California Seafood Dives

Text by the editors of Coastal Living

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Andria's Seafood Restaurant and Market, 1449 Spinnaker Dr., Ventura, CA; 805/654-0546 or andriasseafood.com . A big variety of seafood―almost all of it fresh from the market half of the business―comes fried, charbroiled, or stir-fried. We love the fish-and-chips, especially the halibut. (2005)

Brophy Bros. Clam Bar and Restaurant, 119 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA; 805/966-4418. Regulars love the spicy oyster shooters. (1997)

Captain Kidd's Fish Market and Restaurant, 209 N. Harbor Dr., Redondo Beach, CA; 310/372-7703 or captainkidds.com . A no-frills seafood market. They'll cook whatever you buy however you like it. (2002)

Catalina Fish Kitchen and Seafood Deli, 670 W. 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA; 949/645-8873. A huge array of moderately priced seafood, prepared any way you can imagine, packs the menu. The tacos, gumbos, and chowders all draw rave reviews. The mixed seafood skewer deserves consideration, too. (2006)

Chez Jay, 1657 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA; 310/395-1741 or chezjays.com . A quirky meeting place for oldtime regulars, young hipsters, and the occasional celebrity. Excellent sautéed sand dabs almondine. (2001)

The Crab Cooker, 2200 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA; 949/673-0100 or thecrabcooker.com . "World's best" clam chowder, according to the menu, and pretty good broiled seafood too. (2000)

The Crab Pot, 215 Marina Dr., Long Beach, CA; 562/430-0272 or thecrabpot.com . Bring a friend and order a "Seafest for Two." (2000)

El Indio Mexican Restaurant, 3695 India St., San Diego, CA; 619/299-0333 or el-indio.com . Heavenly fish tacos come wrapped in two just-made corn tortillas. (2005)

Fat Face Fenner's Fishack, 53 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA; 310/379-5550. Clam chowder, fish-and-chips, and messy but delicious blackened fish tacos with cilantro-lime salsa. (2003)

Gladstone's, 17300 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA; 310/454-3474 or gladstones.com . Giant portions of never-frozen seafood. No ties allowed. (1998)

The Green Flash, 701 Thomas Ave., San Diego, CA; 858/270-7715 or greenflashrestaurant.com . You just might glimpse that elusive moment that gave the restaurant its name―when the setting sun appears green for an instant. Delivering your heaping seafood platter, bowlful of steamed clams, or fat burger, your server will tell you to "look quick, it's awesome." (2007)

Harbor Fish & Chips, 276-A Harbor Dr. S., Oceanside, CA; 760/722-4977 or nvo.com/oceanside/harborfishchips . Serves consistently good fish-and-chips and tasty if not overly clammy clam chowder on Oceanside Harbor. (2006)

Harbor Fish Cafè, 3179 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad, CA; 760/729-4161. Order the large plate of fish-and-chips―three pieces of lightly battered fish, a mound of fries, and homemade tartar sauce. It weighs about 5 pounds, but it's worth every calorie-laden bite. (2004)

Malibu Seafood, 25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA; 310/456-3430. Huge variety; try the ahi tuna burger, and eat on picnic tables or the beach itself. (2000)

Neptune's Net, 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA; 310/457-3095. Steamed shrimp, lobster, fish-and-chips, and creamy clam chowder. (1999)

Paradise Cove Beach Café, 28128 Pacific Coast Highway., Malibu, CA; 310/457-2503. Wide-screen views of the Pacific. The clam chowder and crispy-skin salmon are well worth the trip down the mile-long access road. (2004)

Pier Beach Grill, 668 Harbor Blvd., Ventura, CA; 805/648-3177. Pick up some chowder or fish-and-chips at this no-frills snack bar at the foot of the 1,958-foot Ventura Pier. Then enjoy the sea breeze, the cries of the gulls, and the rhythmic rush of the waves. (2007)

Point Loma Seafoods, 2805 Emerson St., San Diego, CA; 619/223-1109 or plsf.com/index.html . Lunchtime crowds favor the crab, tuna, and shrimp sandwiches, and the creamy and tomato-based chowders. (1999)

Reel Inn Restaurant, 18661 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA; 310/456-8221. Very fresh, inexpensive seafood served in innovative ways. (1998)

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, 230 Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara, CA; 805/966-6676 or stearnswharf.org . Yummy serviche (seafood marinated in citrus juice) and cioppino nearly a half-mile into the Pacific on Stearns Warf. (2003)

South Beach Bar & Grill, 5059 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach, CA; 619/226-4577. Everyone―from business types in suits to surfers damp from the waves―converges here for fabulous fish tacos. (2006)

