Sailboats skim across Monterey Bay under a sky dotted with gulls. This is the typical scene diners see at Wharf House Restaurant, whether they’re gazing out the dining-room windows or lounging on the rooftop deck. The coastal panorama perfectly complements the plates of prawns, crab, snapper, cod, and other freshly caught fish that ground the Wharf House's menu. Even breakfast is inspired by the sea: salmon scrambles, bay-shrimp omelets, and crab florentine help guests muster the energy to endure an afternoon of lounging on the beach. In addition to seafood dishes, the kitchen crafts filet mignon and grills chicken breast for hearty evening meals.
The dining room reflects the establishment’s penchant for the oceanic with life preservers, glass fishing floats wreathed in netting, and even an antique scuba-diving suit from the days before humans evolved their very own gills. In the summer, classic rock and blues artists entertain diners on the upstairs patio.
Situated atop the lapping waves of Monterey Bay, Paradise Beach Grille combines upscale island cuisine with stunning waterfront views of Soquel Creek and Capitola Beach. Local, seasonal vegetables abut flavorful entrees from Paradise’s menu, such as the sugar and spice salmon paired with champagne mustard burre blanc ($22) and the Haleakala lava flow prawns sauteed in pinot grigio ($26). An extensive wine list complements island-inspired taste notes, and Paradise’s on-the-water location and outdoor seating means you can watch the world float by on its spherical boogie board until a jellyfish swims too close or its fingerlakes start to prune.
Brothers Steven and Matthew Hardin opened the first Hawgs Seafood Bar in Campbell on December 13, 1996, dishing out fresh oysters on the half shell, steamed clams and mussels, and plates of lobster, paella, and grilled salmon. The restaurant takes its name from the brothers' childhood in Los Gatos, when Matt earned the nickname "Hogs Jaws" thanks to his speedy work at the dinner table and word-for-word quotations of speeches from Animal Farm. Today, the family celebrates the proud tradition of sharing special moments with loved ones while devouring everything in sight through a spread of ocean-fresh meals such as garlic-roasted shrimp and pan-seared scallops, all accented by frosty beers and an ample selection of wines.
Despite being home to a life-sized shark and a giant crab, Blue Water Seafood and Crab has never served as the setting for a nautical thriller. The two custom-built monsters are just there to attract attention: the shark is animatronic, the crab inflatable and used for special events. Both also pay tribute to owner Craig's upbringing. Raised in Maryland, he developed a passion for crabs and other denizens of the deep—and decided to channel that love into his own restaurant.
With a focus on seafood, Blue Water's cuisine spans continents and coastlines. The menu's centerpieces include buckets of boiled crabs flown in from Maryland and Alaska, and six varieties of oysters delivered via piggy-back from the East Coast and Japan. Blue Water's kitchen also prepares dishes such as cedar-plank-grilled salmon, pineapple-glazed shrimp, and fish tacos. At the bar, domestic and craft beers join a selection of wine and sake, as well as nautical-themed cocktails.
At Crabaholic, Inc., the fanciest article of clothing you're likely to see is a plastic lobster bib. Don't be fooled by this, or the paper-topped tables; lurking beneath Crabaholic, Inc.'s down-home atmosphere is a host of intricately flavored sealife.
Whether the chefs are filling their boiling pots with lobster, crawfish, oysters, escargot, or any of four breeds of crab, they lock in the flavors of the bayou with liberal doses of cajun spice tailored to each diner's preferred heat level and seasoning. Crabaholic, Inc. does not limit itself to cajun flavors, either. The dungeness crab might just as easily surprise the palate with a glaze of tamarind or Singapore sauce. Likewise, the restaurant stocks wines, sakes, and Korean soju along with a full complement of domestic and international beers. Adding to the experience of piling up empty half-shells and hollow claws are the undersea murals along the walls and ceiling, complete with surf paraphernalia and life preservers for diners who are a little too hands-on about selecting their lobster.
Since 1984, Fontana’s has dished out heaping helpings of Italian fare fused with Californian and Mediterranean influences. This canola-championing eatery boasts dinner and lunch menus packed with from-scratch pasta and seafood dishes backed up by a steady stream of homemade desserts. Accent any meal with a suitable selection from the expansive wine list, which features homegrown California nectars along with Italian-born blends of grown-up grape juice. Diners can slurp spaghetti fountain-side on the luscious patio or discuss the cultural ramifications of the painting Dogs Playing Poker by the cozy light of a flickering fireplace in the elegant dining room.