The Spinnaker

meter-good+The Spinnaker is an odd place. It’s equal parts scenic lookout, seafood restaurant, seedy lounge, and blue-hair hangout. It’s dated, charming, hideous, and beautiful all at the same time. My brain was confused by what it experienced when I visited The Spinnaker, so I just went with it and tried to keep an open mind.

” There were more electric scooters than a bumper car factory “

The Spinnaker is located right in the middle of Sausalito, a painfully charming bay-side town just north of the Golden Gate bridge. Driving into the heart of Sausalito on a weekend is an exercise in patience. The roadway is quite literally packed with tourists on bicycles that are too busy gawking at the sunny weather to realize you are about to run them over. I’m all for sharing the road, but I wish these people would choose to share back.

This is an example of a sign that bicycle tourists ignore.

This is an example of a sign that bicycle tourists ignore.

After a painful but scenic crawl along the length of downtown Sausalito, I finally managed to shoehorn the car into the very last parking spot in town. My lunch party and I started strolling towards The Spinnaker, debating what sorts of appetizers we should order. Arriving inside the restaurant is a bit like stepping back in time to 1982. Everything you see is dated and drab, including many of the other patrons. I don’t mean to be unkind, but there were more electric scooters than a bumper car factory.

Just as I was getting ready to make my mind up that I didn’t like The Spinnaker, the brisk and attentive host greeted us, added our names to the waiting list, and showed us to the cocktail lounge where we could wait for our table in comfort. Hmm, well, I guess they seem nice here. Within moments someone else stopped by to get our drink orders and see if we wanted to get started with an appetizer. She was helpful, competent, and within minutes we had a table full of wonderful-looking beverages in front of us.

Everyone likes a froofy drink.

Everyone likes a froofy drink.

And just like that, we were whisked away from the cocktail lounge to our lunch table. Our appetizers arrived at our new location with seamless perfection, and our new waitperson was ready and waiting to answer any questions we might have about the lunch menu. We didn’t care about any of that though, because we were simply stunned by the view. Wow.

That view.

That view.

Most of the dining area at The Spinnaker is situated on a pier directly over the water, providing amazing 270-degree views of the San Francisco Bay. Boats literally sail around you while you gawk in stupefied amazement.

Well, hello little shrimp. Join me for lunch?

Well, hello little shrimp. Join me for lunch?

We eventually snapped out of our scenery-induced haze and remembered that our appetizer was still sitting there, waiting for us. I usually don’t get all that excited about shrimp cocktail, but this restaurant’s version was very good indeed. Each shrimp was the size of a Mack truck, and the scratch-made cocktail sauce was spicy and flavorful.

Louie sure does make a good salad. Whoever he is.

Louie sure does make a good salad. Whoever he is.

Before long our lunch orders arrived, and the quality of the food continued to impress me. First up was Shrimp Louie, a San Francisco classic. Everything was fresh and delicious, and the bay shrimp weren’t the least bit fishy. As with the cocktail sauce from our appetizer, the dressing on the Shrimp Louie was the star of the show. Whoever is in charge of the sauces at this place is doing an amazing job.

Enough with green things. Let's get to the fried stuff.

Enough with green things. Let’s get to the fried stuff.

Continuing with the all-shrimp theme of the meal, I opted for an order of tiger prawns and chips. The batter on the shrimp was fantastic, and the shoestring fries/chips were light and wonderful. The remoulade and ranch sauces featured in the center of the plate were – you guessed it – absolutely top notch. I would certainly order this dish again, I loved it.

We sat and contemplated the view while we finished our shrimp-filled lunch, and we all agreed that we enjoyed our experience at The Spinnaker. First impressions were not all that good; this place is sorely overdue for an interior renovation. This was quickly forgotten, however, thanks to the excellent staff, incredible views, and high quality cuisine. I give this restaurant 4 out of 5 little cups of delicious sauces, a solid rating worthy of a revisit. The next time I’m in Sausalito, I will… Ok, honestly I will be going back to Napa Valley Burger Company. The next visit or three after that, though, I’ll be going back to The Spinnaker. On a bicycle. In the middle of the road.