Stacky's Seaside, 2315 Lillie Ave., Summerland, CA; 805/969-9908 or stackys.com . Light, crisp fish-and-chips, plus fish burgers and crab melts. (2001)

Wahoo's Fish Taco, various coastal locations in Southern California and Honolulu, HI; wahoos.com . This regional chain has a surprisingly healthy Mexican-Brazilian-Asian-Californian menu. The casual surfer vibe adapts to each location, giving stores a neighborhood feel. (2007)

World Famous, 711 Pacific Beach Dr., San Diego, CA; 858/272-3100 or worldfamous.signonsandiego.com . Prime ocean views, lobster tacos. (1997)

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Li'l Hut, 1205 Embarcadero, Morro Bay, CA; 805/772-3488. At this oddball stand in the parking lot of the Harbor Hut restaurant, the thick and tasty clam chowder shines. This homemade creation finds delicious synergy with the sweet pineapple coleslaw―together less than $6. (2007)

Loulou's Griddle in the Middle, Municipal Wharf No. 2, Monterey, CA; 831/372-0568. The squid (or crab cake) and eggs reels in fishermen as early as 7 a.m. Ultrarich clam chowder and flaky white sand dabs appear at lunch. (2006)

Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, 6216 Moonstone Beach Dr., Cambria, CA; 805/927-4514 or cambria-online.com/seachestrestaurantandoysterbar . Rustic and very popular; go for the catch-of-the-day fish, with mango salsa on the side. (2003)

Splash Cafe, 197 Pomeroy Ave., Pismo Beach, CA; 805/773-4653 or splashcafe.com . Famous for chowder, but also does a nice job with fish-and-chips and steamed clams. (2003)

Totoya Japanese Restaurant, 867 Wave St., Monterey, CA; 831/375-7024. The sushi's delectable at this tiny restaurant across from Monterey Bay Aquarium. A crew of three can sample as many sushi rolls and slices of ruby red tuna as they can hold, and still get out for less than $50. (2004)

Zelda's Restaurant, 203 Esplanade, Capitola, CA; 831/475-4900. You can sit outdoors, right on the beach. The clam chowder and fried calamari reveal a kitchen that lavishes some care on what could otherwise have been standard bar food. (2005)

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Barbara's Fish Trap, 281 Capistrano Rd., Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA; 650/728-7049 or lovetoeatandtravel.com/Site/Sfbay/HMBay/Food/barbara.htm . On pilings above Half Moon Bay; huge portions. (1997)

La Cabaña Taquería, 500 Highway 1, Davenport, CA; 831/425-7742. A favorite of the surfing crowd, La Cabaña serves some of the best fish tacos this side of Baja. Try the red snapper or salmon, wrapped in your choice of flour or corn tortillas. (2004)

Cap'n Flint's, 32250 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA; 707/964-9447. "Family dining at family prices," including great chowder, under the high bridge in the fishing village of Noyo. (2000)

Chart Room, 130 Anchor Way, Crescent City, CA; 707/464-5993. The four-egg Dungeness-crab-and-shrimp omelets at breakfast will satisfy the hungriest travelers. Windows overlook the harbor and its resident sea lions. (2006)

Coast Café, 46 Wharf Rd., Bolinas, CA; 415/868-2298 or bolinascafe.com . Only in West Marin County would a surfer's hangout serve organic beer with fish-and-chips (made from the catch of the day). On weekends, the café offers all-you-can-eat Dungeness crab or mesquite-barbecued oysters, depending on the season. (2006)

Fisherman's Wharf crab stands, Taylor Street at Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA. These sidewalk grottos peddle a smorgasbord of seafood gold: crab cakes, fried shrimp, and overstuffed crab sandwiches. We suggest fresh-caught Dungeness crabs, cracked to order and costing half what you'd pay in the nearby sit-down restaurants. Feeling clammy? Boudin's clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and Pompei's hearty cioppino are San Francisco classics. (2007)

Gill's by the Bay, 77 Halibut King Salmon, Eureka, CA; 707/442-2554. No-frills but well-prepared breakfasts and lunches right on Humboldt Bay. (1999)

Ketch Joanne Restaurant, 17 Johnson Pier, Pillar Point Harbor, Princeton-by-the-Sea, CA; 650/728-3747 or restauranteur.com/ca/halfmoonbay/menu/ketchjoanne.htm . Fried specialties include fish-and-chips, scallops, and jumbo prawns. (1998)

