Old Fisherman's Grotto/Massaro & Santos
I recently posted about Thanksgiving in Monterey. The decision was to have Thanksgiving dinner at Old Fisherman's Grotto. I'm not interested in the special turkey dinner they'll be serving---I'll be ordering off their regular menu. So, what should I order? Is their cioppino good? Or would I do better to have their clam chowder and crabcakes? Or...?
We will also be having a dinner (the day before) at Massaro & Santos. What's best there? Is the cioppino better there than at OFG?
Lots of questions....thanks for your honest answers!
Thought I'd reply to my own post. We (DH & I and his parents) went to both restaurants last week. Wednesday evening we went to Massaro & Santos. We were there early---5:30pm---but we were the only diners. Lovely place, pleasant music, great view. Our server was pleasant, but I felt the meal was very rushed. I really prefer to finish one course before the next is served! We were in and out of the place in 45 minutes! And, as reported in other posts, we were given a lengthy verbal list of the night's "specials" with no mention of their price. Since I had forgotten to warn my frugal in-laws of this practice, I made a point of asking the price of the "grilled prawns served over angel hair pasta". The server pretended to misunderstand my question and proceeded to tell me what was in the dish. I asked the price AGAIN. He finally mumbled, "$35.95". This was at least $10 over the highest priced item on the (regular) menu.
The food was very good. We shared the unusual appetizer called "scalone". It was thin slices of abalone and scallop with a lovely sauce, nicely plated and garnished with fresh veggies.
We all had the chowder. Very nice, different, as mentioned by others, but a bit too heavy for my taste.
MIL had the sand dabs which she was very pleased with. FIL (neither a seafood lover nor a 'hound) had the Italian sausage ravioli. He said it was OK. I decided on a "small meal" of a bowl of chowder and an appetizer order of crab cakes. Lots of crab in the cakes, but I prefer more spice than these offered.
DH had the cioppino. Very good choice. Good choice for those who like the cioppino broth to have a good fish-base taste along with the tomato & spices. Only complaint was that the one shrimp I had from his dish was over-cooked.
The next day (Thanksgiving), we went to Old Fisherman's Wharf. We had 3:00pm reservations and were quickly ushered to our (requested) table in the corner next to the window. Great view!
The place was packed with families (as expected), so it was noisier and less "relaxed" than M & S.
Our server was very pleasant, friendly and efficient. We were certainly not rushed.
We started with the appetizer "sampler" with included a grilled artichoke (OK) and a DELICIOUS crab cake with a wonderful spicy sauce. It also included fried calamari which was not the best we've had.
We tried the chowder and found it less complex and more "traditional" than M & S's. I preferred it.
FIL went with the day's special---roast turkey with all the trimmings. Pretty good deal at $16.95, and he seemed pleased with it.
MIL had the egg batter-dipped sole and was very happy with it. Serving was HUGE. It came with mashed potaoes and mixed veggies.
DH decided to have the cioppino again. He liked the wider mix of seafood better than what M & S offered, and felt the abundance of mussels made it. The broth was more tomato-y than fish-y, something DH felt was it's weakness, but I preferred. I thought it complimented the seafood very well---nicely spiced. We were given the lunch menu, and prices were very attractive. Bad comparison since at M & S we ordered off the dinner menu, but the serving size of the cioppino was about the same, with the price at OFW about half as much as at M & S.
I had the prawn scampi. Four LARGE prawn were perfectly cooked in a very flavorful sauce. Sauce included chopped fresh tomatoes and green onions in addition to the garlic and olive oil. Very tasty. Served with turmeric rice and sauteed mixed veggies---all very good.
By the way, the bread basket at OFW is worth mentioning---nice variety!
We all had dessert. FIL had the pumpkin pie which was included in the special price. Said it was good. MIL and I had the Key Lime Pie. This was the only disappointment of the meal. The filling wasn't tart enough, and was topped with a thick layer of fake whipped cream. I make Key Lime Pie at home and much preferred my own.
DH had the winner---don't remember what they called it, but it was a house special chocolate layer cake with chocolate mouse, rasperry cream, and topped with chocolate ganache. Very tasty!
Overall, if/when we return to Monterey, I think we'd be more inclined to go back to Old Fisherman's Wharf on the "tourist pier" than to Massaro & Santos.
Old Fisherman's grotto is my fave. restaurant in Monterey. Their clam chowder is excellent (another excellent chowder is at Chili's not Chili's in Pacific Grove -- along w/their chicken pesto sandwich!) I usually get the macadamian crusted halibut or their salmon. My friend has ordered their steak (ribeye? I can't remember) and loved it. The restaurant also has a nice touch in that they give every lady a rose at the end of the evening :)
At M & S, the crusted halibut and sand dabs are both good. The clam chowder is complex and different than most. Can't comment on cioppinos, but that is usually a good dish in Monterey this time of year - I think crab season has begun (hasn't it?).
Be careful because this place always has a lot of "specials" that are specials only because they are not listed on the menu and are more expensive than menu items. I am not saying they are bad dishes, but be sure to ask about prices to avoid sticker shock when the tab arrives.
There have been lots of reports on the Board on Massaro and Santos, so I'd do a search. Reports are mixed, with the best votes going to simpler items. Don't get your expectations too high. Here is mine from last year, but I am sure you can find more recent: