The not-so-secret ingredient in Jack Melson's crab cakes? Crushed Ritz crackers, which adds a buttery richness to the cakes, served with a trio of sauces. Stop by Sunday night to get your fix and you can get your game on too, because it's backgammon night. And on Monday and Tuesday evenings, there's live jazz.
* Crab cakes, $9. 2460 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-3304.
The vibe is clubby cool at this sister restaurant to Houston's, the menu full of tasty seafood choices. Among the most popular: the crab cake entree consisting of two golden cakes made with Louisiana crabmeat, served with a creamy Pommery mustard sauce and crunchy coleslaw. Save room for the excellent hot fudge sundae.
* Crab cakes, $32. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City, (310) 553-3636.
Chef Tara Thomas has been on a quest to create the perfect crab cake at her Union Station dining room. The result: a delicious cake seasoned with whole grain mustard, parsley, jalapeno, onion and cilantro. A double coating of finely ground panko before frying ensures crunch. To accompany: a side of chipotle remoulade.
* Crab cake, $14. 800 N. Alameda St., downtown L.A., (213) 625-1999.
Traditionalists will enjoy the crisp, delicate cakes paired with tartar sauce and lemon at this late-night favorite. Those who want frills can get theirs topped with golden caviar. At lunch, there's a salad of organic field greens accompanied by three crab cakes. No surprise, then, that the chefs here turn out nearly 500 crab cakes each week.
* Crab cakes with tartar sauce, $26. 9101 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 278-3699.
To achieve "the chunkiest, lumpiest, meatiest crab cake you can have," chef David LeFebvre tucks two big pieces of Dungeness crab into each cake. And instead of the usual mayo-based dipping sauce, the chef does a "North African thing": a smear of refreshing cucumber yogurt sauce, a couscous and mint salad, \o7harissa \f7sauce, and a garnish of pickled onion and cucumber.
* Crab cake, $18. 544 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A., (213) 891-0900.
-- Leslee Komaiko