The original “The Lobster” opened in 1923, but it was the dreams of a dishwasher named Mateo Castillo that worked his way up to owner in 1950, that established The Lobster as the “seafood shack” so popular with Angelenos through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
A family owned and operated venue, the modest structure only belied the strong attraction of location and real seafood. Their success was service and good food. A quality that holds true today.
Rose Freeman purchased the property in the early 80’s. In 1985, The Lobster closed its doors, leaving the property vacant for a decade.
The Lobster had long been an unofficial historical landmark, nearly as recognizable as the Santa Monica Pier sign. The original restaurant was built in 1923, and remained open until 1985. The 900 square foot seafood market style restaurant was very popular with the local Santa Monica residents and Pier visitors. A constant out the door was a tribute to its popularity. The restaurant had a menu that had over 60 fresh seafood items. The seating capacity was only 30 seats, most of which were countertop seating around the outside perimeter.
In 1989, Mike Nathan purchased “The Lobster” site. An ideal location for any retail venue, Nathan had dreams to create a multi-level professional building with retail space on the site. As fate would have it, the approved plans were never followed through. The location remained untouched until the persistent Roberts’ timing was right and Nathan was ready and accepted a joint venture to develop the site by revitalizing The Lobster. As a property owner, Nathan maintained a majority share of interest in the project which he eventually divided with mutual friend, Terry Brady and Claudine Blackwell. Today, the partnership and management has guided The Lobster, a worldwide recognized dining experience.
The decade the property stood vacant was not kind to the site. Run down and littered with trash, the location was an eyesore to the city and pier.
Warren Roberts moved on to build and launch the popular Reel Inn Seafood Market and Restaurant at PCH and Topanga. He later moved to Maui, HI, and started the Paia Seafood Market and Restaurant at the corner of Baldwin and Hana Highway with good friend Corey Larsen.
For years the site was eyed by a local restauranteur named Warren Roberts, who dreamed of its revitalization. Warren was the creator and owner of the famous Topanga Fish Market and Restaurant, which has since been purchased and run by his brother, Lance Roberts (Lance relocated to the old American Legion in Topanga, renaming it Froggy’s, where he still runs it today). Having approached owner Mike Nathan more than once, in 1996 Roberts and Nathan finally came to an agreement to develop the property. On board then came friend and entrepreneur, Marshal Bernes, investment banker Rick Moos, and Attorney Robert Kull, Jr. and Robert Kull Sr. Today, the managing partners total 12 with interest shared within the original partners families. After assembling the investors, with plans in hand, they convinced the City of Santa Monica to allow them to renovate and reopen The Lobster. Though the first hurdle was cleared, the track to the finish line proved to be filled with continued obstacles that made the eventual reopening not just an accomplishment but a celebration of many months of hard work. In the summer of 1998, two months after the city approved and released their 2 year grip on The Lobster’s plans (and after a significant portion of the restaurant’s foundation had been constructed), the City of Santa Monica wanted to invoke a privilege to buy the property by eminent domain!
The menu is classic American Seafood featuring whole live Maine lobsters. Guests can sit at any seat in the restaurant or bar area and enjoy 180 degree views of the spectacular Pacific Ocean, accented by it’s breathtaking sunsets, even celebrate the sea spun sunset phenomena called the “green flash”. The terrace provides fresh coastal air for those who love to dine outdoors. At night, The Lobster enjoys the Santa Monica Pier aglow at its feet. The Lobster re-opened with wonderful reviews. Now a years later, The Lobster has proved to be a memorable location to enjoy.
In a heated confrontation with a small faction of the City Government, many local residents and supporters of The Lobster appeared in front of the City Council and convinced them the property had historical value and would be better utilized as a restaurant and not a small park or visitor center the city was proposing. Once again, the “tail” continues and The Lobster reopened July 20, 1999, with traditional Santa Monica American Seafood dining. The new renovation was designed by Howard Laks Architects to take advantage of the breathtaking views, while accommodating more guests than the previous structure.
The Lobster stands as a tribute to the family that built its reputation. The remaining original structure within the foundation and walls of the main entrance and footprint still stand at the corner of Ocean Ave. and the Pier. “Established in 1923”, recessed in the corner stone, greets guests in the spirit and heritage that only belongs to The Lobster.
Take our virtual tour using the video player below. We walk you through the restaurant and give you a very real sense of our unique location and glimpse of the spectacular views from our bar and dining room!