Well, hubby and I went on a seafood binge yesterday and are trying to get those cholesterol levels back to equilibrium. Of course, I had to hold him back from the fresh oysters at the Aptos farmer's market this AM--geesh.
As I'm sure has often been discussed on this and other coastal boards, wharf food can generally be overpriced and underwhelming, catering to the famished and uninformed tourist. I was one of those fools when I first moved to Santa Cruz, having had a lackluster meal at Stagnaro's on the wharf. But I knew that good seafood was awaiting elsewhere...
Yesterday was a gorgeous fall day in SC, and hubby and I were able to stop for lunch at the Yacht Harbor, east of the wharf/boardwalk area. My main goal was to pick up 2 live dungeness crabs from a crabbing boat ($4/lb.), but hey, I'd been wanting to try Aldo's in that area and it just so happened to be lunchtime.
Aldo's is perched at the very southern tip of the west harbor, offering diners a clear and tranquil view of the Monterey Bay. My friends, everything about this place screams non-contrived nautical--the docked boats, sea gulls, dark wood furnishings, navy blue and white walls, exterior paint weathered by salty ocean air. Although the outside looks shabby from the webphoto, it is actually very clean and comfy while the inside is dressed up a bit. Even though we chose to stay warm by sitting inside, the sun streamed in through large windows, which framed the view like a Hopper painting.
They only serve breakfast and lunch, and in typical mom-and-pop fashion they open until "closing," which on Fri. happened to be "around 3." Lunch menu is tailored to chowder, fried seafood baskets, classic seafood salads, and the usual drinks (although they did have a few basic wines by the glass). I'm sure the menu changes daily depending on what's available, so the webmenu is different from what we were given that day.
Hubby ordered the fried oysters w/ fries ($7.95) and I ordered the fried calamari w/ chowder ($7.95 + $1 xtra for the chowder). We didn't bother getting the other side option: a salad. The chowder was cream-based and had mostly clams w/ a few celery pieces and new potatoes floating around. The flavor was smokey and deep, and the clams were weepingly tender. Consistency of the chowder was on the runny side for my taste, but the flavor dwarfed that complaint quickly.
Food came out relatively fast given that they were apparently busy. Oysters were the size of golf balls. Calamari had a nice textural mix of flat pieces and tentacles. At first, they didn't look as coated or as crisp as I like; however, upon tasting, they were both so achingly fresh and flavorful that we actually agreed that the light-frying allowed them to shine. Not sure if that was intentional, but the fries were noticeably more crispy. Also worth a mention is the tartar sauce--it was smooth, tangy, and sweet. 2 platters w/ sides and 2 iced teas = $20 before tax & tip. Servers looked like UCSC students, and they were very efficient, friendly, and helpful.
Well, we will be back very soon for their breakfast. I can't picture a more perfect morning: fugasa french toast or seafood omelette, coffee, paper, and that view. This seems to be where the locals go, and for dining at dinnertime, the Crow's Nest on the east end may fit the bill. BTW, we did get that crab and it was melt-in-your-mouth heaven.