Mussels and oysters and clams, oh my! Holy Crab brings variety of seafood to East Peoria

Mike Kramer
Pekin Daily Times

Kyle Zhou, the owner of Holy Crab seafood restaurant in East Peoria, has been in the restaurant business since he was 7.

“We always owned Chinese restaurants,” he recalled. “We started with a walk-in with two tables and then created a buffet (restaurant). We moved to so many different places when I was growing up.”

Ending up in the Midwest as an adult, Zhou put his childhood apprenticeship to good use by opening a sushi restaurant and two ramen restaurants in West Lafayette, Indiana. When an opportunity to open a restaurant in central Illinois came, he was ready to branch out to Cajun-style seafood boils. He had heard about the Peoria area from a friend who had grown up in Morton, who encouraged him to look at available properties.

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“Out of the locations I looked at, this one is (in an area) that’s growing,” Zhou said. “It’s right next to Walmart, it has all kinds of hotels nearby, and it’s close to the Levee District. I believe East Peoria has more room to grow.”

In addition to being in a growing community, Zhou believes Holy Crab will succeed because of a friendly atmosphere, high-quality seafood and because the Peoria area is something of an untapped market for Cajun seafood boils.

Holy Crab owners Kyle Zhou, left, and Jason Xia pose in their new seafood restaurant, Holy Crab, at 205 River Road in East Peoria. The stylish eatery specializes in Cajun-style seafood boils.

“I’ve been to Tasty Crab in Bloomington, which got a lot of high ratings (from customers),” he said. “A lot of people in the area drive 40 to 45 minutes to go there. I want this to be more upscale. If we present the right quality, service and packaging, this will be a very friendly and accommodating place.”

“Our food is very fresh, and it’s delicious,” said Holy Crab server Megan Johnson. “The atmosphere is very friendly, fun and exciting. With Illinois being a landlocked state, there’s not a lot of delicious seafood around here.”

Holy Crab opened in early September, and so far, the reviews have been encouraging, according to Zhou. Tony Richards of Peoria, a self-proclaimed seafood aficionado, has been a regular patron since the opening.

Holy Crab is decorated with a seafaring theme complete with ropes, life preservers and plastic crabs and lobsters caught in netting.

“I love snow crab,” Richards stated. “I’ve had my granddaughters here before, and one of them likes shrimp, so that’s what she had. The other granddaughter is like me. She had the snow crab. I have a daughter at home who loves fried catfish. I got that to go, just to try it, because everything I’ve had here is really good.”

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The new Holy Crab seafood restaurant, 205 River Road in East Peoria, opened in September.

Zhou has applied with the city of East Peoria for a license to sell beer and wine and hopes to add those items to the Holy Crab menu soon.

Holy Crab is located at 205 River Road, East Peoria. Hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. More information is available at holycrabeastpeoria.com.