California Dreamin’ in Monterey, Part Three

The Fish Guy at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey

The Fish Guy plies his wares at Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey. Courtesy of Monterey County CVB.

Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey is an amazing place, by day or by night. Of course, one of the biggest draws along the California coast is the fresh seafood, served up with style at many of the restaurants along the Wharf. For fabulous harbor views, fresh clam chowder, and menus that boast real tastes of the sea, I recommend Gilbert’s Seafood Grill (try oysters on the half-shell while dining on the Patio of the Upper Deck), Crabby Jim’s Seafood (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried their deep-fried cheesecake), Abalonetti Seafood Trattoria (specializing in Monterey Bay Calamari, and offering almost a dozen varieties of these squid dishes), Isabella’s Italian Seafood (featuring authentic Italian pasta, alongside fresh seafood), Domenico’s on the Wharf (in addition to a Kids’ Menu, they offer Canine Cuisine options “for our “four-legged friends”–including the “Hungry Pup’s Half-Pounder,” a burger patty), Cafe Fina (sample the Cioppino–clams, mussels, prawns, calamari and fresh fish in a tomato saffron broth, served on linguini), and Rappa’s (their clam chowder is amazing, and they claim to make it from scratch).

Chris Shake holds an umbrella

Chris Shake stands under an umbrella to hand out samples of clam chowder. Courtesy of Chris Shake.

But my personal favorite of all these seafood meccas on the Wharf is the Old Fisherman’s Grotto. If you want a meal in Monterey that is not only delicious but also truly memorable, then this is the place to go. Their Roasted Garlic (nearby Gilroy is the self-proclaimed Garlic Capital of the World) and Grilled Artichoke (Castroville artichoke marinated in balsamic vinaigrette, served with lemon dill aioli) are the best hot appetizers I’ve probably ever had in my life. And don’t get me started on the Shrimp Louie–tender bay shrimp served over crunchy Salinas Valley greens. Not only is the seafood spanking-fresh at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto, but the veggies and greens are just-picked, too. The Old Fisherman’s Grotto will spoil you, and make you judge every subsequent seafood meal against its high standards for the rest of your life. Chris Shake, the owner, can often be found holding a tray of free samples of clam chowder in front of the restaurant, rain or shine. If you turn him down, you’ll miss a real culinary treat.

The Benihana Monterey overlooks Fisherman’s Wharf, and has a nice Sushi Lounge, but Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse offers more local flavor, if you’re looking for a good Japanese restaurant in Monterey. Try the lunch special bento boxes, which include miso soup, hot tea, and white sticky rice.

There’s a plethora of other activities to enjoy on the Wharf besides eating (although eating does rank pretty high up there on the list!)–Whale Watching Cruises (Monterey Bay Whale Watch and Princess Monterey Whale Watching are two of the better-known companies leaving from Fisherman’s Wharf), Glass-Bottom Boat Tours, Monterey Movie Tours (scenic tour of the Monterey Peninsula and 17-mile drive, with an emphasis on movie locations–the motor coach leaves from Monterey Conference Center), and even Broadway musical productions, hosted by The Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater, located upstairs in a wooden building near the tip of Fisherman’s Wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf Couple

A couple enjoys spending time at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey. Courtesy of Monterey County CVB.

Looking for nightlife? The Mucky Duck Restaurant & Bar is a favorite nightspot for locals and visitors alike. Britannia Arms Pub & Restaurant features 24 different Draft Beers, Ales, and Hard Ciders, and has an English Steel Tips Darts Area. (You can also watch Live Weekend Soccer from Britain here on their telly.) The London Bridge Pub features fab fish and chips, and Trivia Night every Tuesday. (I once won a can of Spam as a consolation prize.) Notice a bit of a British theme? Anglophiles will feel right at home in Monterey.

So where to stay near Old Fisherman’s Wharf while in Monterey? California Dreamin’, Part Four will give you the full scoop. And be sure to read California Dreamin’ in Monterey, Part One and California Dreamin’ in Monterey, Part Two if you want more suggestions for having the time of your life in Monterey.

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