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Kirkland Crab Cracker moves to Parkplace Center, changes name | Slideshow
Restaurant owner Todd Jones said he gets about 50 calls a day from people asking when the Crab Cracker will reopen.
Although he expects the Liquor Control Board to issue the restaurant’s liquor license any day now, he’s not quite sure. He applied for the license two months ago, just after the restaurant closed at the end of 2013 when their lease expired after 30 years of business.
But when the seafood restaurant does open, patrons can expect a new location and a slightly different name.
What was once a TGI Fridays and Parkplace Pub, is now Todd’s Crab Cracker.
The business need only move across the street to Parkplace Center, as they settle into their new location above Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6.
“We worked hard on bringing the Crab Cracker to 2014,” said Jones, the son of Shirley Day, the previous owner. “We really want to make it a very fun and vibrant place for people to come.”
Although the new spot is smaller than the old restaurant - 9,600 square feet, compared to 13,000 square feet - it makes up the difference with its open layout and bright natural lighting from large windows that point toward the west.
Jones’s favorite part is the outdoor patio that will open on or before Memorial Day weekend. The patio will include a custom made 25-foot long fire bar, which was made from the old restaurant’s floor boards.
Winter was a busy time for the old restaurant, but summer, not so much.
Of course, winter is about nine months in Washington, Jones joked, but he’d rather have all of the seasons.
A large bar sits in the middle of the new location and it definitely won’t go to waste.
“We’re looking at designing a whole new signature hand-crafted cocktail menu,” Jones said. “We’ll make our own bitters, steep different ingredients up on the bar and have a countdown on drinks.”
The new restaurant will open at 4 p.m. and close at 12 a.m., keeping the same happy hour, but adding a late happy hour to the mix as an effort to keep the place vibrant.
“It’ll give movie theater-goers a place to go after,” Jones said, adding that hours could change in the late spring if they decide to open up early for lunch.
A lower-priced menu with smaller portions, newer appetizers and more salads aren’t the only changes patrons will see or taste.
“We’re going in with refreshed attitude,” Jones said. “We’re excited about the changes. We’ll be keeping 40 percent of the old menu.”
Jones said they’re still working on the new dishes but assures it will be more fresh and local, as that’s the “trend these days.”
Before, the Crab Cracker was obligated to sell crab and often sold it for $40 per pound and a quarter - fairly cheap compared to competitors who sold it at $70 per pound. Now, the restaurant’s dishes will “appeal to the masses.”
But 30-year regulars shouldn’t be concerned.
“We’ll still do what we can to accommodate old customers,” he said.
Jones said when he and staff were going through the old menu, they compiled a list of “untouchable dishes” but it equated to about 65 percent of the menu.
“It was difficult, it was too much of the old menu,” Jones said, adding that every time they tried to change the menu at the previous location, they’d have cliental ordering old items from 30 years ago.
Favorite dishes, such as Seattle Style Cioppino - braised clams, mussels, salmon, prawns, scallops and snow crab in a spicy tomato and sherry broth with fresh herbs - and the Cedar Planked King Salmon, remain on the untouchable list.
Although there are many new elements to the restaurant, the spirit of the previous owner and Jones’s mother, Shirley Day, will be kept alive.
Day passed away in December 2012 after operating the Crab Cracker for 29 years with husband Robin Day.
“We have this whole side room that holds about 30 people and we’re calling it Shirley’s room,” he said slightly teary eyed when asked how Day’s legacy would live on at the new location.
And many community groups, such as the Kirkland Kiwanis and Kirkland Rotary, will return to the new restaurant.
“They’re thrilled. Mom was good friends with them,” Jones recalled.
Before the Crab Cracker’s lease expired, Jones looked at different locations across Bellevue, Woodinville and Redmond.
“Nothing was gonna work for us,” he said, adding that he bought his stepdad’s ownership rights after his mother passed away.
The lease expired at the end of 2013 and the old location will be redeveloped with an apartment complex.
He decided to keep the catering branch of the business, called Epicurean Catering, and found one spot in Redmond.
But a last-minute phone call changed the seafood restaurant’s course.
“Just when we were getting ready to move, Jeff Cole called and asked if we were still interested in the Parkplace location,” Jones said. “The timing was pretty extraordinary.”
Cole is the owner of the Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6 and the leasing agent for Parkplace Center.
Jones was interested in the spot, but couldn’t rent it since Touchstone Corp. wanted to develop the Parkplace project as soon as possible.
Things changed; however, when Prudential overtook ownership. Jones’s perception is that Prudential is more conservative with their plans.
Things seemed to fall into place but with two caveats: Jones had to bring back the restaurant portion of the business and the terms of the lease indicated it would be a one-year lease on a revolving nine-month basis.
Jones said he hopes to stay at Parkplace for four more years and is fairly confident since Cole just made a significant investment in converting to digital movies.
“I really didn’t see Jeff putting in a huge investment if they’re just going to tear [Parkplace] down,” he said.
Since then, Jones, staff and outside help have been renovating their new spot since the day after the Super Bowl.
“It’s been a huge undertaking,” Jones said. “In a good way.”
Todd’s Crab Cracker is now located at 505 Parkplace Center in Kirkland.
For more information on when Todd’s Crab Cracker will open, visit the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pages/Crab-Cracker/120465047964687 or the website, www.crabcracker.com.