The Spinnaker
100 Spinnaker Drive
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 332-1500
www.thespinnaker.com

Spinnaker on Urbanspoon


All the comforts of being on a boat without the sea sickness.

All the comforts of being on a boat without the sea sickness.


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


The Bay Fish & Chips

meter-ok-goodThe Bay Fish & Chips is one of those places I really want to like. It may actually be good, but my one experience with it was a bit lacking. I can’t even really say that it was one particular thing that put me off about this place; the whole experience was like a never-ending chain of small disappointments that ultimately resulted in an overall opinion of “meh”.

” Weird, blue cups of water “

For starters, the spousal unit and I (for simplicity I’ll just say “we” from here on out) were finally recovering from a relatively terrible meal and we decided that we had earned something fried and tasty for our sacrifice. Fish and chips sounded dandy, and so we consulted Google for a local place we hadn’t tried yet. We drove a short couple miles down the street, following our GPS, and arrived at a strange and mildly unpleasant shopping center growing cyst-like on the side of El Camino Real. Tiny disappointment #1. Ok, well… Sometimes the best places are in grungy little shopping centers. I hope.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Sorry carlwuzhere for stealing this picture from your blog. Either you can sue me or I can give you like five bucks if you want.

Actually, you know what… The signage mounted in the corner of that shopping center archway looks fairly professional. Wait a second. That big archway thing isn’t actually the front of an entire restaurant, it’s just an empty shell covering a weird, sad little space hidden in the corner. Tiny disappointment #2.

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Welcome to 1982. Do you like our wood paneling?

Now you can’t really photograph odor, so instead I opted for a picture of the menu board. As we walked in the door we realized that this place is not what we expected. It smelled like a noodle shop or similar Asian-style fast food joint, which is not a bad thing at all, of course, but it’s jarring when you are expecting to encounter the smell of… oh, I don’t know… perhaps fish and chips? It’s like going to take a big swig of your 7up only to discover that it’s tonic water. Euugh. Neither are bad things, but when you want one you usually don’t want the other. The place was also completely empty during lunch hour on a weekend, which was off-putting. Tiny disappointments #3 and #4.

Seriously, what's with those cups?

Seriously, what’s with those cups?

We skipped over the wonton soup and shrimp cake options on the menu and ordered what we came for: fried sea animal parts. The person at the register – I presume one of the owners – was courteous, fast, friendly, and happy to see customers. She invited us to choose whatever table we liked and brought us tartar sauce, vinegar, and cups of water. Weird, blue cups of water. Tupperware cups like what you’d find in the bargain aisle of a 1970s Walmart. Tiny disappointment #5. Around then I noticed the decor, a painfully stereotypical arrangement of wood paneling and gilded “paintings” of sailing ships braving untamed seas. If you looked closely at the paintings, you could see that each had a thin veneer of once-airborne fish fryer oil that had condensed into sticky little vertical driplets. Tiny disappointment #6. We tried not to touch the paintings (or the walls) and waited.

Well, it's fish and chips alright.

Well, it’s fish and chips alright.

I’ve spent a lot of time so far talking about all the things I didn’t like leading up to the one thing that matters: The food. A restaurant can get pretty much everything else wrong, but if they manage to produce an amazing plate of grub then quite a lot can be forgiven. Unfortunately, the fish and chips were not amazing. They were hot and crispy and overall just fine, but they weren’t exceptional. The fish was fair and very slightly too oily, and the fries were the standard crinkle-cut variety. Tiny disappointment #7. The surprising star of the show was the tartar sauce. I couldn’t tell if it was scratch made or not, but it was excellent. Certainly not a disappointment.

We left The Bay Fish & Chips unsure of whether or not we liked it. Both of us felt a little greasy from the experience, and neither of us seemed to be genuinely satisfied. The other online reviews for this restaurant are generally very positive, so I’m willing to give it another try to see if my opinion improves. From my limited experience here, however, I have to rate this place a slightly disappointing 5 out of 8 oily nautical paintings. Oh, oil paintings. I made an accidental funny.

The Bay Fish & Chips
826 W El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
(408) 732-5665
Google it

Bay Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Dutchman’s Seafood House

meter-good-My experience at Dutchman’s was a strange one. There were some parts good, some parts bad, and many parts plain old weird. In the end, this restaurant just isn’t as good as I remember it (back when it was called The Flying Dutchman), but it’s still a decent enough place to grab a bite to eat while watching the setting sun.

” It was like watching a rabid woodpecker go to town on a rain gutter “

I love California’s central coast. Some people call it “middle kingdom”, but that’s always sounded silly to me, as though at any moment a hobbit might spring out of a hole in the ground and invite you to tea with Gandalf. The geographic area I’m talking about is San Luis Obispo county, which lies halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are a lot of good places to eat in this region, provided you know where to look.

After only getting lost twice – I have the navigation skills of a heavily medicated toddler – I managed to shuttle a car load of family members to Dutchman’s for an evening meal. We put our name in for a table, and while we waited we enjoyed the spectacular view from the panoramic windows surrounding the dining area. After ten or fifteen minutes we were seated …and then nobody showed up to serve us. We browsed the menus, picked our entrees, discussed appetizers, and still no waiter. All of the tables around us were well attended, but none of the wait staff wanted to make eye contact. Empty tables nearby were seated, people got their drinks, then appetizers, and still we waited. Steam began coming out of my wife’s ears.

Dimly lit shrimp.

Dimly lit shrimp.

Eventually our helpful waiter, I’ll call him Twitch, did a drive-by and said “heysorryforthewaitbethereinaminute”. Okee dokee. After a couple minutes he stopped by again and took our drink orders. “Ok, I’m going to go get your drinks, and then come back and give them to you, and then I’ll take your food orders.” Before we could tell him that we’d been ready to order for a while now, he whisked himself away to a dark corner of the restaurant and began furiously jabbing at a touch screen in an apparent attempt to stick his finger completely through it. It was like watching a rabid woodpecker go to town on a rain gutter. After a few minutes Twitch returned with our drinks, just as he had instructed himself, and began taking our orders.

Years ago, The Flying Dutchman had hushpuppies on the menu that were to die for. Hushpuppies are basically fried balls of cornbread, a staple of any unhealthy diet. The new Dutchman’s menu was a bit different, but I spotted an appetizer called “seafood fritters” that looked like it might have been a version of my beloved hushpuppies. I asked Twitch if they were worth trying and without blinking an eye he said, “No, they aren’t very good.”

Awkward silence. “Oh, haha” I replied lamely. “Uh, so I guess they’re awesome?” Twitch just looked at me and said nothing. Alrighty then.

Dimly lit fish and chips.

Dimly lit fish and chips.

I ordered a bowl of clam chowder instead, we got some shrimp and calamari appetizers for the table, and everyone else ordered fish and chips. The food was brought out promptly by a different, surprisingly normal waitperson, and everything was …average. It certainly wasn’t bad, and in fact I would be happy to return to Dutchman’s for another meal of fried ocean goodies, but there was nothing special about it. Everything had the consistency and flavor of a typical low-to-mid-range chain restaurant, complete with generic tartar and cocktail sauces in little plastic cups.

As far as I’m concerned, any seafood restaurant hoping to be considered decent must first make an acceptable bowl of clam chowder. It is the first and most important test to pass, and I’m sorry to say that Dutchman’s didn’t do very well. The clam chowder was gluey, bland, and almost completely devoid of clams. It was overly thick and mounded up disconcertingly in the middle of the bowl with a flavor somewhere between sausage gravy and wallpaper paste. At least the little baggies of oyster crackers were good.

Dimly lit starchy substance.

Dimly lit starchy substance.

Twitch visited us several more times throughout our meal and continued to give himself precise instructions which he followed diligently. “I’m going to take this water glass and fill it up, then I’ll be back to take those two plates and the dish there and then I’ll come back and ask you about dessert”, and then he would whoosh off before we could get a word in edgewise. He made for an amusing experience if nothing else.

