My name is Allyson and I am a Yelp.com fanatic. I often use this addicting tool from everything to planning vacations down to where I am going to have my next meal. I recently had a strong inkling for some clam chowder and naturally resorted to my handy review resource. Everyone knows that Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey is the best place to get this clammy comfort food so I yelped for the highest rated restaurant on the famed strip of seafood eateries. To my surprise one restaurant easily stood out among the rest. With over 360 five-star reviews I just had to check out what the social commotion was all about.
Old Fisherman’s Grotto is located smack dab in the middle of Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey; you can’t miss the mustard yellow storefront with black and white checkered accents. Fresh fish are for sale at the adjacent Grotto Fish Market with everything from Ahi Tuna to Dungeness crab. As I was salivating over what would become my next scrumptious meal a friendly staffer offered me up a sample of their clam chowder which I quickly devoured. I think my fellow yelpers were onto something, the warm and rich tidbit certainly had me wanting more!
The exterior of the building was deceiving. Once I stepped inside I felt like I had stepped aboard a fine dining room on the Titanic. Dimly lit booths and tables were arranged throughout with pre-set wine glasses and white linen napkins; the décor was definitely date night material.
My fellow diners and I were seated in the main dining room. Luckily, we didn’t have to argue over seating arrangements as there wasn’t a bad seat in the house; almost every one has a prime ocean and harbor view. Our attentive waiter, Iman soon welcomed us and informed us of the day’s specials and presented us with the menu. The menu was surprisingly extensive, especially for lunch. Everything from salads, sandwiches, pasta to an array of seafood dishes was up for grabs. Luckily my appetizer choice was easy as the free clam chowder sample was just a tease to the bowl I secretly desired; with that said I finally decided on the light Ahi Tuna Salad special.
While enjoying the views of the lively harbor and waiting for my hot cup of soup the owner Chris Shake stopped by. He wanted to ensure that we were being taken care of and he treated us as if we were part of his own family. You can tell that the rest of his staff has adopted his gracious hospitality, which I assume is a huge part of his customer’s loyalty.
To everyone’s delight Iman brought out the appetizers; we couldn’t wait to get our fix of the cozy chowder! The thick and creamy soup had large pieces of tender clams accompanied by bits of potato, garlic and onion. It’s no wonder why this ‘Monterey Style’ chowder consistently wins the “Best Clam Chowder in Monterey County” award by Monterey County Weekly. You can even purchase cans of this luscious goodness online!
My table and I had also decided on an array of other snacks. The crispy calamari, grilled artichoke and seasoned prawns were all superb. The grilled Castroville artichoke was my favorite. The meaty heart and leaves had a balsamic vinaigrette glaze and was grilled to perfection; the lemon dill aioli was the icing on the cake!
After subduing my hunger pangs with all those mouthwatering appetizers I was happy that I had gone with the “light” Island Salad as my entree. However, once it arrived I was astounded; crisp shredded lettuce leaves, rare Ahi Tuna, sweet mangos, juicy papaya slices and pickled ginger were pilled as high was Mt. Everest; the presentation was a crowd-pleaser and the taste was on par. The sweet chili sauce on the side was a divine accessory for this island infused dish. To the delight of my taste buds the large pieces of rare Ahi Tuna had a spicy Cajun kick in itself.
Somehow we had saved just enough room for the guilty pleasure of dessert. Iman brought around the tray of tantalizing treats which included crème brulee, tiramisu, chocolate cannoli cake and an apple cheesecake that was screaming to be devoured. We finally concluded that cappuccinos and the apple cheesecake would be the perfect conclusion to this well rounded meal.
Once again the presentation was stunning but we soon destroyed the meticulously placed berries and caramel spirals in search of a sugar high. The rich and luscious cheesecake had hints of granny apples and the nutty walnut topping made this the perfect fall treat.
So what exactly sets Old Fisherman’s Grotto apart from the other fine eateries on the seafood strip? To start, the restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1950, that’s 62 years if you didn’t do the math! Chris Shake has taken over his father’s passion for hospitality and the service certainly shows. Once again my fellow yelpers have not led me astray!