Crab Corner has been serving Las Vegas with Maryland cuisine that provides all East Coast transplants a true taste of home since 2010. Specialties include fresh blue crabs, iconic boardwalk fries and authentic crab cakes. After expanding to their new location, the restaurant is looking to continue growing by renovating its patio space and tapping into Vegas’s world famous events market.
Brothers Mark and John Smolen grew up in the heart of Maryland, between Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington D.C., eating the region’s seafood staples. Five years after graduating from the University of Maryland with degrees in finance and accounting, John decided to join his brother in Las Vegas wholesale importing and selling the highest quality, live, fresh blue crabs. As more and more transplanted members of the Vegas community began inquiring where they could get the taste of home the Smolen brothers were selling, Crab Corner was created.
Previously named the best seafood restaurant in the city by the Las Vegas Review Journal, the restaurant has grown a cult-like following of former East Coasters and locals alike for its steamed and J.O.-seasoned fresh blue crabs. They’re served straight onto a butcher paper-covered table with a hammer and bucket, encouraging a social, communal, and casual cultural seafood experience unlike any other in the city.
Akin to the first barbecue restaurant outside of the south, or lobster dinner outside of New England, Crab Corner’s appeal isn’t limited to its food. The restaurant also serves as the de facto Maryland community hub in Vegas, hosting viewing parties of around 100 people for Orioles baseball and Ravens football games — turnouts for which are only likely to increase when Las Vegas receives its first professional football team, the Raiders, by 2020.
John is frequently told by customers that the restaurant smells like home, including by his wife, another Maryland native whom he met when she was visiting the restaurant. Diners regularly strike up conversations with people at other tables and discover they grew up mere miles from each other. The only thing that would make it feel more like Maryland, they say, is being on the water. Everything else the team has managed to recreate.
Crab Corner’s appeal is far from limited to Marylanders though, as the restaurant has also been able to attract a wide range of customers looking for serious seafood in a casual environment. After outgrowing its original location near the airport, Crab Corner opened a second, larger location on Rainbow Boulevard. Following a few years transitionary period, they decided to consolidate the two locations, and the sales followed suit.
The Rainbow Boulevard restaurant also came with a large patio space. When in use, it doubles the length of the bar, most restaurants’ highest profit center, and allows for outdoor dining, which further recreates the ambiance of eating pier side in Maryland. Hammocks make it a pleasant place to relax, and the restaurant regularly hosts events in the exterior space.
Brothers Mark and John Smolen created Crab Corner together in 2010. Beginning in 2017, John has been the sole owner-operator of the business.