Crab Catcher

1298 Prospect Street, La Jolla CA 92037
$$$ Seafood Recommended Editor's Pick Special Offer Private Room View Gift Certificates

Perched atop an ocean bluff, Crab Catcher in La Jolla overlooks Seals Beach, a little sublet that thousands of tourists come by to visit annually. With a spectacular view and sensational food that is procured straight from the sea, Crab Catcher serves only the best fresh dishes. Keeping to the 100-mile radius philosophy, Chef Jon Burwell hires local commercial fishermen and harvests only the freshest ingredients from local farms and farmers markets to create the kind of dishes that will project surprise and wonder onto diner’s faces. With that in mind, the relaxed and quiet ambiance of Crab Catcher creates the kind of vibe that will have first time visitors coming back again and again.

Fine Dining Over The Seaside

Review by

The weather has been unusually warm the last few days, and it is evident here inside the lobby of the Crab Catcher, located across from La Jolla’s Seals Beach, that the temperate fall weather will have to wait.  The playful colors of sunlight dancing over the water looks like a thousand glittering diamonds spread out on a canopy of night sky.  With the sun about to set in a few hours, this will all start to change.  The dazzling sight before me will slowly but surely change into a wide array of colors like that on a painter’s palette, bedazzling my guest and I in a different way.   

The Crab Catcher, located on Prospect Street, is renowned for their eclectic seafood dishes.  Co-owners Jerry and Jeanne Burwell, and their son Executive Chef Jon Burwell, have combined their talents to create a trendy establishment where locals and newcomers alike can come to indulge in some fine and innovative seafood cuisine.  

The Crab Catcher menu provides a wide selection of dishes from both sea and land.  From the Ahi, the Seabass, and the Crab Legs – the main staples to any seafood joint – to the Filet Mignon and Top Sirloin, The Crab Catcher menu has a variety of dishes prepared with a Pacific Rim-fusion flavor.  

Adjacent to the restaurant is the Seaside Café, which offers an assortment of house specialties.  Available at the Seaside Café is a Sushi Bar/Oyster Bar/Sports Bar that provides a full bar with Happy Hour specials at the end of the day.  With a full menu for both the Sushi and Oyster Bar specials and multiple satellite TVs broadcasting the latest in sports, an evening at The Crab Catcher’s Seaside Café will provide guests a fine evening of entertainment and diversion.  It is rare to find an empty table at The Crab Catcher, so come prepared and make reservations on time.  

Prior to my dinner at the Crab Catcher, I arrive early at the La Jolla location so that I can explore my immediate surroundings.  The restaurant is settled in a series of eaves and balconies, tucked away like a treasure inside of a sea grove.   Peering down into the layers of inlets provided by the open awning that leads to the patio of the restaurant, the intricate architecture of the restaurant brings to mind the complex nature of a shell and how its design is brought upon by the very wit and whim of the sea and its thunderous nature.  Like the shell whose rough contours are marked by the waves, or the sea pebble whose edges have been smoothed over by the carvings of the sea, the Crab Catcher has surely too been sanded into its ideal form.  

Upon entering the premises of the restaurant, I notice its oceanic themes right off the bat.  Even the mosaic in the image of a crab, which is featured at the foot of the waiting area, is patterned with the iridescent hues like that of the mother of pearl coloring inside of a shell.  I have been given the right impression for as I look into the main dining area, the oceanic themes are evident here as well. The chairs and walls are matched with sandy-beige tones to resemble the ocean floor or the sandy beaches of La Jolla Shores or La Jolla Cove, both of which are just a mere breath away.

After our brief wait in the lobby, Manager Dave Marrow leads us out into the patio dining area with a table closest to the water’s edge, as requested.  As my guest and I settle down in our seats, I notice that the tables around us are situated closely together.  Although only a few tables and chairs occupy this space, this outdoor seating arrangement can be an ideal setting for a romantic candlelit dinner.  The patio not only provides a spectacular view over the Cove, but a low-lit ambiance is also a feature that can add intimacy for a quiet meal for two.  

But if dining outdoors is not for you, there is the main dining area and private room options for larger parties.  The level of formality at The Crab Catcher ranges from casual to relatively formal.  One of my first impressions as I step inside The Crab Catcher is that the restaurant’s relaxed setting with the Pegge Hopper paintings, beige indoor décor, and dark wood patio furniture blends and incorporates the natural surroundings of the establishment into the basic ambiance of the place. This style is evident as well in The Crab Catcher’s food philosophy.  Their seafood is captured fresh from the sea daily and their ingredients are grown locally from regional farms or farmers markets.  Following a 100-mile radius approach to procuring only the freshest ingredients, The Crab Catcher’s homegrown integration correlates to even the smallest details within the restaurant.  From the decor to the elaborate oceanic themes on our plates, The Crab Catcher definitely goes beyond the usual fundamental elements to make the restaurant into a true fine dining experience.  

