The location: The Crab Shack.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A sidewalk cafe where Ryan works.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. The Crab Shack was inspired by the real "Crab Cooker" restaurant in Newport Beach - where the show's creator hung out when he was young.

    But the real "Crab Cooker" is located a block or two inland, near the Newport Pier, at 2116 Newport Blvd, in Newport Beach. (See the photo below of the bright red building.)

    The fictional Crab Shack, however, sits right on the walkway that runs past Hermosa beach.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. Seth and Ryan stop for a meal at the Crab Shack in Episode 5 (of season one), "The Outsider". As they discuss where he will get money to date Marissa, they hear a crash of dishes and see a Crab Shack employee being fired. Ryan seizes the opportunity to get a job there.

    It's here that Ryan meets Donnie, another working class kid, who invites Seth to a kegger party in Long Beach.

    With Ryan working at the Crab Shack, both the interior and patio of the sidewalk cafe are seen often in subsequent episodes during the first season. (Ryan's job there seems to have been phased out by the second season.)

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. The Crab Shack is one of the more disappointing locations in this O.C. guide. It doesn't really exist. It was a mere facade, set up temporarily to capture the beach background, and then removed after filming was finished.

    See the section below ("How the heck did you figure out where it was?") for the sordid details.


Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. If you want to visit the location where they set up "The Crab Shack" facade, you'll find it on The Strand in Hermosa Beach, near where Fifteenth Street intersects with that beach walkway, near a small park (Noble Park) on the east side of The Strand. There's nothing much to do there at that exact location, except enjoy the familiar view, or walk down to the Hermosa Pier.

    Here's a map link of the exact location.

    So you can't have a meal at The Crab Shack. But don't despair. There are a number of very real O.C. restaurants around the South Bay, and if you choose, you can nosh your way through them all..

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. On the show, The Crab Shack clearly sits right on The Strand, a broad beach walkway in Hermosa Beach. The Hermosa Pier is visible in the background during the scenes shot there, and since we can see the Palos Verdes hills behind the pier, it's obvious that it is located north of the Hermosa Pier. Even the low stone wall that runs along the west side of the Strand is visible, and in one scene, the inscription "Fifteenth Street" is visible on that wall.

    But when I went there in person (and walked a mile in both directions trying to find it), I discovered that not only is there no sidewalk cafe on that stretch of The Strand (north of the Pier - it's almost strictly residential homes) - but even the patio's blue & white wooden railing shown on the show doesn't exist.

    It was then that I began to suspect that the producers may have simply created a fake restaurant facade next to The Strand in order to get the great view in the background.

    I couldn't believe it, so I went home and printed out several screen captures from The O.C. DVD, showing the Hermosa Pier in the background and clearly showing the alignment of palm trees and poles with the buildings near the pier.

    Here is a screenshot from the show.
    Look at the background in the upper right corner (which I've blown up down below):

    Here (below) is a blow-up of that upper-right section of the photo:
    (Note the way the light poles & trees line up with the small building near the pier.)

    With that blow-up in hand, I went back to The Strand and walked until I could precisely line up all of the trees and buildings exactly as they were in the screen capture. Here is a photo I shot from The Strand that matches that alignment:

    This confirmed my worst suspicions. When I shot that photo, I was standing on The Strand near Fifteenth Street, near a tiny park (Noble Park, on the east side of The Strand), with no restaurant in sight - and no similar patio. Obviously, this is the location where they built "The Crab Shack" from the ground up as a temporary set (and just as obviously, they took the set with them when they left). The bottom line is that The Crab Shack never really existed.

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