Crab Catcher marks its 30th anniversary


The economy may be making itself felt to most, but the Zagat-award winning La Jolla restaurant Crab Catcher is still buzzing.

The restaurant was founded in 1979 in Kaanapali, Maui, and opened its La Jolla location in June 1980. More restaurants followed in Oahu, Kauai and Oregon.

Recently Crab Catcher La Jolla celebrated with a 30-year reunion of former employees.

“Some were opening crews, some had worked here 10 days before we opened, many worked here in the early ‘80s on,” said owner Jerry Burwell, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Jeanie. “We had a really wonderful 30th anniversary reunion,”

Despite the recession, business is holding up, he said, noting that he’s seen worse. During the United Airlines strike, the company was bringing about 88 percent of tourists to Hawaii, and business in the Maui location suffered. The restaurant in Kauai also had to be rebuilt twice because of hurricanes.

“Those were tough times. This is nothing,” Burwell said.

The Crab Catcher features cuisine from California and the Pacific Rim; some dishes have other Pacific Coast influences, such as the Northwest and Mexico. The restaurant has fresh fish flown in daily from diverse locations such as Hawaii, Alaska, the East Coast and Northwest.

“There’s a beautiful patio and a beautiful dining room where you can see the sea, how can you beat it?” said Burwell.

Burwell has spent 42 years in the restaurant industry, 30 of those at the Crab Catcher. It’s a local and family business. Son Jon is the chef and son Justin is one of the co-managers. Burwell also estimates most of their staff are graduates of La Jolla High or Bishop’s.

“We’re very tuned into the local scene,” said Burwell.

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