Shake's Old Fisherman's Grotto
When choosing between lunch options, I always lean towards a place with a good sign.
I was pretty excited when I spotted this neon sign, jammed with swirly letters. Shake's? What was that? We would find out.
Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey
While traveling down the California coast last fall, Don and I wound up in Monterey around lunchtime. Cannery Row? Fisherman's Wharf?
Both sounded touristy, but curious. I pushed for the Wharf. Monterey's history goes way back. There was a stone pier here, in the 1840's, then a commercial fishing wharf, in the early 1900's.
Pink and Yellow
We headed down the colorful wharf in search of lunch. There was something a little Disneyland-ish about the pastel buildings, with the playful rooflines. But I kind of loved the bubble gum pink, of Carousel Fine Candies.
The yellow of Old Grotto building, reminded me of banana taffy... or was that a mustard yellow. I was hungry!
There was something inviting about this whole exterior. First I spotted a carved fisherman character, wearing a yellow slicker and holding a fish. He stood beside an open market, displaying foods on ice. No one was welcoming us on this day, with samples of clam chowder, but evidently that's a thing at OFG!
Further down, beneath the black and white awning, I spotted another character. He was of the human kind. Wearing a black vest and tie and a white apron, he welcomed passersby. Maybe he just ran out of chowder. Or maybe that tradition stopped with Covid.
Just past the entrance there was another, statue-type greeter. He wore a white suit and hat and held an OPEN sign.
The statue stood near a quite impressive display of food and wine. Don and I continued on, since we had planned on a light, informal lunch. We weren't dressed for a classy meal.
But after exploring a while, we didn't find anything nearly as interesting as this old place.
We wandered back to take a closer look and saw the red sign. "Voted Best Clam Chowder 15 years in a Row".
A Less Welcoming Sign
We headed over to get our name on a wait list. Then I took better notice of the statue of the man in the hat. This was actually a statue of Sabu Shake, Sr., the original owner of the restaurant. His smile was welcoming, but the sign near his feet was not.
Just days before, Don and I had vacationed (and dined out) with our 20 month old grandchild. Our sweet memories were so fresh, that the strict Kid Policy made me frown. That seemed pretty bold in this day and age of acceptance. But we were hungry and didn't boycott the restaurant... which is just what many did about 7 years ago, when someone posted a photo of the sign on social media. Suddenly the media, from Fox News to the New York Times, took notice. Even though quiet children (without strollers or highchairs) are welcome, the place stays pretty kid free. Which I guess is a plus to some customers, because they sure weren't hurting for business.
In We Go
When our table was ready, I tried not to overthink the kid rules. Don and I embraced our old age and child-free status and went on in.. determined to behave ourselves.
The wood and leather interior made it feel like we were stepping into a the 1950's, when Sabu and his wife Isabella first opened this restauran, as The Chowder House. They raised their 6 sons while they ran the restaurant in Monterey.
Cozy Throw Back
We could have gotten on a waiting list for a table overlooking Monterey Bay Harbor.
But all the tables and booths look comfy with their tufted leather and glowing lamps. There was even a little Frank Sinatra playing.
I took a quick peek upstairs, when I checked out the restroom.
There were plenty of booths with views up there. Lots of wine bottles, too.
I imagine you need a reservation to grab one of these tables on the weekend.
Near the restrooms I found some framed photos. This one intrigued me. Why was this old newspaper about the Titanic, displayed?
I read later that Pakistan-born, Sabu Shake, lost most of his family in the 1930's, on a sinking ship. It couldn't have been the Titanic, in the thirties. I wonder about the connection.
I took a photo of this framed portrait of the Shake family. It must have been taken before the 6th son was born. I read up on their history and learned that Sabu emigrated (with nothing) in the 1950's, to Sacramento. He met Isabella, an Italian Catholic. They married, then moved to Monterey. Sabu found work as a dishwasher on Fisherman's Wharf.
Sabu's hard work paid off as he moved up the ladder, working at various restaurants on the Wharf. In the late '50's the Shakes bought the restaurant that is now, Old Fisherman's Grotto. Over the years all the boys worked in the restaurant. The oldest son, Chris, is the owner now.
Down I Go
I headed down the rather grand stairway, to fill Don in on what I saw and learned.
Poor Don is used to me getting sidetracked, on restroom visits.
It was time to order and absorb some flavor along with the restaurant history. I couldn't resist the Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with candied walnuts.
I knew it was silly to not order seafood, but I went for the fall special of sweet potato soup. The thick soup with swirls of sauce and crispy sweet potato, was just right!
