Sometimes, a dining experience turns out so memorable that you can't get it out of your mind. I remember the first time I went to a great restaurant: I was 16 and my dad took me to Perino's, at the time widely considered to be the premier restaurant in Southern California. It left a lasting impression.
For Rita and Sandy Crabbe--owners of, quite fittingly, the Sand Crab Cafe in Downey--it was a dinner in Orlando, Fla., where they dined at a New England-style seafood restaurant complete with mallets (to crack the fresh shellfish) and bibs (to keep the cleaning bills down). They had such an enjoyable time that they remembered that meal 10 years later, when they moved to San Diego to see their grandson more often. Soon, the first Sand Crab Cafe was born in Escondido. Business went well and recently the second Sand Crab Cafe opened on Old River School Road in Downey.
The location, formerly a Sir George's Smorgasbord, has been redone in a nautical motif--fish nets hanging about, models of sea captains and sailing ships, posters of ships and various knots. Perhaps of more immediate interest to the diners is a large tank filled with live Maine lobsters, and another with crabs from Alaska, Texas and Maryland.
You won't find complex fish and sauce preparations here. The pride of the house is a range of fresh seafood simply boiled in water and seasoned with salt, white pepper, garlic, cayenne and a few spices.
The most popular order is the fisherman's sampler ($24.95 for two), which includes shrimp, clams, snow crab, crawfish, New Zealand mussels, stone crab claws and slipper lobster tail, served with corn on the cob, new potatoes and sourdough bread.
Among the appetizers are a baked crab cake ($2.95), fried calamari rings ($3.95) and a clam chowder full of fresh clams ($3).
A children's menu features fish and chips ($2.95) and spaghetti with meat sauce ($2.95).