In the end, I have to rate Dutchman’s a mildly disappointing 7 out of 12 buckets of clam paste. The seasoned fries were good and the view of the sunset was amazing, but the mediocre quality of the food and weirdness of our waiter put a bit of a damper of the evening. I’m sure I’ll be back the next time I’m in the area craving fish and chips, but I’ll pass on the chowder. And the fritters too apparently.

Dutchman’s Seafood House
701 Embarcadero
Morro Bay, CA 93442
www.dutchmansseafoodhouse.com
Dutchman's Seafood House on Urbanspoon


Hey look, a picture that isn't dimly lit.

Hey look, a picture that isn’t dimly lit.


Standard Restaurant Review Disclaimer
The ambiguous and illogical rating system used in this review is not intended to be pinpoint accurate. It’s only there to give you a general idea of how much I like or dislike an establishment, and it also gives me an excuse to write silly things. If my rating system angers and distracts you, there’s a good chance you have control issues. I would also like to point out that I am not a highly qualified restaurant reviewer person, nor do I particularly care what that job is called. If you were under the impression that perhaps I was one of those people, consider your hopes dashed. Lastly, wow! You read the entire disclaimer. You get a gold star on your chart today.


Da Kitchen Cafe

meter-great-Jet lag is a curious thing. Your brain tells you one thing, the clock tells you another.. and neither tend to be correct. That’s why, when I travel, I rely on my stomach to tell me what time of day it is. Just three or four steps off of the plane in Maui, and it was clear I had missed a meal of some kind. I had no idea what time it was, but in Hawaii it doesn’t matter anyway. They should make it a rule that everyone is required to flush their watches down the toilet before stepping foot on Hawaiian soil.

Ok, where to eat, where to eat… As you would expect, the airport is jam packed with tourism brochures doing their very best to pry the money from the wallets of unsuspecting mainlanders. I have no desire whatsoever to visit “Big Mike’s Tourist Tilapia and Surf Lessons” or “Aloha Mahalo Hawaiian Hula Hamburger Hut”. No thank you. When you want local food you should ask a local (duh), and after receiving some advice from a rental car employee we happened upon Da Kitchen a couple miles down the road.


Local Hawaiian awesomeness lurks just inside these doors.

Local Hawaiian awesomeness lurks just inside these doors.


The interior of Da Kitchen is somewhat industrial and the ceilings are – no kidding – at least 25 feet high. Indeed the whole mini-mall complex appears to be a repurposed blimp hangar, but facts such as these matter little when one’s stomach is loudly demanding food. Da Kitchen’s menu is filled to the brim with local Hawaiian favorites, and the specials board alone was over twenty options deep. Quite a few offerings caught my eye, namely the macadamia crusted ahi sandwich with pesto, but in the end I settled on a classic hamburger steak plate lunch. My wife interviewed our waitress to discover what her favorite thing on the menu was, which turned out to be fish and chips.

Speaking of the wait staff (who are quite friendly by the way), all the people who work at Da Kitchen are about 90 pounds soaking wet combined, so I’m pretty sure they don’t actually eat there. If they do, they must have exercise routines that involve burning 4,000+ calories a day. I’ve never been served by a team of olympic triathletes before.


Mmmm, carb heaven.

Mmmm, carb heaven.


Our food arrived and it was magnificent. My hamburger steak was cooked perfectly, heaped with grilled onions and mushrooms, and swimming in lovely brown gravy. The “vegetable” on my plate, the potato mac salad, was excellent as well. The fish and chips across the table from me looked superb, and I knew immediately that I needed to get in on the action. I used the tried-and-true “Hey look a volcano!” trick and swiped one of the crispy golden fillets while my wife scrambled to find her camera. The batter was perfect, the mahi was so fresh it was still swimming and, critically, it wasn’t oily or greasy at all. Deeeeelish.

Overall I rate Da Kitchen 4 out of 5 sunburned tourists, making it totally worth looking up if you find yourself on Maui.


Da Kitchen Cafe
425 Koloa Street
Suite 104
Kahului, HI 96732
(808) 871-7782
www.da-kitchen.com

Da Kitchen Cafe on Urbanspoon


Yes, it really is as good as it looks.

Yes, it really is as good as it looks.