Taking note of the wine list before our dishes arrived; I noticed that the Crab Catcher’s wine menu is comprised of a delectable array of white and red wines that are mostly found in the States.  A few are imported from the France, South Africa, and Australia.  The wines I sampled include the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, Santa Maria Cambria 2006, and Chalk Hill Chardonnay.

To start off the meal, our waiter, Jordan appears with two appetizers.  The first starter is the Heirloom Tomato & Bleu Cheese Salad bursting with an abundance of flavors.  It offers a balanced mix of greens, tomato, and bleu cheese. The tomato pieces that are inside the salad are extremely plump, and the salty smoked bacon glossed on top, drizzled lightly with balsamic vinaigrette, makes for a delicious combo.  The creaminess of the bleu cheese cushions the flavors so that the different taste and textures don’t get too overwhelming.  As my mouth is filled with these tantalizing flavors, I start to take note of the scenery before me.  The sun is coming down and the lights reflected on the water before me is a visual feast.  Our view with its canopy of colors is just as flavorful as the first dish.  

The evening hums with harmonized activity as the tables around us start filling up.  For the next sequence of our meal, my guest and I try our second appetizer, the Pear & Crispy Mozzarella.  The mozzarella, which is lightly breaded and fried, is juxtaposed with a paradox of textures from crispy and chewy texture all at once. With the soft inlay of the mozzarella, the dish reminds me of scallops, a definite teaser for what lies ahead. The pear’s crunchiness combined with the soft middle of the mozzarella is a marriage of two relative opposites, but the happy joining is celebrated nonetheless.  Sprinkled across are pieces of candied macadamia nuts whose salty-sweetness add a touch of decadence to this brand new spin on a dish.  

Our taste-buds are now titillated for the next course.  The Halibut is served topped with a macadamia nut crusted layer over a sweet plantain mashed potato cushioning.  The sweetness of the potatoes is enhanced by the white wine and the macadamia crust.  As my fork sweeps through the dish, it passes through a sequence of textures from hard, rough, and then soft; and as the evening wears on, I notice that there is a pattern to these dishes.  Most have a Hawaiian sweetness, but are not overpowering to the point that it would take away from the seafood being served.  Rather, the sweetness enhances the flavoring of these dishes.  The presentation is also something worth noting.  The Halibut is cut into a rectangle-cube that resembles an iceberg and the sweet mashed-potatoes on the bottom look like the piece of ice is floating on a foam of water.  All these things begin to exemplify in my mind the ingenuity of Chef Jon Burwell.  His dishes have already created a concrete impression on me, as my guest and I continue to quietly converse over the creativity and ingenuity of his dishes amongst ourselves. 

We begin to note that the view is not only breath-taking, but as the sun sets across the horizon; the correlation between the changing colors over the water and the colors on our plates becomes even more apparent.  The presentation of our dishes becomes unmasked to us as well, as we begin to observe another connection to the whole oceanic experience.  For instance, the previous dish, which was the Halibut with its coloring and rendering, resembles a block of ice.  The presentation of this dish creates in my mind, the inventiveness of Chef Burwell and the effort he puts into each of item on his menu.  My impressions with the first entree made me aware of my growing anticipation for the following.  I know that a new discovery awaits me in the dishes to come.  

The fourth dish of the night has to be my favorite.  The Scallops resemble the prior entree, as its presentation is artfully crafted with equal attention to detail.  With each piece of scallop depicting three distinct islands being held afloat by the risotto-bluffs, the dish brings back some nostalgia for the Halibut.  Everything is cooked with an expert hand, so that the scallops are enhanced instead of being overpowered by the spices and sauce.  The Scallops have a nice snap to them, and while seafood preparation has a fine line between proper cooking and being overly cooked, that is not a problem here.  Everything is cooked to a certain pitch, and the scallops are prepared rare and taste amazingly rich when combined with the creamy risotto.  Paired with the Au Bon Climat Chardonnay, the dish is lovely.

