At a time when most restaurants have been struggling, Malibu’s Broad Street Oyster Company is thriving; so much so it’s about to launch a new location at the historic Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.
News of the popular spot’s expansion exploded beyond the foodie community last week when the restaurant’s announcement even made it on to local television newscasts, quite a feat for a Malibu restaurant.
If you’ve been to the Malibu Village shopping center you’ve most certainly seen the lines of hungry and curious diners waiting to try Broad Street Oyster’s specialty seafood items.
The Malibu location (its initial full-scale operation) first opened in happier times on July 4, 2019, before the pandemic ended many restaurant careers. It was intended as a limited time pop-up. The owners had set up other pop-up locations previously in Silverlake and Santa Barbara, “operating out of a van, shucking oysters,” according to Malibu general manager Gareth Dutton. After the pop-ups’ success, Broad Street secured a space at the widely successful weekly food fest, Smorgasburg, that draws thousands in DTLA.
The Malibu spot however proved too popular to shut down and its lease was extended. It seemed to be a doomed location for an eatery tucked away at the back of the shopping center and without a lot of visibility in front. Earlier tenants at the location overlooking the Malibu Lagoon closed; first, the longtime and beloved neighborhood favorite Guido’s and then the short-lived Malibu Burger.
“We’re very blessed to be busy,” said Dutton. “We do a unique thing that nobody else is really doing. We’re a casual New England-style seafood restaurant on the West Coast. There’s plenty of upscale seafood restaurants out here, but nobody does it the way we do it. We have the best lobster roll around, cioppino, and New England clams. People come from all over.”
One family waiting in a typically long line for the restaurant was visiting Malibu from Germany. A friend recommended Broad Street to the Schroeder family, who claimed they didn’t mind the 30-minute wait to try an “authentic American experience.” Vina Schroeder said this style of cuisine is simply not available in her home country and she was fairly certain it would be “worth the wait” despite while watching after her two young children on the line with her.
“People come from all over the world and all over the country,” said Dutton. “They follow us on Instagram. I call it Disneyland because people come for the experience. It’s not just about the food.”
The restaurant was able to thrive during the pandemic, thanks in part to the atmosphere. It’s basically outdoors with two tents erected in the center’s back parking lot. Diners appear to enjoy the loud music and craft beer and wine while waiting at picnic tables in typically great Malibu weather.
“There’s waiting involved, but that’s part of the fun,” Dutton remarked.
Broad Street recently opened another permanent location in Santa Barbara that is quickly expanding into an abandoned brewery space next door. But its launch at Grand Central Market this May really put a spotlight on the flourishing business. Word has it that Broad Street will fill the counter front formerly occupied by the late celebrity chef Mark Peel’s Prawn restaurant.
Meanwhile, the flagship Malibu restaurant employs just over 40 people. With the expansion into Santa Barbara and new Los Angeles location, Broad Street Oyster Company is spreading a little bit of its Malibu vibe all while creating jobs — a winning combination.