Amidst a pandemic, new restaurant opens in Crenshaw District

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By Darlene Donloe

Contributing Writer

CRENSHAW — Nearly nine months into the pandemic, when many restaurants are struggling to stay afloat, a focused and determined Ari Sahr took a leap of faith three weeks ago and opened Cajun Boiling Crab, a take-out eatery that celebrated its official grand opening Nov. 21.

“Even in rough times, it’s actually the time to look for gems and opportunities to arise,” said Sahr, a restaurateur who moved to Los Angeles from Detroit two months ago. “I came across a great opportunity, so I wanted to do it. I scaled things out for five years. I see where it’s going.

“I want to have my foot here before it gets going. I see there is going to be a train running down Crenshaw. There will probably be some new development happening in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. This area is going to be the place to be.”

Cajun Boiling Crab, with the tagline, ‘Home of the Cajun Seafood Bags,’ is located in the heart of the Crenshaw District, and sits on the southeast corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Crenshaw Boulevard, directly across from the iconic Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

“The area is changing,” Sahr said. “This is one of the best corners in L.A. There is visibility. Corner lots are the best lots. That means flocks of people. There’s already diversification. The area is flipping. It’s a prime location.”

If the throngs of customers who came out for the grand opening is any indication, Sahr’s decision to forge ahead during a surge in coronavirus cases is proving to be the right call.

“Business is going very well,” said Sahr, who has embedded the county’s guidelines into his business. “The amount of traffic we’ve had is amazing. We’ve had a steady stream of customers and all through word of mouth. I haven’t even started my marketing yet.”

 The grand opening happened a day before L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that for the first time since May, outdoor dining at restaurants across Los Angeles County will shut down as of 10 p.m. Nov. 25. Restaurants will still be able to offer takeout meals or delivery. The order is for at least three weeks, during which time no restaurants will be able to have on-site dining of any kind, indoors or outdoors.

Sahr, 38, who opened his three restaurants in Detroit with a business background, but no restaurant background, said he became successful because he surrounded himself with people who knew the business. He wasn’t worried about opening during a pandemic due to the way his business is structured. It has always been adapted to outdoor dining service. His restaurant, he said, is “pandemic-proof.”

“Even though the food industry took a hit, some businesses didn’t because it was prebuilt even before COVID,” said Sahr, who hopes to open five to 10 restaurants within the next year.

“I always had a game plan,” he said. “My niche is gourmet casual. My business is built for carry out. When COVID hit, what really got hit was the traditional dine-in restaurant. So when they did the restrictions in Michigan, and carry out could stay open, our infrastructure was already in place.”

Sahr, a father of four, said while the food is his main focus, so too is the customer experience.

“We’re nothing without our customers,” Sahr said. “We treat them like family. We want to make sure they are happy so that they will tell others and come back. We want to give the customer what they want, which is why we give them choices.”

The restaurant, Sahr’s fourth, specializes in seafood, Cajun/creole, and soul food.

Sahr credits Chef Joseph, who is from Louisiana, with sustaining the creole recipes, some of which, came from Sahr’s family.

The restaurant has 13 employees and features the company’s specialty, a butter sauce used on the various entrees.

At Cajun Boiling Crab, customers can build their bags. The selection of seafood ranges from shrimp, lobster tail, mussels, snow crab legs, crawfish and king crab legs. Next is a choice between honey butter garlic, lemon butter garlic or Cajun sauces, followed by the spice level. Each bag comes with corn, potatoes and boiled eggs. Beef sausage can also be added. The menu also includes a selection of Po’ boys and fried fish baskets.

Sahr said his prices are “very affordable.”

A $40 seafood bag includes a half-pound of shrimp, crab legs, four sausages, three potatoes, and one egg.

The Cajun Boiling Crab experience includes a live band nightly situated on an outside patio. A comedy night will take place on Thursday nights once restrictions are lifted. An R&B band will play old school jazz on Fridays, and a brunch will be served on Sundays.

The Cajun Boiling Crab – L.A., is located at 4050 Crenshaw Blvd. and is open seven days a week from noon to midnight.

Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at ddonloe@gmail.com.