The Cioppino, a very earthy stew that originated in San Francisco and is inspired by various fish soups and stews from Italian cuisine, is up next.  With a great tomato base, a delicious mixture of fish textures, and a layer of chipotle spice at the bottom of the stew, the dish has a crab claw centerpiece. It also has two whole Australian Prawns locked inside the crab claw.  There is a blending of elements here as land and sea are intermingled to create an earthy, rich taste.  A crowning of clams can be found surrounding the crab, as well as bits of steak underneath the crab claw.  My guest and I have some hands-on interaction as we roll up our sleeves to unlock the crab meat from its shell.  Underneath our fingers the tender meat of the crab slides out of its hard cover and into our mouths.  With a hefty sip of tomato spiced stew, our bellies are full and hearty. Accompanying the dish is the Santa Maria Cambria 2006 that has an acidic tang that is nearly spicy, complimenting the chipotle tastes in our stew.

The Lobster was one of the most decadent dishes I had ever seen.  Fresh from the sea, the lobster was captured from the very waters we were seated atop.  Like the crab in the Cioppino, this tasty dish is presented in a very similar and theatrical manner.  The richest pieces of the lobster, which is in the tail, is served sliced into halves and presented, interconnected, as if to resemble a fancy headdress.  The dish is also prepared with two antennae from the lobster placed strategically onto the ensemble, and the whole thing once again resembles a lively centerpiece.  The enticing smells emitting from the dish are too hard to resist, and my guest and I dig in as soon as the lobster cools down.  But once we separate the intertwined sections of the tail and get a forkful of the lobster meat, the flavors on our plate prove to be just as sensory detailed as the presentation of the dish.   The lobster meat was cooked just right—it isn’t stringy, but rather very meaty.  Each mouthful proves to be extremely substantial.  The veggies at the base of the lobster tail complement the lobster meat beautifully.  The sautéed squash, crispy red potatoes, and carrots are extremely fresh and plump in shape and form, and very buttery in flavor.  The dish has a certain Thanksgiving feel—the veggies that complement the lobster prove to be a very hearty combination.  The accompanying wine, Chalk Hill Chardonnay, travels down my throat easily, and has a touch of sweetness that is very subtle on the taste buds. This being my favorite wine of the night, the Chalk Hill Chardonnay also proves to go sufficiently with the lobster.   

Our evening at the Crab Catcher has come full circle with its myriad of colors and its many flavors from the sea. I especially love the close-knit ambience and the dim-lighting, which create a very relaxed and cozy setting. The view was wonderful and greatly enhanced my evening at the Crab Catcher.  As I overhear the manager mentioning that live music will be featured on Fridays, I decide over my food stupor, to reserve a free Friday evening at the Crab Catcher.  For what could be better?  Good food, great people and ambience, and now music?  I think my senses may be in for another treat.  

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Business Info

  • Address: 1298 Prospect Street, La Jolla CA 92037
  • Cross Street: Cave Street
  • Location: La Jolla & UTC | La Jolla Village
  • Cuisine: Seafood | Sunday Brunch |
  • Cost: | Moderate
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual
  • Meals Served: Brunch | Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street | Private Lot | Valet Parking |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 15.00 | Per 750ml bottle.
  • Staff: Jon Burwell | Executive Chef
  • Phone: (858) 454-9587
  • Features: Full Bar, Ocean View, Sunday Brunch, Late Dining, Catering Services, Live Entertainment, Outdoor Seating, Private Room, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Winning Wine List, Working Fireplace, Wheelchair Access, Valet Parking, Happy Hours, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar, Healthy Options,
  • Occasion: Child Friendly, Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Business Dining, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Quiet Conversation, Special Occasion, Quick Bite,


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Business Hours

Reservations Available
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Happy Hours - Main Dining Room 3 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Brunch - Main Dining Room 10:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.


Frequently Asked Questions
There is validated underground parking available with elevator access to the restaurant. The entrance to this underground parking is on Coast Blvd. across from La Jolla Cave Store. There is valet parking available on Prospect Street.
Yes, we do serve soft-shell crab.
Yes, being located high atop a La Jolla cliff, Crab Catcher has a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean.
Yes, Crab Catcher serves a champagne brunch every Sunday from 10:30am until 3pm.
Sushi is served in the Seaside Cafe, which is adjacent to the Crab Catcher restaurant. It is only served Thursday through Saturday.
Yes, Crab Catcher has an outdoor patio for exclusive use, as well as meeting and party rooms.
Yes, Crab Catcher serves lunch Monday through Saturday, from 11:30am until 3pm.
Yes, Crab Catcher is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. The dress code is causal.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes