WEST ROGERS PARK — The Angry Crab has been something of a hit since it opened.
The BYOB seafood place, 5665 N. Lincoln Ave., has had lines out the door and down the block, including a two-hour wait on Father's Day, said co-owner David Nguyen, who runs the place with brothers Irvin and Mark.
Yonan Bitivan, 31, said he waited for two hours during his first visit to the Angry Crab and came early one day last week to skip the wait — and it was worth it.
There was a group of people waiting to get in before it opened at 3 p.m. Wednesday; by 3:02 p.m., there were 16 people in the Crab, which can serve 60 to 65 people, Nguyen said. The place was packed by 3:30 p.m.
Needless to say, the Angry Crab is popular.
Kelly Bauer says people often want a treat after some crab legs:
It's been a bit of a surprise to the Nguyen brothers, David said. They thought it would take about six months to gain the popularity needed to have people lining up. It took less than a day: They had customers waiting to get in before they even opened in February, Nguyen said.
Benefits to West Rogers Park
The Nguyen brothers chose West Rogers Park for their restaurant because David's fiancée grew up there and they were looking for customers just like the people in the neighborhood.
The brothers wanted "get away from the city" with the Angry Crab, David said. They found that West Rogers Park's residents were a "mixed breed" of downtown and suburban people, which was just what they wanted.
The Crab's popularity has paid off for more than the Nguyen brothers: Rowie Ramos, who owns Rowie's Bakery across the street from the Angry Crab, said she extended her hours and starting selling more of her desserts — which include macaroons and cupcakes — to serve the waiting crowd at the Crab.
Rowie Ramos, owner of Rowie's Bakery, said she's extended her hours and started serving more "little things," like macaroons and cupcakes, to serve the customers at the popular Angry Crab. (DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer)
Rowie's used to close at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Now, it stays open until 9 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays, and Ramos said it will "eventually" be open even later and will even start opening up on Mondays.
It's not the best business has ever been (things get hectic with custom cake orders around the holidays), Ramos said, but it is better than usual. And more business isn't the only benefit of having the Angry Crab nearby: Ramos said it's so good she picks it up as a treat every Friday, and the workers at the Crab come by her bakery to get drinks and food.
The Nguyen brothers even let her cut the line during one visit, she said. She's also known them since before the Crab was around, so that's probably not a benefit afforded to just anyone.
Prices for the Angry Crab. The restaurant lets diners choose how they want their seafood spiced and sauced. (DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer)
Getting Through the Line
Nguyen said the Crab serves more than 600 people per day on weekends, when the line is at its craziest. Here's how to make it through the wait:
Head Out Early: The Angry Crab starts to get "really full" 5:30-6 p.m., Nguyen said, and by 6 p.m. it's "packed."
Come With Friends: Bitivan said he spent his first visit — the one that had a two-hour wait — with his friends in line in a "crabby mood," but the meal was worth it.
Check Out the Area: Nguyen said the restaurant will take customers' phone numbers and let them wander around, and then they'll get a notification via text when their table is ready. Ramos said customers regularly come by the bakery to grab a snack while they wait to sit down.
Get It to Go: If you don't feel like waiting for a sit-down experience, you can order to-go by calling at 773-784-6848.
There's hope the Angry Crab will be able to accommodate more customers in the future, as well: Nguyen said the brothers are thinking of expanding, and he's interested in the South Loop.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
Customers grab a bite to eat at the Angry Crab on Wednesday. (DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer)
Why the Popularity?
The Angry Crab serves Louisiana-style seafood with a northern California influence — just the type food the Nguyen brothers grew up eating in California, David said. Customers choose their seasoning and sauce, with spiciness ranging from the mild "Calm Cubs" to the "HELLA SPICY Dangerous Hawks" (sorry, Sox fans; there is no mention of the South Side team). There are also sides and appetizers like seasoned French fries and corn.
Nguyen credited the Crab's success to "being the first of this kind [of food] in Chicago," which he said is a "diverse city." The restaurant also uses fresh ingredients of the "highest quality," Nguyen said.
"There's nothing like this here," Nguyen said, adding that he had to go home to California to get the Crab's style of seafood before the brothers opened the restaurant.
Bitivan said the place is popular because it's "really good" and there aren't "too many" places like it in the area (The Rim, which serves seafood next door to the Angry Crab, is closed for renovations).
"Everyone's been talking about it," said Zahir Abouribieh, who was eating with Bitivan on Wednesday. Bitivan added: "We should start saying it's not good so people stop coming."
The Nguyen brothers have no plans to leave, either.
"We're in this for the long haul," Nguyen said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: