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Nov 16, 2005 11:53 AM

Quinn's Lighthouse (Oakland, on Alameda Estuary) - Review

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Quinn's Lighthouse - 1951 Embarcadero Cove, Oakland.
510 536 2050
Dining Room:
11:30 - 9 (10pm F & Sa)
Sunday brunch menu: 11:30 - 3pm
Food served 11:30 - closing, every day.
Parking situation: not bad at all, with some assigned parking.

Quinn's Lighthouse is near the bridge on the Oakland side of the Alameda Estuary. It's a landmark (1890) building right on the water with huge windows
downstairs and deck/umbrella table seating upstairs.
Prices are inexpensive/moderate. It's clean. Fine cheery but not intrusive service.
Cuisine: Quinn's is mostly All - American bar food with lots of choices in that category, and fish. They also feature chicken, pasta, salads, soups, sandwich plates, some steaks,and Niman Ranch burgers and pork chops.

I've been there twice with several people, so I think I've seen enough to make some judgements about the food in general. My friend Carol first brought me there a couple of months ago. She used to live in Alameda (now on the East Coast)and Quinn's was her favorite restaurant, and it was where she most wanted to bring me when she visited. As far as meat goes, she just eats chicken and fish, and she really likes Quinn's salmon - so that's saying something. But I didn't taste it myself.

I'll get back to the food. But first I'll tell you the real reason for choosing Quinn's - IT'S THE MOST LOVELY PLACE TO SIT AND EAT THAT I KNOW NEAR SF! Right on the water, you sit there and watch the boats go by - perfect. Downstairs, it's a nice kind of cushy middle of the road almost fern-bar feeling - lots of shiny brass and well polished oak surfaces.
Huge windows, white table cloths, comfy captains chairs, fresh flowers. Upstairs - completely different atmosphere. It's a funky BAR (but outside over the water on their deck the umbrella-table seating is great). The totally weird thing is that on the floor, both in the bar and outside on the deck, is the deepest layer of peanut shells I have ever seen in my life. Somebody (the Fire Marshall?)ought to tell them this is a creepy and possibly dangerous, certainy not appetizing, decorating choice.

OK, I know, cut to the chow!
I love the fried calamari "appetizer" ($9)- it's huge! The Niman Ranch burger and fries platters (about $9)also huge. (I'm not exagerating - their Niman Ranch "Arnold Burger" is 20oz.(!) I don't think I've ever mentioned coffee in talking about a restaurant before, but this coffee deserves a mention, maybe because it's my favorite kind of coffee: not bitter, not French roast, very American old-school rich, mellow coffee. My mom had the crab sandwich, very generous size, with melted cheese on top - she didn't like it, but she had a cold (caveat emptor). My husband had a shrimp/prawn salad that he liked, and he's very eager to return.
The, once again, huge sandwich platters I saw on other diners plates looked really good - I saw a club sandwich that had my name on it. Next time.

As is my habit, I picked up a take-out menu on the way out, so I'll give you some high-lights so you can get a general idea of what's on offer:
Appetizers: Potstickers, DF garlic wings, poppers, nachos, my yummy fried calamari - rings and tentacles (tentacles rule!)
Soups: Clam chowder, French onion soup, soup specials.
Salads: Assorted shellfish salads, Caesar, spinach,
caprese, cobb.
Pastas: Vegetarian bucatini, fresh clam angel hair pasta, shrimp pasta, seafood pasta, lasagna.
"Specialty Dishes": (These might be asking more than I think Quinn's could be able to deliver competently)Salmon Wellington, New England style Cockel clams, paella, jambalaya, "easy to eat" cioppino.
Fish and Seafood: Beer batter fish & chips, blackened whitefish, Belgian style roasted mussels, assorted salmon, shrimp, and prawn dishes, scallone (a bad sign).
Meats: Mixed grill, NY steak, pepper steak, sausages, NR center cut pork chops, assorted NR burgers i.e Gilroy burger (possibly with garlic???), the Great Big Burger (bigger than the 20 oz. Arnold Burger?).
Turkey, buffalo, sausage, OSTRICH...burgers!

They're offering a Thanksgiving dinner.

The take-out menu states, "Oakland Tribune - best family dining of the East Bay - 2003" and "Oakland's best kept secret!" I have to go along with the secret part because on the way there at noon on Sunday there were about 30 people on line outside the Waffle House on Alameda's main drag, but plenty of empty window seats at Quinn's.

What makes this place special is the comfort level,
the absolutely fabulous location, the prices are fair, and the food is really not bad by any means (Niman Ranch meat).
I'm going back - any 'ole time I'm in that vicinity
- and hungry.

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  1. Thanks for the report, Niki; I think that's a very good assessment. The food is good (not great) if you stick to the basics. It really is a pleasant place to eat, in a charming enclave that manages to be halcyon despite being spitting distance from 880. It also has a huge selection of bottled beers from all over the world and a delightfully eccentrically decorated ladies room.

    On a warm day when the windows are open in the main dining room you can feed the ducks by dropping bits of bread out the window.

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      Pius Avocado III

      On the beer front, Wednesdays 4pm-close all imported beers are $3.75/bottle regardless of size...notables include EKU 28 and Shlenkerla Rauchbier (smoked).

      1. Thanks for the detailed post. So far Zazoo had the prettiest view in that neck of the woods. Good Afgan food and kebabs. However, the smoked beer and all the free peanuts you can eat, has it's appeal ... and sometimes there's sea chanties.

        Here's the link to the website with some pictures. Funny story about Quinn the cowardly pirate fighter. Sometimes you can't escape fate.

        Ah, pirates are a messy bunch which might account for the shells on the floor. As to the quality of food, pirates don't have discriminating palates ... eating things like seagull stew and rats. So Nieman Ranch is a big improvement. However, the seagulls and rats WERE free-range.

        Thanks again ...

        Come all without, come all within,
        You'll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.


        1. Funny, I only go to Quinn's to eat and drink at the upstairs bar. Been downstairs once and it was dull and boring. But when there's a game on TV, the bar can be slammed and the service grinds to a halt.

          I sure don't find the peanut shells to be "creepy" in any way and it's better to dump the shells from the unlimited free (!) peanuts onto the floor than to have them pile up on the table. I've been to other bars, mostly outside of CA, where the same thing happens. Even though people were smoking, I've never seen anyone erupt in flames.

          The food is mostly run-of-the-mill Fisherman's Wharf style food. Cobb Salad with feta cheese? And most of the other ingredients were tasteless. The fried calamari can be oily and not fresh at times. Fish and chips are skimpy and not authentic. Some friends like the jambalaya, but I question their taste and they've never been to NO. The Belgian style mussels were not memorable. But the burgers are big and dependable except for the ostrich, which is extremely dry.

          So go if you really like eating by the water - the Quinn's fans that I know are boating types who make it priority to go to such places. Go for the Wednesday happy hour (cheap appetizers before 6pm or so). But to go just for the food? Not me.

          1. Went for the first time this weekend and was quite surprised to find that they have one of the best, most eclectic wine lists in the area. Warm afternoon in the sun, rosé sounded good: they had 11 to choose from, including an Italian lagrein and a German pinot noir (delicious).

            My friend had eaten there before and said with the possible exception of the burger and the mussels, the food was pretty bad, so we didn't eat anything but the free peanuts. Too bad they don't offer a salumi plate.

            Quinn's Lighthouse Restaurant And Pub
            51 Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94607

            1 Reply
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Tried the fried squid appetizer yesterday. Crisp but tough and was only lukewarm by the time it got to our table. Tasty tartar sauce, cocktail sauce didn't have enough horseradish.