On tripadvisor.com, this restaurant was number 19 out of 305 Santa Barbara dining spots. It has received every Best Seafood Restaurant in Santa Barbara and Best Clam Chowder in Santa Barbara award from the Santa Barbara Independent and News Press for the past 22 years and has also been awarded the SantaBarbara.com Best Seafood Restaurant for as long as it's been awarded. David Silver, posting on the Roadfood.com web site, stated: “I have had excellent clam chowder previously, but this was the best I have ever had thus far." And, the restaurant was recommended to us by one of our fellow Road Scholar participants.
So, on the closing day of our Road Scholar program, we jumped on the shuttle to the waterfront and found ourselves at the Santa Barbara Harbor where we found our lunch destina-tion—Brophy Bros. Restaurant & Clam Bar. Located on the second floor of a building overlooking the harbor, the restaurant combines an inside dining room (dominated by a long bar) and a wraparound dining porch. We were told that there would be a fifteen-minute to a half-an-hour wait for outside seating, so we chose one of the indoor tables. Based on no evidence whatsoever and just my intuition, I surmise that most of our fellow diners that noon were locals who came in from their boats for a few brews and some seafood.
Décor? Nonexistent. The most decorative items were the folks at the bar. The menu? Limited and not terribly creative.
Listed as entrees were a Tuna Melt, Chicken Sandwich, a cheese-burger, a shark sandwich, a New York strip steak, fried shrimp, fish and chips, fried calamari, fried clams, and fried scallops. And watching a few plates of fried seafood passing by our table, all of these items looked to be very greasy.
From the clam bar, we could have chosen beer boiled shrimp, garlic baked clams, oysters Rockefeller, steamed mussels or clams, cioppino, oyster shooters, or ceviche. Somehow, I wasn’t in the mood for any of these.
So we both went to the list of fresh fish items, all of which were available with your choice of salad or a cup of clam chowder. After much deliberation (it’s not easy coordinating our choices so that we don’t duplicate each other), we decided that Chuck would order the blackened tilapia and I would order the seafood pasta.
By now it should be no surprise that Chuck decided to start with the cup of chowder, and like the poster on Road-food.com stated, this was a very good chowder (perhaps not the best ever but still very good) that was totally loaded with sweet and tender clams and potatoes.
While the concept of blackening was way overdone when first introduced by Louisiana’s Paul Prudhomme back in the 1980’s, I am glad to see that it is beginning to be seen again on restaurant menus. As long as it is done right that is. And the tilapia was done right. The kitchen did not overwhelm the fish with too much seasoning and the seasoning did not turn into a bitter crust when the fish hit the white hot pan. And the fish was very moist and beautifully flakey. The sides were above average with good crispy fries and a nice creamy cole slaw with a dressing that was slightly sweet and flavored with celery seed.
My meal started auspiciously with a very large salad composed of baby greens, red cabbage, frisee (not often found in fish joint restau-rants), cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers that was tossed with a mild ranch dressing and dusted with parmesan cheese. The salad was so large that I left the last quarter uneaten so that I would have enough appetite left for the pasta to follow. I should have finished the salad.
The pasta was again a giant portion of food with a half dozen each large gulf shrimp and sea scallops. Too bad that both were way overcooked to the point of being chewy. And if there was any sauce over this, I couldn’t see or taste it. Please—a little clam broth, a little oil, a little wine. Anything to give this flavor. I finally ate the seafood, even though it was rubbery and left seventy-five percent of the pasta on the plate. And I never considered taking my leftovers home for later.
While I would give Chuck’s lunch a solid 4.0 Addie rating mine doesn’t earn more than 2.0 Addies (a good salad isn’t enough to help this rating) for a final 3.0 Addies.