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Crab Louis

A classic crab dish shines at seafood places in California and Oregon.

crab Louis at Swan Oyster Depot, San Francisco
Photo caption
Swan Oyster Depot's peerless crab Louis

Perhaps crab Louis originated at Seattle’s Olympic Club, or in San Francisco at the long-defunct Solari’s. Or in Portland, as Oregonian James Beard believed. No matter. The dish clearly hails from the West Coast, even if it does owe its name to that legendary French gourmand, Louis XIV. Fresh, sweet Dungeness crabmeat is heaped on a mound of lettuce and topped with a mayonnaise-rich dressing. Nothing could be simpler or more delicious—if it’s made well, that is.

Rule one: Avoid creative renditions. Fancy greens and fussy garnishes upstage the star. Rule two: Eat Louis only at seafood places such as San Francisco’s Swan Oyster Depot (415-673-1101), where just-boiled crab is cracked before your eyes. Scoma’s (415-332-9551), in Sausalito, Calif., also serves a superlative Louis. At Pal’s Shanty (503-288-9732), an edgy Portland Tavern, the Louis is so big and tasty that no one complains that it includes beets.

Photography by Mark Compton

This article was first published in November 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.