In an unassuming older commercial neighborhood in Seaside, California, – just north of Monterey – we recently discovered an alternative to the pricey tourist-oriented seafood restaurants up and down the Monterey peninsula. It is called The Fishwife. There same people own and operate three other eating places in the area. There is a Mexican/Belizian-oriented taqueria next door called Turtle Bay and an additional version of each 'brand' a bit further south in Pacific Grove, home of the famous Asilomar Conference Grounds and the renowned and much visited Monarch butterfly sanctuary.
You can eat really nicely prepared and presented seafood at The Fishwife for about half what the touristy places charge. It feels like a bargain – And sure as heck tastes like one!
Serving a wide assortment of fresh, generously proportioned seafood dishes, The Fishwife is open at lunch time and serves lunch or dinner until closing late in the evening. There is no ocean view nor are there sounds of waves crashing. No cloth napkins or Art Deco light fixtures. No overdressed servers or encyclopedic wine lists. It is simply a neighborhood restaurant about a half mile from the beach. What it DOES have, however, more than makes up for what it lacks.
The lunch and dinner menus are similar and we noticed that the many locals and obvious 'regulars' used them interchangeably. Each presents a couple of dozen main seafood entrees. Many local varieties, including swordfish, snapper, halibut, sand dabs, shrimp and salmon are available in various styles and preparations.
All are done "Carribean" style with an appropriately suggestive, but not overpowering, dusting of spiciness. Nothing here is bland, but you won't need a pitcher of iced water to survive the meal with either. My wife and I are tough customers when it comes to sea food, and thought that The Fishwife got things just right!
We actually came across it in an ad in the phone book in our hotel room. A member of the staff at the hotel, when we asked him for directions to it, smiled broadly and told us that his grandmother and he had been frequenting The Fishwife since he was a child. We took that as a good recommendation!
Unpretentious and simple, The Fishwife in Seaside has a small dining room holding only about 30 people. Unlike the larger, overpriced competition in the area, it is quiet and a pleasant place to eat. The room you first enter has a couple of tables and a fresh fish counter where you can buy the raw makings for your own cooking any time.
The night before we came across The Fishwife, we spent about $30. a piece on a seafood dinner at a waterfront restaurant about a mile away. It was OK – But, the food at The Fishwife was honestly better prepared, more tasty and the portions were nearly twice the size of those served the night before at about half the price ($12 – $14 per entrée.) Our dinners were prepared in a timely way and served by a woman so welcoming we mistakenly presumed that she was the owner. She was not.
I had Prawns, sautéed in butter and served in a white sauce with some mildly spicy salsa and my wife had the local Sand Dabs, lightly breaded and sautéed. Each entrée was served with fresh lightly steamed vegetables and rice. The available Clam Chowder puts those served at the expensive places to absolute shame!
As an unexpected added bonus, directly across the street is the Monterey Chocolate Factory where you can buy and bring home your own hand-selected assortment of freshly made chocolatty decadence. They also offer, for those of you 60 or older, a senior discount! They surprised us by offering it. WE were not insulted.
The Monterey Peninsula is a world known tourist magnet – For both its natural beauty and special attractions. The food establishments know it and cash in. You can, though, eat well without breaking your or your family's bank at The Fishwife. The next time you're down that way, be sure to check it out.
The Fishwife: 789 Trinity Avenue Seaside, CA 93955 (831) 394-2027