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Restaurants & Bars 16

The Nantucket – Clam chowder and Cioppino - BIG downhill report

Krys | Mar 18, 200511:51 PM

I ordered dessert because I was sure I’d never be back, so I might as well satisfy my curiousity. However, after the chowder and cioppino, I faced it with some fear.

The dessert, strawberry / raspberry shortcake, was surprisingly good. The Nantucket makes all the desserts, and the waitress said, “The only thing we don’t do is grow the strawberries”.

Even though the fruit was of the Safeway variety, a thick pink strawberry flavored whipped cream topped a pound cake sandwich filled with and surrounded by strawberries and raspberries. It was not overly sweet and very tasty.

Other good things about the Nantucket
- Nice place for a beer and watching ships navigate the Carquinez Straight.
- Super friendly and pleasant staff
- They serve bags of oyster crackers with the chowder. I like oyster crackers

There was a mix-up with the chowder. I took two bites and called the waitress over.

Me: I’m sorry. The kitchen made a mistake. This is cream of mushroom soup
Waitress: We only have clam chowder today and tomato basil. It’s not red.

A picture of my face at that moment when I looked back down in the cup of chowder probably would have been priceless.

The garlic bread was microwaved too long and hard. I saw the yellow butter on the bread. I assume the brown stuff on top was garlic. There was absolutely no butter/garlic taste.

There are outdoor tables. Each table has a sign that says, “Please don’t feed the pigeons”. I know why people feed the pigeons. It’s the only use for that bread.

The waitress brought all the cioppino utensils in a bowl: wet linen napkin, with soup spoon, crab cracker, plastic bib with crab picture on front and seafood fork piercing a wedge of lemon.

While I liked the soupy consistency of the broth in the cioppino, I suspect it started its life as a can of Campbell’s tomato soup. If not, they have successfully captured the color and flavor. Like the garlic bread, I could see the herbs in the broth. I just could not taste them.

Some pieces of canned tomato floated in the cioppino. But the worst part was they topped it with diced fresh out of season tomato that was … cold.

Perhaps this is one of those cases where an upscale restaurant idea filters down to an everyday place. Like at Michael Minna, who serves items three ways, the number three played a part in the cioppino.

There were three tasteless scallops, three fishy mussels, three tough shrimp, three unidentifiable clams … well … three shells and one clam in shell … elusive mollusks, those clams.

Even the crab just had three legs. The legs clung to a little piece of crab body. It was not sweet crab.

There were flakes of white fish in the chowder and a few small, overcooked pieces. There was a lone tiny piece of salmon. I could tell it was salmon. It was pink.

There was a generous sprinkling of bay shrimp with an unusual texture that made me suspect they were frozen. In fact, one of the mussel shells was cold to the touch which I could not figure out how that would happen.

Glancing at the menu the fish seemed to span the globe – fish from Alaska, Norway, Hawaii and Eastern scallops. The crab seemed the only Bay Area representative. Like so many of us here, I suspect he was born elsewhere.

Instead of the wine of the day (2003 Sycamore Lane Chardonnay - $3.50), on this drizzly afternoon I should have ordered the drink of the day – Purple Rain (gin, rum, vodka, triple sec, sweet and sour mix, sprite, and a float of Chamboard). Given the quality of the food, this would have been the perfect accompaniment. This post would have been more confused, but more positive.

What was really bad was that the prices were EXACTLY the same as Tadich’s Grill.

I’ve been to Tadich’s Grill.. I know Tadich’s Grill. And this was no Tadich’s Grill. However, if the food had been the equal of Tadich’s I would not have had a problem because the restaurant has it’s own charm. I want to like it.

I love the gritty working class atmosphere of The Nantucket. It has a Kelly’s Mission Rock / The Ramp feel … but more so.

Located under the Alfred Zampa bridge in an industrial area, you park your car in an unpaved lot and cross the train tracks right next to the restaurant. When a train passes by, the whole restaurant shakes like there is a 6.0 quake.

A half dozen commercial fishing boats are moored next to the dock and on a nice day you can eat outside at one of the many white picnic tables. A tug boat and a long abandoned ferry, now boarded up, round out the fleet.

Inside there’s a huge marlin on one wall, beginning to yellow with age. There are some nice pictures of the Carquinez Bridge in various stages of construction, The restaurant is done in fading colors of marlin blue. There’s a fish tank with a few live fish negotiating chardonnay colored water.

Ceiling fans on the pine stained plywood ceiling, turned lazily. Some potted plants and blue and white plastic tiffany type lamps complete the décor.

There is a cozy feel. It is a nice gathering spot for locals and the restaurant was full of talk and laughter. Men dropped by after work for a beer and in the restaurants ladies gathered for a meal.

The history of the area is printed on the front of the menu. The Carquinez Straight was named after a local Indian tribe.

1866 – The first family settled in Crockett.
1906 – C & H Sugar starts business in the Old Star Mill built in 1880.
1928 – The Dowrello family builds the wharf and starts a fishing business
1930 – Dowrello’s Restaurant opens
1945 – The restaurant is now called Galley Seafood
1945 – The restaurant is named The Bouillabaisse and The Nantucket Restaurant
1994 – The restaurant becomes The Nantucket

Given all that, will I go back … yes. I like the view and the relaxed feel. Maybe I’ll watch the gulls while sampling some more of the home made desserts. The regular dessert menu includes:
- hot fudge chocolate cake
- cinnamon apple cake
- crème brulle
- white chocolate cheesecake
- chocolate mouse

There are a number of suggestions for adding liquor to your coffee.

Or on a cold day, I’ll nurse one of the fun drinks like a hot apple pie, buttered rum, Jamaican coffee (rum tia maria, coffee and whipped cream), Mexican coffe or a smuggler (peppermint schnapps and cocoa).

And who knows. Some day, after maybe a little too much Guinness pub draft beer, I’ll throw caution to the wind and try the fish and chips. They looked pretty good.

The menu has a number of fried fish including calamari. There are some pastas, seafood based salads, sautéed seafood, grilled chicken seafood and steaks.

Appetizers include steamed clams crab cakes, blackened prawns and various fried veggies and seafood items like clam strips.

There’s a cannery row romance to the place, the cannery row when Steinbeck roamed the streets. It is a working man’s joint. A sign on the side of the restaurant says the new Alfred Zampa bridge is named for an iron worker who helped build the Golden Gate Bridge and other Bay Area Bridges. The bridge also honors all the other unknown workers who helped in the construction of the Bay Area.

That seems like a good thing, Sitting on the dock while watching the seagulls ride the breeze seems worth an over priced mediocre meal occasionally … especially on a sunny day.

Maybe one of these days, I'll make it over to the Crockett Museum which has lot's of information about the town with the C & H Sugar Plant.

Port Street, Crockett
PHONE: (510) 787-2233

Directions: Take Crockett exit off of I-80. Left on Pomona Avenue, left on Port Street. Located at the foot of Port Street on the Crocket Marina, under the Zampa and Carquinez bridges.

11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.


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