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Monterey Bay---Great View & Good Food

e
e.d. Aug 12, 2002 10:54 AM

The Coast Guard Pier in Monterey is one of those great/terrible locations that restaurant owners love/hate. Sitting midway between Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, the Coast Guard Pier has an incredible view of Monterey Bay and anchored sailboats etc. And, since there is only one restaurant location on the pier, the view is not blocked by other buildings. There is also lots of nighttime free parking on the pier itself, so it is easy to get to by car, and it is located right off the walking trail that runs along the bay, so it is easy to get there on foot as well. But with all that going for it, it is a tough location to run a successful business. Unlike Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf, the Coast Guard Pier has almost no foot traffic, no casual passers-by. Most tourists have no idea it even exists. So a restaurant there needs to appeal primarily to locals.

When I lived in Monterey, Bradley’s was on the Coast Guard Pier, trying to sell upscale food with that nice view. Now the space is occupied by Massaro and Santos, a spin-off of the Monterey Fish House. I had one meal there while in town and would definitely recommend it to folks who are looking for a reasonably priced, authentic Monterey cuisine restaurant with a great view. You will not find comparable value on Fisherman’s Wharf. Anyone familiar with the Monterey Fish House will recognize the menu at M & S. In fact, some of the standard "specials" (like the rack of lamb) are the same as well. The strengths of the place are good seafood preparations and a nice range of very good seafood pastas. The clam chowder also is excellent. While there, Steve had a good shrimp pasta in cream sauce, Helen had a fresh tomato and mixed seafood pasta with olives etc, and I had a calamari pasta with a traditional, slightly spicy red sauce. Each sauce was distinct and different. This is not one of those places that just adds clams or calamari or whatever to the standard red sauce. Each dish was created to show off the seafood being used. And the portions are ample. None of the three of us could finish our main courses. Since Steve and Helen are locals, and I’d lived in Monterey for 12 years, we sat inside (though even inside there is a nice view), but there are many tables outside that are screened from inclement weather by large Plexiglas panels.

I will not claim that M & S serves great food or that its preparations break new culinary ground, but it is a good value restaurant, much better than the usual tourist dives one finds. And the cuisine does reflect the traditional food of the Monterey Bay area, as the fishing industry that caused Monterey to boom in the early to middle twentieth century was fueled by Italian fishermen whose descendants are now businessmen, restaurateurs, and politicians. The wine list is rather standard (as one would expect), but our server was helpful and friendly.