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Mar 11, 2009 10:49 AM

Clearman’s Galley, “The Boat” is Open Again, but…

Clearman’s Galley “The Boat” has finally reopened after being closed for over a year while moving from the original location around the corner. Originally, since 1968 until last year, customers of the Galley ordered the best chili cheese burgers in L.A. while actually walking through the hull of a 1913 mail-service boat that once plowed the seas off Alaska. It was an icon of the neighborhood which upon sighting signaled, like a lighthouse, that you are home. After ordering your burgers in the rustic steel belly of the old vessel you then watched, smelled, and could hear your burgers sizzle on the griddle, or fries being dropped into the deep fry, and see the cheese bread toasted in the oven, all just inches away in the small galley with portholes overlooking Huntington Blvd. That big pot of their special chili was right under your nose. Carney’s still offers the same type of ambiance but in a real train car. Such teasing of multiple senses really increased the anticipation and expectation of, and thereby leading to, a more intense and rewarding “Chow-moment” soon to follow once your hands and mouth get involved, much in the same way that stimulating curiosity with a little sophisticated foreplay arouses a desire and full participation in one of life’s other multi-sensory pleasures (i.e., learning), which then climaxes in a more heightened “Understanding” of the subject matter. Hence, us many loyal lovers affectionately referred to Clearman’s Galley as "The Boat.” The Boat is also well known for their Chili Size with salad and toasted cheese bread (the same great cheese bread as Clearman’s North Woods Inn located next door) , and deep fried Fish & Fries dinner – all great food at reasonable prices, but…

The first thing former lovers will notice about the new “Boat” is that the “Boat” is gone and apparently was lost in the treacherous corporate seas which lack a sense of community. You can spot the new place by looking for a pile of plywood in the shape of a boat that is not quite Disney quality. The new building looks like a Disney wharf. The galley has been replaced with a long modern stainless steel kitchen with a cafeteria like counter. The dining room is a large sports-bar with lots of flat screens and a large case of model boats and ships – none resemble “The Boat.” The food is the same (very good) and many may be pleased to forego the preludes, pay, take their number to the table, enjoy a Schooner of beer and once the food arrives -- just get it over with quick – ah, corporate wharf rats.

Clearman’s Galley, “The Boat,” or now maybe, “The Boatless Wharf”
7215 N. Rosemead Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA
(626) 286-1484
M-Th 11-9 pm
F – 11-10 pm
Sat 11-10 pm
Sun 10–10 pm

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  1. I am sorry to hear that. I know when Jay's Jay Burgers closed and reopened as Sean's it was not the same. The opening from the kitchen to the stools that surrounded the stand were gone and closed in with windows. No more stools all the way around, it lost its charm, warmth and local flavor. It lost it's connection to those driving by or waiting for the bus. Long live the memory of Jay, Smitty, Robert and all that made a great institution.

    1. I remember asking, before it closed, whether the actual boat was going to be relocated. They didn't know whether the actual boat structure would survive, though, and I read somewhere recently that it simply was too dilapidated. I have no idea whether it's actually true, or just a convenient story, but I guess it's plausible.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Jack Flash

        That's what the web site implies. A somewhat replica is under construction on the Rosemead Bl. side. While it was an experience navigating through the boat to get your food, after doing it a few times with someone in a wheelchair, it's an experience I won't mourn too much.

        Tried to go a couple of weeks ago but the crowds were just too much at the time. I plan on going back after the glow wears off a bit.

        1. re: Jack Flash

          That line they have about the Boat being, “too dilapidated” to be rebuilt sounds like a fish story to me – a Red Herring. It does not address the original issue of a stimulus lost. After forty years of conditioning my drool reflex to expect the sights, sounds, smells and feel of physical closeness in the galley of a real boat, this old seadog (who is just like Pavlov’s dog) now feels like a marooned Chowhound. Well, not totally marooned, the Chow, especially the chili and that cheese bread, does taste the same – great! Even if the Boat was rusted, there are many more boats in the sea and one of them should have been hoisted ashore and used. ADA compliance and access is not an excuse either. Whoever commissioned the design of the new place had no clues what the specific previous experiences of the “Boat” were all about. Who ever thought up the original Boat had a true "understanding" of what life’s multi sensory pleasures are all about – stimulating the senses and all of them!

