As mentioned, we went on a little road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway for our 5th wedding anniversary. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of our favorite stops along the way, the first of which is the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company in Santa Barbara, California.
The Santa Barbara Shellfish Co. is located at the very end of the pier that State Street, Santa Barbara’s main drag, dead ends into. By the time we got there at about 7PM pretty much everything but the ice cream shops and the restaurants were closed so it didn’t have that weird overly touristy feel to it. It was also a Thursday and really quiet, we even found parking on the pier which I’ve been told is a very impressive feat. Anyway, this place is essentially a shack full of really delicious, simple seafood dishes.
When you get there, make a beeline for the sign up sheet. There is no line system here even though people do line up to watch the cooks and get a look at the live crabs. First available will get you the shortest waiting time. We waited about 20 minutes for a table. Don’t worry too much about sitting outside. It isn’t cold even when it feels really really cold while you are waiting for a table. The outdoor seating comes complete with heaters and is in a little alcove that really helps block the tables from the wind, plus the view is beautiful. When were inside checking out the tanks, I noticed all the windows were fogged up from the huge pots of boiling water.
While we waited, I took a chance to walk around and watch the fishermen catch their dinner. The view of the city from the end of the pier was work seeing. Apparently, you don’t need a license to fish off the pier, according to the locals (always check with the local governing authority) so if you want to catch some fishing while you are in town, this might be the best spot. People seemed to be catching some pretty good sized fish. One guy even caught two at once! I was mildly terrified one of the kids was going to end up in the water, but they all seemed very pier savvy.
The food here is simple and the portions are large enough to share, but you won’t want to. Nothing is covered in fancy sauces or plated in any spectacular manner. Instead they let the fresh seafood speak for itself, which is exactly what we were looking for. The menu consists of mostly tacos, sandwiches, pasta and seafood. The drink menu was fairly standard. Bonus points for the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers options. They didn’t have any local beers on the menu which I feel is a missed opportunity but otherwise we were satisfied with our meal.
I feel the need to confess that we are sharers, it’s pretty rare for us to go out to eat and not going halfsies. The meal was no exception. Guy ordered the Rock Crab Special At $24.95, which came with a choice of soup and salad. He had the option of lobster bisque or claw chowder, and chose the lobster bisque since we were planning on hitting Splash Cafe in Pismo specifically for some chowder. They also gave him the choice of a garden or Cesar salad, of which he chose the latter. The lobster bisque was different from what I had expected. Instead of being cream based, it was tomato based and very hearty, with tiny pieces of lobster throughout. It took a few bites to get used to it, but once I did I was sold and it was the perfect addition to our meal out on a cool evening. The salad dressing was also different but good. It was oil based and very light with a slight almost vinegary twang to it. The crab came with some clarified butter and a couple of onion rings as garnish. It was sweet and plentiful and not at all tough. They seem to have the art of cooking crabs down to a science.
I ordered the Fried Calamari, Oysters, Shrimp, and Scallops platter to try a little bit of everything. At $12.95 it came with some onion rings and coleslaw, both of which were neither awesome nor gross, they were just sort of standard I don’t like oysters. There, I said it, now you all now. I think they are gross raw and only minimally more tolerable when they are fried. I did try the oysters and they were not chewy at all which is what I feared, for oysters they weren’t too bad. Nothing was over cooked and between the two of us we managed to clear my plate.
And afterwards we were happy and full and needed to walk about the pier to work off some dinner to make room for dessert at a later time and place.
Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.
230 Stearns Wharf
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Meal for Two People After Tax and Tip $65