A Crabby Season

Orange County welcomes the crustacean. Don your bib.

Wise people say, “When near the ocean, eat seafood.” This time, it’s all about crab. Here are four places that do it right.

The Classic

The Crab Cooker has been serving crab cracked, soft shelled, steamed, and lumped into patties since 1951. Let’s put it this way: The Newport Beach restaurant has been specializing in crab ten years longer than Obama has been alive. This paper-placemat-and-drawn-butter-in-paper-cups vibe has family-style seafood down pat.

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The Sailor’s Stop

Those grand enough to pull up in a yacht can moor at Bluewater Grill’s dock in Newport Beach: That’s how close this restaurant is to the ocean. Every fish is impeccably sourced, with about 40 varieties on offer nightly. The red rock crab cocktail so fresh that it needs only a squeeze of lemon.

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Southern style

When some southerners move west, they bring with them a knowledge of how to boil Texas-sized portions with the right amount of spice. Boiling Crab executes a proper crawfish boil, adding east-of-the-Mississippi sensibility to the west’s best catches. Dungeness crab is seasoned spicy. The Garden Grove location is a few miles north of Huntington Beach. Drop the utensils: This is finger food. 

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Newcomer

Laguna Beach’s recently opened Driftwood Kitchen proudly states of its waterfront location, “Any closer and you’d have to swim.” The twists on crab are deliciously creative and California pure. Buttermilk-fried soft-shell crab comes with green papaya slaw, and the gazpacho is rich with crab and lobster. Cocktails are top-notch; the Knob Creek cobbler in particular imparts a beach flair to smoked maple bourbon by muddling it with blackberries and coconut water.

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