Food You Can Eat: Crab Louie

You can almost hear the clang of the cable cars

Image via Maybe if I lived with a food stylist and a photographer (or got a decent phone) I'd post photos of my own stuff.

I’ve only been served this once, at a restaurant in San Francisco, and I’ve only seen it on menus in SF and the Bay Area. Forget Rice-a-Roni: this is the real San Francisco treat. (Yes, that is how old I am.) However, I’ve made this a bunch of times. It is a take on the Salade Niçoise using crab instead of tuna, and a dressing. There’s a story behind this, of course there is, but I’ll save it for the end and get to the point for once.

As a main, this should serve four people. The thing about Crab Louie is you really want to eat it chilled, or at least above room temp. This will challenge your fridge space.

What you’ll need:

1 lb. or 1 1/2 lb. Dungeness crab meat (best practice), or any crab meat, thawed but refrigerated. If using canned (no judgments here) dump contents into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Try to get chunky crab meat.

1/2 to 1 lb. asparagus spears

4 large eggs, room temp.

4 tomatoes, refrigerated

4 radishes, refrigerated or not

4 hearts of romaine


As far as I can tell you make a dressing based on the McDonald’s Big Mac™ “secret sauce”, so:

1 cup aioli or some kind of eggy mayo

1/4 cup spicy ketchup

Relish, maybe 1 tbsp.

What you’ll do:

Steam or boil the asparagus until al dente, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and let it cool on a paper towel-lined plate. Hard boil the 4 large eggs, about 6 minutes. Put those in a bowl of ice water. Remove unpeeled, dry them, and put them on the plate with the asparagus (from which you’ve removed the somewhat soggy paper towel/s) and put in the fridge.

In a small bowl mix together the mayo, ketchup, and relish. Put that in the fridge and then get out 4 dinner plates. Slice the hearts of romaine length-wise to create a bed for each. Slice the radishes thin, break out the asparagus spears, peel and quarter the eggs, and quarter the tomatoes. Then, add the crab, get out your special sauce/Crab Louie dressing and pour some on the crab and (if you’re me) make another puddle on a side somewhere because it makes for an excellent dipping sauce for everything else.


So there we were as a young couple on our first real trip together, flying off to The City By The Bay. How exciting! We slept on the floor of college friends of mine who had moved to the Golden West and we flew Continental Airlines, which had a promotional deal for $79 round-trip. I remember this all so vividly, and yet I had to get a phone alert to remind me that today was one of my closest sibling’s birthday.

We were somewhere in North Beach but headed more downtown, the Transamerica Pyramid in the background, and getting hungry. There was a restaurant with a sidewalk duo-fold chalkboard offering a Crab Louie.

“Oh let’s go here! I love crabs!”

I had no idea what Crab Louie was. The menu was not forthcoming.

“Just ask the waiter.”

“I like surprises. I was happily surprised when I met you finally [through mutual friend X].”

“Have you ever had crabs?”

“Of course I have. I’m going to have some now—“

“No, I mean, you know. Not the ones you eat—“

“Are you telling me that we have to stop at a drugstore because you gave me crabs?!?”

“No, no, calm down. Mutual Friend X had a bad case of them. In college. We were all shocked because we assumed he was a virgin. Maybe he got them from a toilet seat?”

“Oh I bet he got them from a toilet, but he should be more careful when he cruises the truck stops. Gross. Here’s comes the waiter. Bon appétit.”



  1. Years ago, I had a crab appetizer at Gibbys in Montreal that was much like this, sans the egg and asparagus and served in a large parfait glass. Yummy.

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