Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Slim Pickings . . .

is how one person described the dining options in Crescent City, CA. You have your national franchises, a few pseudo-Mexican eateries, and fish houses. That’s about it. But the Chart Room, known (according to their web site) for fish and chips and the sea lions that sun themselves on the nearby dock, seemed like the best possibility.

We arrived at about mid-afternoon and had to wait for a table. The dining room was one large room with minimal, but still kitschy, décor. There were a number of tables for four clustered in the middle of the room and long tables for eight along the window wall overlooking the marina and the sea lions.

When we were seated, we were directed to one of the tables of eight and told to sit next to the woman in the blue. So we did. Wrong table. We were moved to another table with another woman in blue. Wrong table. We were moved again and, guess what, there was no woman in blue at this table. Go figure.

Although the menu lists a variety of entrees that can be ordered grilled or fried, if you want large portions of fried food, this is the place for you. To start, we both ordered the white clam chowder – a cup for me and a bowl for Chuck. When Chuck placed his order, our server asked: “Are you sure? It’s a large bowl.”

When Chuck replied in the affirmative, she responded: “Well, it’s up to you.” Well, yes it was up to him. He was away from the table (I won’t say doing what.) when the bowl came, and as she served it, she looked at me and said: “He’s going to be full before his meal arrives.” She didn’t know Chuck.

The chowder was good with plenty of clams, potatoes, onions, and celery in a very thick creamy base. Because it was a more traditional white chowder, Chuck liked it better than The Hungry Clam’s. I, on the other hand, liked The Hungry Clam’s use of additional seasonings. Did he finish it? Of course. Did he eat his entire meal that followed? Of course.

Chuck ordered the fish and chips platter with fries, slaw, and grilled garlic bread.

I chose the Seafood Combo (fried) that contained two large prawns, two large scallops, and two good-sized pieces of fish. All of the sides were very good, especially the slaw, even though the shreds were larger than I like. But the light creamy dressing had good balance with just a hint of vinegar and just a hint of sugar. This is the first time we have had bread served with a fish and chips plate, and while not needing the calories, I enjoyed having it.

Both of our battered and fried fish were quite good, but still not up to the standard set by Montgomery’s in North Vancouver, BC. My fried prawns were also good, but the real stars were the two large scallops. Scallops have never been my favorite member of the mollusk family. There is something about their texture that I find disturbing even though I like their flavor. They always seem to be overly chewy or overly soft and spongy. Not so these. They were juicy, sweet, and fried to the perfect degree of doneness.

By the way. Guess what arrived with our food. Our check which you pay at the register up front. Think we saw our server after that?

This was another OK lunch. Nothing too great (other than the scallops) and nothing too bad, and we award the Chart Room a 3.5 Addie rating.

Leaving the Chart Room, we observed this group of "customers" enjoying their meal--after cutting our the middle man.

After lunch, we drove along the waterfront from the Chart Room's location on the south edge of town to Pebble Beach Drive.

We passed the Battery Point Lighthouse, built in 1856 following the destruction of the ship American. The lighthouse survived an attempt to de-commission it in 1875 and in 1864 endured an onslaught of a tsunami that hit with what was believed to be a series of four waves, at least one as high as 20 feet.

Eleven people were killed in what became known as the worst tsunami in the history of America's lower 48 states. "The tsunami ruined more than 1,000 vehicles, strewing them around a five-mile-square section of Crescent City. Many also ended up in the harbor. The cars, and other debris, were collected and dumped in a 'graveyard' downtown" (Rchard Gonzales, NPR).

Today, it is a "private aid to navigation," operated by the Del Norte County Historical Society.

We took the two photos above from Pebble Beach Drive in the north-western corner of Crescent City. Pebble Beach Drive is bordered by a long stretch of beach with the famous Castle Rock showcased offshore (top center of the photo, above).

Pebble Beach Drive is Crescent City's "Gold Coast" neighbor-hood, a mile of oceanfront real estate on the edge of a bluff.

The beach along the rocky coast is sparsely used at any time of the year, but it looks perfect for dog-walkers and those who enjoy "viewing sunsets on long walks on the beach."

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