Nickey McKnight’s self-made-boss mentality and Southern upbringing inspired her to open The Boujie Crab restaurant in North Long Beach—and despite opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, the upscale seafood restaurant is already making waves.
McKnight, a New Orleans native known online as Nickey the Advisor, always had a knack for making skillful financial moves. In the early 2000s, she flipped properties in Atlanta and when the housing market collapsed in 2008, she pivoted toward financial advising to help others increase their profits. She moved to Long Beach in 1999 and began investing in local property.
In late 2019, she came across a scrappy pizza joint at the intersection of South Street and California Avenue, which became McKnight’s latest investment target. She thought about it for three days—visiting the store multiple times to see how many customers frequented the place and speaking with the owner. Finally, in September 2019, they agreed on a cash buy-out.
“It was very old and run down, and it was almost like it took me back to real estate, because I always purchased ugly, undesirable homes in low-income neighborhoods,” McKnight said.
But instead of reselling it, McKnight kept the property for herself. She figured that enough people visited the location that the business could still make a profit.
“Even if I was to keep it as a pizza place, I could probably still make money because [the store] still had customers, but I didn’t know anything about pizza,” she said.
She spent October 2019 refurbishing the place—purchasing new refrigerators and appliances. The shop was coming together, but the concept was still missing.
McKnight fell back on her New Orleans roots and decided that a seafood restaurant with a Louisiana twist was something she could pull off. But her restaurant wasn’t going to be like other seafood eateries where the food is served in a bag.
McKnight wanted her customers to experience her Southern meals while eating jumbo shrimp, pinkies up. Her appeal to high-end interior design finally led to the restaurant’s name: The Boujie Crab—a play on words for the French term bourgeoisie used to describe an upscale lifestyle.
The restaurant’s marble-top tables, fine wine glasses, pink padded walls and eccentric chandeliers looks like a scene straight out of the iconic French Quarter.
The food at The Boujie Crab usually comes in the form of a bowl. Customers can order a variety of seafood pairings like the Cajun jumbo shrimp platter, served with shrimp and fries, or the snow crab and shrimp bowl, featuring spiced shrimp with crab meat. All of the restaurant’s bowls come with beef sausages, chopped corn on the cob and potatoes. The Boujie Crab has over 20,000 followers on Instagram, the social media platform that McKnight credits for the swift increase in sales.
She initially wanted to hold off opening in March 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, but changed her mind after her daughter asked for a Boujie signature bowl. McKnight fired up the stove and created a Cajun-spiced meal, and posted a picture of the food on social media, which prompted a flood of comments asking McKnight if she was finally open.
“They were always following me and, I guess, they got tired. They were like, ‘When are you going to open?’” McKnight said. “They started pressuring me.”
The Boujie Crab officially opened on March 24, days after the pandemic prompted indoor dining to close down. Take-out orders at The Boujie Crab have kept the business afloat amid the devastating pandemic, but customers haven’t had the chance to fully experience the upscale ambiance sitting idly inside, which is something McKnight hopes will change this year.
Looking ahead, McKnight is working to secure a liquor license with the city. She wants to expand her business to the space next door and offer daiquiris and other alcoholic beverages to complete that Mardi Gras experience.
“The attitude of Southern-style hospitality—they love to feed you and they welcome you in their home like everything is yours,” McKnight said. “I just wanted to extend that same thing to people who probably haven’t been to New Orleans, you know, you will get it right here.”
The Boujie Crab is open daily, from noon to 8 p.m. on the weekdays and 2 to 7 p.m. on the weekends. There is currently a space for outdoor dining.
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