Chowder and More
While Don sampled the award winning, (creamy-clam-packed) chowder, I snooped on the table behind him. There was a man with dark hair and white dress shirt, who chatted frequently with staff. VIP?
Now as I look back at the photo of the host's desk, I zoom in and wonder if this dapper man sitting behind us, could have been owner, Chris Shake.
After enjoying our little lunch feast, we took a peek at the bar.
There were no guests enjoying the cozy-classic space, but there were lots of pineapples. Hmmm?
Lots of Photos
There were also tons of framed photos! I eagerly searched the walls for pictures of celebrities, that I might recognize. I spotted no familiar faces, but I learned later that Mother Theresa and Jim Carrey have both been guests. Very different kinds of guests.
All the images appeared to include Sabu Shake Sr and/ Chris Shake, with guests.
I assume this is Sabu and Chris, but I have no clue who the woman is.
Now that I've read a little more, I'm a lot more curious about the Shake family and their restaurant. Chris evidently started working in the kitchen at 11. He dropped out of school after 7th grade, to work and train for the family biz. He owns OFG, but he and his brother own hundreds of food businesses in Monterey. That's pretty wild.
The Whole Wharf Experience
Old Fisherman's Grotto has been a part of the Wharf scene, for over 60 years. I felt like our whole lunch outing was a fun combination. Sitting and dining in a classic seafood restaurant AND Strolling and exploring the Wharf and nearby historic buildings.
That was sort of a perfect package and we almost passed it up, because we thought it might be too formal.
What Will I Remember?
Our visit was pretty quick, because we were on the road. But even then our meal was delicious and relaxing.
I loved learning some little tidbits of Shake Family history. It was intriguing. I have a lot of respect for hardworking families. But I'm afraid I'll always have a bit of a nagging guilt that we dined in a restaurant that tries to keep kids away. We trained our kids to dine politely in restaurants, by taking them to restaurants. It makes me sad to think that we would have been frowned upon, if we'd had our sweet granddaughter with us.
A Welcoming Lumberjack
How could we pass up the opportunity to dine at a place with a giant lumberjack in front? The lumberjack lured us, but so did the banner. "Dining Room Now Open!"
Our Summer of 2021 Pandemic Travels, made for some tricky, on-the-road-eating. A year before, we had done only drive through and picnics. But last July, we were vaccinated and appreciative of safe dining rooms.
Don and I found the restaurant with the giant log cutter, while driving through the town of Willits.
I was mighty impressed by the grand arch! "Gateway to the Redwoods".
I thought the sign seemed little familiar.
I'm not sure how many arched signs Reno has had over the years. But evidently, the Biggest Little City, donated one of their old signs to Willits.
Al's Redwood Room
While driving down the main drag in Willits, I spotted another fine sign. This is really where I wanted to eat! That's a nifty neon sign, worthy of old Reno!
I love the martini on top and I love knowing it opened in 1901! But it was closed. Possibly closed down.
Saws and Logs
So after our drive through town, we turned around and headed back to Lumberjacks.
If we couldn't have martinis at Al's Redwood Room, I was happy to enjoy a Saw and Log Theme, at Lumberjacks.
There were lots of open tables, in the two dining rooms.
I was glad to see lots of wood. If you're going to eat in a Lumberjack themed restaurant, you want to see some wood.
I've seen some fine artwork in restaurant bathrooms, over the years. This lumberjack mural was quite a hoot and worthy of a photo.
At first, I thought this was a Lady Lumberjack, swishing along with her long skirt and axe. I'm actually not sure about the gender, but I'm pretty sure that this lumberjack has some very defined glute muscles. I'm guessing axe swinging must help with that.
"Where the Big Boys Eat"
The dated tagline on the restaurant's sign, made me think this restaurant might have started up 50 years ago. But, in truth this is a fairly new biz. It opened in 2004.
Since I'm not a Big Boy, I decided to go with a Dainty Dinner Salad. (not the real name) I was pleasantly surprised that this little "$5.99 salad was so tasty! Crispy croutons, bacon and cucumbers... fresh tomato, onion and thick thousand island on the side. Honestly, this was a treat!
My Lumberjack with a Biscuit!
When I first met Don over 40 years ago, he had a beard and wore flannel shirts a lot. He could have passed for a lumberjack. In 2021, Don was not intimidated by the macho decor or slogan. He happily ordered a $9.99 "Senior Breakfast" and it was pretty darn good.
Don's omelet and potatoes were hearty enough for any aging lumberjack. But the most memorable goodie, was the biscuit! That fluffy hot biscuit was big enough to feed the big statue in front!
