Crab CToker was like everyone’s favorite neighbor. If it could toss you a newspaper and wish you a good morning, it probably would. Its cherry-red edifice was an institution, a 1930s-era symbol etched out of comfort food and fresh crab. Now, as a casual drive down West Balboa Blvd. would prove, the long-standing tradition of The Crab Cooker no longer stands.
Construction has officially begun to rebuild, however, and a bright sign stuck to the site scaffolding announces in signature red font that The Crab Cooker will reopen Summer 2019. (The Crab Cooker Owner Jim Wasko had months earlier confirmed the temporary shutdown.)
The planned demolition was the result of nearby construction from VUE Newport, a high-end condominium complex and burgeoning restaurant hub, which caused major structural damage to The Crab Cooker building. (For those craving a Crab Cooker fix while the rebuild is happening, there’s also a Crab Cooker in Tustin. View menus and restaurant details here.)
It’s been a tough year for loyal Crab Cooker fans; last December, Bob Roubian, founder of the iconic Balboa Peninsula restaurant, passed away at the age of 91.
An artist, poet, musician, sculptor, fisherman, community activist and carpenter, Roubian hand-carved the front door of The Crab Cooker, a labor of love for his beloved establishment. During hard times, Roubian—who penned songs for Capitol Records in the 50s—wrote a rockabilly tune, “The Popcorn Song (Too Pooped to Pop)” with country star Cliffie Stone to pay the bills.
Roubian also saw The Crab Cooker’s legacy grow; famed diners like John Wayne, Richard Nixon, James Cagney and Nicolas Cage all frequented its hallowed walls under his watch.
“Eat life or life will eat you,” Roubian once famously said, and the phrase seems more appropriate now than ever before. While The Crab Cooker rebuilds, we wait with baited breath and crab-craving stomachs, knowing the same take-life-by-the-pinchers attitude that started it all will help start it all over again.