Though Enterprise’s menu focuses solely on seafood, the offerings are still diverse. The fresh fish dishes include British Columbian salmon sweetened with a Coca-Cola barbecue glaze, Costa Rican mahi-mahi topped with toasted macadamia nuts, and basa swai paired with citrus jasmine rice and Asian slaw. Seafood also bulks up pastas and sandwiches, and the dessert roster presents molten chocolate cake and key-lime pie.
Upon entering Enterprise, patrons may feel as though they’ve waded onto an immense sailboat. A blue-green marlin perches above the bar, and ship wheels and colorful buoys hang on the walls. Dock lights hook over each table, and an old-fashioned diving suit with a bronze helmet stands above the open grill, haughtily asking patrons how many leagues they can go under the sea.
When Don Disraeli and his wife, Randee, turned their attention to seafood retail in 1983, they considered more than their love of tasty fish. Drawing upon his PhD in Biology and her stint as a Scripps Institute of Oceanography researcher, the duo worked to ensure that each aspect of their business would be environmentally sustainable. Those standards are still upheld today, as Kanaloa Seafood remains one of the only North American and European seafood companies environmentally certified by the International Organization of Standardization.
Environmentally responsible fisheries supply the Disraelis with sushi-grade fish, which cutters clean and slice behind large viewing windows at Kanaloa Seafood’s Santa Barbara and Napa storefronts. The succulent cuts are then sustainably packaged inside recyclable corrugated boxes. Every Monday to Friday, guests can procure fish ranging from wild-caught black cod to Hawaiian ahi tuna. Patrons who are unsure of what to pick from the vast assortment will be greeted by a knowledgable staff member who will assist in picking out an ideal choice. Kanaloa Seafood also distributes a variety of marinades, rubs, oils, and sauces, as well as prepared dishes from the staff chef.
From its perch at the end of Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara Shellfish Company looks over the rolling ocean waters where much of its menu originates. Established more than three decades ago as a buying station for locally caught seafood and a rumor mill for the whereabouts of the kraken, the restaurant was a natural outgrowth of the market. Today, chefs turn the sea’s bounty into specialties that range from ceviche and oysters rockefeller to cioppino—a medley of crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels in a bread bowl. The culinary explorers also embrace the seasonality of aquatic life, filling their menu with timely dishes of local delicacies, such as spiny lobster and dungeness crab, as well as catches shipped from afar, such as Alaskan king crab and Maine lobster.
Creating Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company was a labor of love for John and Jennifer Karayan, who spent 20 years perfecting their eclectic Californian recipes before sharing them with the public. Named after the couple's 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, the business began as a concession trailer at festivals and fairgrounds, presenting healthful alternatives to traditional fast-food options without sacrificing speedy service. The concept took off, and the trailer eventually blossomed into a permanent location a couple of blocks from the shore.
Although the chefs use only sashimi-grade fish and make everything from clam chowder to sauces and salsas in-house, they don't stray far from the restaurant's unpretentious fairground roots. The Ventura County Reporter recognized the company's dual commitment to quality and convenience in 2011, honoring the eatery with awards for Best Fish Taco and Best Cheap Eats.
The same thoughtfulness with which John and Jennifer designed the healthful and flavorful menu led them to embrace a variety of environmentally friendly practices. In addition to donating their used trans-fat-free cooking oil to biodiesel refineries, they exclusively stock the restaurant with biodegradable plates, utensils, and employees.
Chalkboards of handwritten specials, an acoustic soundtrack by artists such as Jack Johnson and Bob Marley, and 36-inch flat-screen televisions playing skateboarding, surfing, and sporting events add to Spencer Makenzie's Fish Company's casual, laid-back ambiance. At the same time, photographs of local beaches line the walls and serve as a gentle reminder of the inspiration behind the ocean-fresh menu.
For almost a quarter of a century, the staff of Spinnaker Steak and Seafood has crafted an extensive menu of exquisite American fare. Bayside cioppino unifies feuding families of shrimp, crab, fish, clams, and mussels in an herb-infused tomato broth ($24.95), and flavorful crab cakes ($13.95) sizzle to perfection in peanut oil. Diners who opt for the opulent quarter-pound petite filet mignon ($17.95) can crown the tender cut with blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, or sautéed onions ($1.50), and mesquite-grilled snapper, mahi-mahi, and alaskan halibut let visitors taste smoky flavors without licking a campfire. Spinnaker's bartenders mix a variety of margaritas ($8.95+) and martinis ($8.95+), along with adult coffee and hot chocolate drinks such as the Toasted Pelican, a dreamy blend of Drambuie, Frangelico, and coffee dolloped with whipped cream ($6.95).
Visitors relax on the sands of San Buenaventura State Beach, tossing batches of kumamoto and pacific oysters or manila clams atop charcoal grills. There's a trailer nearby where others line up for the organic, sustainably farmed clams and oysters. Home-brought beer, wine, and soft drinks are held aloft for toasts in the sunshine. It's a unique spot, where people enjoy the simple joy of ultra-fresh seafood, shucked and cooked themselves—but the journey to The Jolly Oyster had its share of hardships.
In 1997, Mark Reynolds and Mark Venus founded the Baja Oyster Company in Baja California, Mexico. "We had visions that it would be easy," Venus confessed during a documentary about the business, directed by Graham Streeter. "We thought that, you got a shellfish, you have your seed, you plant it in the water, and two years later, you take it out and you start making money, and things grow from there." He shakes his head. "It's not quite that simple…It's been a long road." The whole process can take 18–24 months, from producing the larvae, which change into seed and are planted out on the underwater farm's system of boxes and crates, to the final oysters. And it's a finicky process. "You have to be careful all the time," he says. "It takes a lot of care, and the people who work these systems have to understand that one slip-up for one minute of the day can mean that millions of these animals will die in the hatchery."
Though they ship some oysters and clams off wholesale, Reynolds and Venus also sell them straight to the public and even watch them get slurped down with hot sauce on the beach. Some people take advantage of the 20-minute free parking spaces and take their purchases elsewhere, but the grills stand ready for those who pay the state-park fee to relax on San Buenaventura State Beach, where The Jolly Oyster trailer sits. People bring their own oyster knives, charcoal, limes, and hot sauces or purchase them from the stand or hoards of traveling oyster-knife salesmen.