Worthy of a Write Up
Ordinarily the old blog posts are about odd or old, cafes and diners. A chain restaurant that's less than 20 years old, doesn't usually make the cut.
But I have to give a place some credit when it does well with it's theme.
Plus the food and prices were worthy! I should have gone for some homemade pie, after my dainty salad. The pies looked mighty good.
Of course I had to pose, before we headed to the car.
Next time I come, I'll wear a plaid shirt. Maybe I'll ask if the lumberjack has a name. I'm guessing the staff has a few stories to tell about this big guy.
Not Your Typical Napa Experience!
People don't visit Napa to eat at shopping centers.
But Don and I did just that. I read about Squeeze Inn and wanted to give it a try.
Heaters and Art
We arrived early before the lunch rush. Along one wall, there was a lineup of tables. There were also a few outdoor heaters. Hmm?
There were lots of burger and beer and sport related posters. Charlie Chaplin didn't quite fit in.
The Counter and Grill
The only customer, was seated at the counter having a beer.
There were lots of available stools and lots of available catsup bottles!
Squeezeburger with Cheese
We ordered at the end of the counter.
It was the Squeezeburger we'd heard about. But I figured we also needed to try a deep fried hotdog, while we were being incredibly unhealthy.
Eye on the Grill
The lone customer finished his beer and was suddenly on his way.
Yay! We moved up to the counter and enjoyed the show. Nothing quite like watching a cook, when they really know what they're doing at the grill.
Making a Squeezeburger
So we watched the guy toss a pile of cheddar onto the grill. The burger then landed on top.
Then he covered the burger with the metal hood, while he fried up my hotdog. I think the bun was heated on top of the hood actually. ??
And this is how it looked!
We took our tray of decadence and headed for the patio.
This is our lunch feast and I am not ashamed. Don's burger had the perfect "cheese skirt".
My fried hotdog was healthy, because it had tomatoes and pickles.
How to Eat?
In these photos, you can see even better how ridiculous our meal was.
Don actually cut away at the cheese skirt. I tried to wrap some of the cheese around some of our fries. Interesting.
My hotdog was surprisingly tasty. I've never had tomatoes on a hotdog and I've never had a fried dog. So how did we do? We sampled each others and secretly threw away over half. It was good! We just stopped before we were miserable.
A Question for This Guy
Before leaving, we headed back inside to let our cook know that we enjoyed our first Squeezburger Experience. Then I had to ask.
"I read that your ceiling is covered with toothpicks." I asked him why I didn't see any. He laughed and said they had issues with the fire marshal and that little tradition of shooting toothpicks through a straw, into the ceiling had to end.
Oh well, we sampled our first Squeezeburger. Good enough!
This past summer, Don and I had breakfast at this cute diner, across from our motel.
The sign was very entertaining. The letters in Fisherman, were hidden in flags at the top. Restaurant was written with driftwood. And what about that lil mermaid with her dolphin and Paul Bunyan and his ox! Who can resist a restaurant with a sign like that?
Our breakfast at Fisherman's, tied in nicely with our Crescent City Experience. We've passed through this little "city" before, but it has always felt gloomy, socked in with fog.
After 20 hours in C City, I left with some fond memories of the place. We got to see it in sunshine! We also learned about the struggles this community has overcome, dealing with multiple Tsunamis.
Curly Redwood Lodge
This is the fine motel where Don and I stayed. It's been sitting here on the Redwood Highway since 1957.
The quirky little motel has some history. Plus, it was right across the street from Fisherman's!
Open on Thursday!
We'd been so disappointed to find the restaurant closed on Wednesday, when we checked into our inn.
But luckily, the restaurant opened at 6 am on Thursday! They were doing a pretty good business by the time we headed over at 8.
Seat with a View
During our pandemic summer travels of 2021, Don and I learned to expect a wait, or possibly a stressed staff. But we were greeted by a friendly staff and a couple Good Mornings, when we entered. We took a window booth, with a view.
I was sort of amused to have this view, with our motel across the street. Even the parking lot was a bit entertaining. At one point a big pickup with "Redneck" written on the windshield, parked near the BMW and MINI Cooper. What an odd assortment of cars. And then there was that fog that rolled in and out. A common thing in Crescent City.
From our table, I looked around and took in the decor. There seemed to be 2 themes. There were lots of patriotic banners.
Tying into the nautical theme, I spotted lots of lighthouses. Crescent City does have a very picturesque lighthouse.
Short Walk Away
The restaurant was a convenient walk from our motel. But the diner also had a nice location for wandering to the harbor. Just a short walk from the restaurant, we found this scene. We could hear the sea lions from our motel!
We could also hear the eerie sound of the foghorn, (I'm guessing from the lighthouse) continuously.
Our upbeat server Susan, brought our coffee right away. I commented on her good mood and she laughed that she'd already been working for a couple hours.
I ordered a simple bagel and cream cheese, since I knew I'd be helping Don with his feast.
Don's sushi shirt did not go well with his omelet and hash browns and pancake. We worked together and almost finished!
Before taking off, we could have shopped a bit for some souvenirs.
If they'd sold Hawaiian shirts, maybe I would have bought one. I noticed that all the staff flowered shirts. Maybe that's why they were in such good moods. Or maybe they were in good spirits because they'd all had a day off the day before. Or maybe you have to enjoy your work, when your owner/manager is the kind of person who suggests flowered shirts for uniforms.
Don and I left with full stomachs and we left in good moods.
There was nothing spectacular about the food or the interior of Fisherman's. But I think this little restaurant was probably the friendliest of all the food stops on our summer road trip of 2021.
Don and I learned about the historic town of Locke, during a recent visit to Sacramento.
The historic town is located in the California Delta, about 30 minutes south of Sacramento. We ended our memorable visit to the town, with a sweet little meal at Locke Garden.
Saturday in Locke
In July, Don and I visited our son and daughter-in-law in Sac, when they asked if we'd heard about the Chinese town of Locke. We hadn't, but we were intrigued.
We arrived on a warm Sunday morning. The little 10-acre town was very peaceful. We wandered and wondered about what this community was like, when it was established in 1915.
Locke is the only existing town in America, built and inhabited almost exclusively by Chinese. At one time the town was bustling with markets, canneries, shipping wharves, a post office and an opera house.
There were also slaughter houses, brothels, a speakeasy and gambling houses. It was amazing to see how little most of these building had changed, over time. Sadly there are only a few Chinese residents left, but luckily the community has been preserved.
We spent some time in the Museum Visitor Center, which was located in what had been a boarding house, for the seasonal labor workers.
We met photographer (and Locke resident) James Motlow, after we bought his book Bitter Melon, in the gift shop. This fascinating book includes photos he took of the Locke community, about 30 years ago. Now that I've read the book, I have so many more questions.
While we explored the town, we worked up an appetite. As far as I know, there are only 2 places to eat in Locke. Al the Wops, was on the Main Street. It looked like an intriguing old bar, (offering steaks and cocktails) but it had an awful name.
The place had some history for sure. Al Adami opened the first non-Chinese business in Locke, in 1934. Today, I think the place caters to bikers, which seems extra odd in this sweet community. But Al's was closed for a private affair.
This was our other option and this one made a lot more sense, in this historic Chinese town.
The sign on the side of the building was enough to lure me. I wonder when that sign was first hung?
First Building in Locke
This building was a little hidden. We found it between the Main Street and the River Road. Evidently it was the first building in Locke. It opened as a beer hall, in 1912.
The sign said the restaurant opened at 11, but the dear woman who seemed to be running things herself, asked us to come back later. I believe her husband had a toothache and she was a little behind.
We returned and entered the colorful restaurant/shop. There wasn't an option for inside dining, due to Covid. But we studied the menu and placed an order for carryouts.
I so wanted to peek around, to see what was for sale on the shelves, but the dining tables were moved to make a protective barrier. We paid up and headed outside to wait.
Dining Under the Metal Roof
The old building looked more like a storefront from the old west. We found a couple tables on the porch under the tin roof.
The old crooked tree in front added lots of character. I wonder if that tree was there, when the old beer hall was first built.
Lunch in a Box
The dear woman who took our order (and most likely cooked it) finally arrived on the porch carrying a cardboard box.
We pulled the Styrofoam containers, plates and plasticware out of the box. The food would have been tastier if it hadn't been served on Styrofoam, but we were happy to have our freshly cooked feast.
Our Moo Shu Pork was a treat. The Kung Pao Chicken was good as well. But, next time we need to remember to order rice.
As we enjoyed our little porch feast, we peered up the wooden walkway and wondered about the buildings beyond. It looked like we were peeking into the " backyards" of the 2-story buildings that faced Main Street. I wanted to wander up those steps and snoop.
But that seemed pretty intrusive, so I didn't.
Instead, I let my zoom lens peek up there for me. What a sweet old neon sign! What pretty purple flowers, growing over the red pipe.
Not Enough Time
We clearly didn't have enough time to absorb this wonderful community.
The pandemic also limited our ability to interact. We definitely need to return to Locke! Who knows, maybe the Moon Cafe will reopen someday and we can have another dining adventure!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.