One of my favorite no-frills restaurants is The Crab Cooker. I’ve been going there since I was a kid. At first there was only one location, in Newport Beach. It’s kitschy and crazy and always overflowing with people. (You know this place– stuffed fish hanging from the ceiling, weird old art on the walls, nautical nonsense everywhere.)
Now there’s a location in Tustin that’s a little less fabulous (the closer you are to the beach while eating chowder, the better), but it’s closer to my family’s house so I’m more likely to be able to drag them there. (“Any port in a storm,” as Sam/fishermen would say.)
This is my kind of place: When you sit down, there are already TWO TYPES OF BREAD waiting at the table.
It’s hard to describe the breadsticks. They’re not fresh baked– more like a cracker. But not a cracker? And surprisingly light/porous. The density/crunch is unique. The round ones (bread… stick… balls?) are denser. And also crunchy. You just have to try them to understand.
If you want more traditional bread, order the Fisherman’s Bread ($1.50). Actually, that’s a commandment. ORDER IT.
Crispy and flaky on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Exactly what good bread should be. I’m not sure if this is sourdough or not. I can never remember. So probably not.
A cup of clam chowder is $2.50. And honestly, if you’re not super hungry you’re probably good with clam chowder, the bread, and maybe a shrimp cocktail ($4.95). Very cheap date.
Remember, you’ve got all the breadstick things you can eat!
A word on the clam chowder. They only serve red. Which I like, because you may remember that I don’t eat cream-based things. (I will make an exception when I am IN New England. If I am IN New England and I am at a place that has FAMOUS New England clam chowder, okay.) And it’s good. And it’s clammy. So… just order it. If you don’t like it, I’ll finish it. (Email it to me.)
My dad ordered a shrimp cocktail…
And we ordered an entree of shrimp and scallops to split. Usually they space them with bacon, but I asked for no bacon, so no bacon I got! (The sides are rice pilaf and coleslaw.)
We got extra lemon and no matter how much I doused my shrimp/scallops in lemon, I couldn’t taste the lemon flavor. Weird. (Honestly I’m not the hugest fan of the entrees here. I mostly ordered it for the rice pilaf.)
On your way out, you have to grab a few pieces of saltwater taffy. I try to pick flavors I know I like and just take a nibble of each… taffy is a scary food. (My parents avoid it… they have crowns/fillings to worry about.)
I particularly like the black licorice ones, probably because they’re easy to identify. But just a nibble.
While I wrestled with the taffy jar, my parents tried to identify every celebrity on this poster.
It’s pretty crazy, to see Clark Gable and Errol Flynn sitting next to each other. And looking like total dandies! I think my dad said the poster was MGM’s stars. Now it’s like a yearbook photo from heaven! (Famous people go to a fancier heaven.) (And I guess all famous dogs go there, too.)
But I digress. (As usual.) Go to The Crab Cooker! Eat Lots A Fish. And if you go to the Newport location… don’t look up! (That always perplexed me, as a kid.) (And still, I guess.) (As does their a-grammatical motto.)