          In the educational setting it’s like always having had a great teacher who enhances instruction with hands-on, laptop, Smart Board and audio, and then comes a sub, Mr. Stein, “….Anyone? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller...” What first came to mind when I entered the new “Galley” was that old Chinese proverb: “Tell me, I’ll forget. Show me, I may remember. Involve me, I will understand.” I always felt “involved’ in the setting of the original Boat. It was like being part of the crew. The new place is like sitting in very nice sports bar at some modern wharf building, having a ice cold schooner of beer, great blue cheese salad, hot toasted cheese bread, bowl of chili and some really good fish & chips while I wait for my ship to come in – but it never does. Bottom line -- there are many worst places to feel marooned.

          1. re: JeetJet

            I for one am totally disappointed. The new Boat is all nice and brite and shiny. Crowded, and devoid of the ambience of the old Boat. The food is still pretty good although the burgers are smaller. If you get a burger w/fries and the large beer you will see the price doubled. At the old boat the schooner of Miller was 3.75. Now you will pay $9.50 for the beer alone. Too much was sacrificed building the new Boat

            Alas, another icon lost to corporate bean counters who only see the bottom line and have forgotten what makes places like Pinks, and Phillipe's culinary landmarks. The Boat was close to this but they dropped the ball, er Anchor on this one. So sad.

            1. re: Chili

              I notice the price of beer is not mentioned on the online menu. The menu has been updated with the new address, some new items and photos. The price of food items on the new menu appears the same as the old menu. Maybe the prices are different at the cash register or maybe after being hit by that heavy anchor of a bar tab ($9.50 for one schooner) you were sunk. I was sunk by that anchor by just walking through the door. At the cash register I was still looking for the Boat and did not even notice what I was charged for our food – really.

              I agree with you "Too much was sacrificed building the new Boat." Just look at the photo of the old Boat below and compare it to the Wharf they have now. The old Boat was a SGV icon. The new Wharf looks like a misplaced South OC cookie-cutter restaurant.

              From the old web page, "Why grab a bite in a cookie-cutter restaurant when you can take a cruise on land at our historic San Gabriel landmark, Clearman's Galley?"
              Picture of Our old Boat

              Old menu

              New cookie-cutter restaurant

              New Menu

        2. My complaint with the chili burger (if I'm remembering correctly) is the chili on the burger had beans. Otherwise the fried chicken, salad with blue cheese, cheese bread combination was always good.

          3 Replies
          1. re: monku

            Hi Monku - they also have a chili "sauce" which is the one they put on their burgers (I always get some on the side to dip my cheese bread into!). Jeet, you are so funny. I went in there about a month ago expecting the same thing (don't we always) and kinda just kinda stood there in a trance. The building is beautiful, but the ambiance is definitely not the same. I always loved going through the galley - the cooks in there always made you feel like they were kinda like the soup Nazi (you better know what you want when you get here) but they were always cool. However, as long as the food is the same (and from what I had, it is), I am good. The Boat was gone too long, waaayyyyyy too long!! Welcome BACK!!
            I guess word has gotten out that it is back (they have an ad in all the local papers) because when I came out of Kohl's on Friday around 7:30pm the parking lot was packed with cars. But when I went about a month ago, it was on a Monday, around 5pm and it was pretty much deserted.

            1. re: WildSwede

              OK, I have been a little nasty about the loss of original ambiance. When you consider the number of good places to eat that have turn belly-up and sank during these last few years we are very lucky to have such a great new place to go and have some really good food from the past. I guess it is better to be positive about it.

              There's got to be a morning after,
              if the galley Pub helps us through the night
              We can also have that chili cheese burger
              The taste of the blue cheese salad combines just right.

              Can't you see the morning after?
              To some that old Boat was an icon
              but others saw it as just an Eyesore
              We all welcome the cheese bread back
              We won't be searchin' any more.

          2. The Boat with no boat? My heart is broken.

            1. They have onion rings now!