I may stop being such a snob about Fishermans wharf, well, at least the Pier 39 part of it.
I had a satisfying breakfast this week at Eagle Café and decided to go back for dinner. Once again I was happily surprised.
The Eagle dresses up slightly for dinner. There are folded white napkins on the tables, curtains cover the large menu board, a vase of flowers is placed next to the register and . there is a waiter who comes to your table with a menu. There is even a wine list (ok, six wines, but they were well thought out and reasonable).
What really kills me, is that they do all this without losing the workingmans look and feel. That view just gets better at sunset.
Theres a few extra entrées and appetizers on the menu in addition to the regular items. For $12.95 there were four entrees with either salad or clam chowder. The two I remember were trout and char grilled pork chops with mashed potatoes and home made apple chutney.
I was really there for the seafood salad. Thats what brought me back. I also tried the spring roll appetizer with the house chardonnay. The house wine is La Terre and they also have La Terre Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and White Zin. All are $4 a glass.
The hot ginger dipping sauce with the spring rolls was memorable. One of the best dipping sauces I have ever had with a real hot ginger bite. The spring rolls came wrapped around whole shrimp and stuffed with spicy, crisp cabbage. The only nit I had was the wrapper was a little too thick. But this was a great dish.
The seafood salad was really fresh. On a bed of mixed greens there were two char grilled shrimp, a thin fillet of warm char grilled salmon and a scoop of crab meat. $12.95.
I had a glass of Chateau Sovereign Sauvignon Blanc ($6) that went really nicely with the fish.
Other wines on the list were
William Hill Chardonnay (6.75)
Talus Merlot (5.50)
Berringer Cabernet (5.25)
Chateau St. Michelle Johannesburg Riesling (5.00)
The wine servings were generous. There are also beers and a full bar.
Ive been taken with Pier 39 lately. Its a lot better that I remembered it. However, the last time I was there, Dan Whites family was selling potatoes.
Looking around at the restaurants, and with my success at Eagle, I thought, how bad can the food be? How can you ruin fish and crab.
Neptunes Palace is how bad it can be. I was lured in by Dungeness crab spring rolls. I should have known. The copper bar top was smudged. The wine was memorably awful ($7) as well as the bartender. I never did get the name of the wine because he mumbled so much.
As far as the spring rolls, I want to know WHERES the CRAB? The flabby wrappers encased a mushy interior that looked like veggies and no crab. Ive had better dipping sauce at McDonalds. It was sweet, cloying and watery. ($7.50)
Yet I thought, SURELY the lobster pot stickers cant be a miss. Its amazing anyone could make lobster taste bad. The filling was lobster shell red and almost cold, it had not fully defrosted. It was like they used the tip of the lobster claw to fill these. That soft rubbery part of the claw. The casing was like barely cooked Pillsbury popping fresh dough. It sat on a soggy mass of cabbage. ($7.25) Red Lobster was looking gourmet next to this mess. I was tempted to tell tourists browsing the menu not to eat at Neptunes Palace.
Another place I tried was Trishs mini donuts. The thought was to try one small donut and give the rest away. Not that I like them, but they looked like mini Krispy Kremes. They are fried up fresh. They made Krispy Kremes look like an upscale dessert cooked up by Gary Danko. personally. The donut I tried tasted like raw batter. Then there was a bitter after taste of baking soda that remained for a long, long time. The seagulls got the rest of the bag.
That being said. There are some decent eats besides the Eagle on the wharf. There is two hours of free parking with validation if you leave the garage after 6pm. Its one hour of free parking with validation in the morning.
There is a Boudin. Although they are no longer my favorite, North Beach Pizza is there. One seafood restaurant, Chics Place had some three course offerings for $19. Kids ate free with an adult. I think I may give this a try in the future. There was a crab chowder with dinner.
There are a number of cheap seafood vendors where you can get fish and chips for five bucks. There are even a number of places that sell clam strips if you are desperate for a fried clam fix.
Blue chip cookies is there. These were my favorites in the days I was eating cookies. Cant say if they currently maintain their quality.
Theres a place that makes crepes. You can watch them making the crepes through the window. Two tourists were watching and one said to another I guess they are like burritos. I really wanted to grab this woman by the shoulders and shout Where DO you live. I mean who hasnt heard of crepes?. Not exactly exotic fare, you know. However, I thought the SF visitors bureau would frown on this sort of treatment of visitors, so I just walked away mumbling to myself.
If nothing else, the view from Pier 39 is just amazing. There are public access picnic tables at the end of the pier where you could bring along a picnic from better places and just enjoy the bay.
Watching the sea lions while the copper sun slipped behind the Golden Gate bridge was totally relaxing. The sky turned colors of robin egg blue with streaks of peach, pink and spots of lavender. The Marin hills turned indigo and the lights of Sausalito started to twinkle.
There is nothing more contented looking than sleeping, smiling sea lions as they rested there heads on each others comfy pillows of fat. Visitors cheered the sea lion contest where two large animals were doing a maritime sumo match on who would own the dock. Seagulls sat stoically on sea walls watching the contest. A symphony of sea lion barks and seagull cries accompanied all. Sailboats, ships and ferries glided by on the calm blue water. There was a real feeling of peace peace.