Kelly's Mission Rock, 817 Terry Francois Blvd., San Francisco, CA; 415/626-5355 or kellysmissionrock.com . Considerably spiffed up from its days as Mission Rock Resort, when we first visited, but still relaxed and casual. Terrific fish-and-chips―and water views. (updated from 1997)

The Marshall Store, 19225 Highway 1, Marshall, CA; 415/663-1339 or themarshallstore.com . A tiny grocery, deli, and oyster bar on stilts over Tomales Bay, with fresh oysters, barbecued or on the half shell. (2001)

Nantucket Restaurant, foot of Port Street, Crockett, CA; 510/787-2233. A cozy building in a working marina with great cioppino, great service, and great views of the Carquinez Bridge. (2003)

Oceansong, 39350 S. Highway 1, Gualala, CA; 707/884-1041. On California's Pacific Coast Highway between Jenner and Point Arena, Oceansong is one of the few restaurants that offers ocean vistas. Start with a cold brew and clam chowder, then round out the meal with hot fish-and-chips. (2007)

The Original Old Clam House, 299 Bayshore Blvd., San Francisco, CA; 415/826-4880. Heavenly Lazy Man's Cioppino, so-called because everything but the crab legs is shelled, steamed open, or otherwise made accessible. (2002)

Olema Farm House Restaurant & Bar, 10005 State Highway 1, Olema, CA; 415/663-1264 or olemafarmhouse.com . Fried prawns, creamy clam chowder, and enormous barbecued oysters. (2002)

Phil's Fish Market and Eatery, 7600 Sandholdt Rd., Moss Landing, CA; 831/633-2152 or philsfishmarket.com . Moved to a new building since our review, but still serves the same great cioppino. (update from 1997)

Pier 23 Café, Pier 23, On the Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA; 415/362-5125 or pier23cafe.com . In a party-hearty atmosphere, the crab cocktail gets down to basics: crabmeat accompanied only by hot sauce. Steamed mussels pair well with Anchor Steam beer. (2005)

PPQ Dungeness Island, 2332 Clement St., San Francisco, CA; 415/386-8266 or ppqdungeness.com . The real deal is dinner for two ($46.95), which includes whole-roasted Dungeness crab in a delicious garlic broth, equally tantalizing garlic noodles, fresh cabbage and chicken salad, and deep-fried banana dessert. (2006)

Princeton Seafood Company, 50 Capistrano Rd., Half Moon Bay, CA; 650/726-2722 or princetonseafood.com . This restaurant/market is justifiably proud of its "award-winning" clam chowder and ought to boast about the fish and chips as well. (2004)

Quinn's Lighthouse Restaurant & Pub, 1951 Embarcadero Cove, Oakland, CA; 510/536-2050 or quinnslighthouse.com . Former lighthouse building. Elegant dining downstairs. Upstairs has the same excellent seafood, a boisterously casual atmosphere, and sea chanteys on Thursdays. (2000)

The Ramp, 855 China Basin St., San Francisco, CA; 415/621-2378. No longer the bait and hot-dog shop it was years ago, The Ramp will dish up hot clam chowder for those foggy days, some fried Alaskan pollack and chips, and an array of salads starring tiny bay shrimp. (2004)

Seabreeze Market & Deli, 598 University Ave., Berkeley, CA; 510/486-8119. A deli/seafood shop/snack bar/produce market/smoothie stand made from shipping containers, believe it or not; good fish sandwiches. (2003)

Sharon's by the Sea, 32096 N. Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg, CA; 707/962-0680 or sharonsbythesea.com . Sharon's surprises with its large wine list and filling seafood salads. Try the crab Louie, a seemingly bottomless bowl of asparagus spears, tomatoes, and cucumbers topped with mounds of sweet crab. (2005)

Sushi Sam's Edomata, 218 E. Third Ave., San Mateo, CA; 650/344-0888 or sushisams.com . Surprisingly innovative nigiri (raw fish pressed onto a pad of rice) lies just a half-hour south of San Francisco. Grab a seat at the sushi bar and request the chef's choice. (2005)

Swan Oyster Depot, 1517 Polk St., San Francisco, CA; 415/673-1101. A tiny place with a wide variety of great seafood and the nicest proprietors (the Sancimino brothers) anywhere. (2001)

Tony's Seafood Restaurant, 18863 Highway 1, Marshall, CA; 415/663-1107. Legendary barbecued oysters and fresh-caught fish. (1999)

Yankee Pier, 286 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur, CA; 415/924-7676 or yankeepier.com . Don't miss the signature lobster roll or the fabulous New England clam chowder. The crab Louie is unforgettable. Monday nights feature all-you-can-eat fish-and-chips. (2004)