Eating Out on the Mendocino Coast
by BB Grace, March 10, 2016
What I really wanted was a spicy bloody Mary. I don't know what it is about the bloody Mary, as it really doesn't matter how it's made, but where it's made. The bloody Mary is the perfect choice of beverage when dining near the ocean. Breakfast, noon or night, the tomato enhances the saltiness of the ocean, especially the garnishes. Sliding the celery garnish out of the glass, applying salt and pepper and taste the crisp salty air even more, or popping briney pimento stuffed olives in your mouth, the bigger the better, squeeze of lemon and lime, and siiiiiiiiiip, crunch to savor the atmosphere. A bloody Mary and a bowl of hot creamy clam chowder, with maybe some garlic toast, maybe not. That's what I really wanted.
It was a wet and rainy gray day when I pulled into one of the three empty spaces at Carine's Fish Grotto in the Fort Bragg Harbor, with my bloody dreams of a clammy dining experience, to meet a man I'd never met before and saw what appeared to be a large man, not homeless, but lost on the west side of the building as if he was going to the Noyo River, or maybe he was color blind and completely missed the red front door. I shut off the engine watching him case the building. As I prepared to get out of the car the lost man made a dash through the rain quicker than I suspected one so large could move, asking, “BB?”
Carine's was unfortunately closed, so we repaired to Cap'n Flints.
Even in the gloom of the gray rain, the redwood siding, big windows, wooden and beamed interior beaconed warm and cozy behind the nice potted shrubbery. A pretty young blond waitress was hanging out the front door as she captivated the three men leaving. They didn't want to leave. I didn't either.
Cap'n Flints is unique as a living museum or perhaps a throw back to the late 60s and early 70's more than even many Mendocino locals realize. 'Flint's does not sell bloody Mary s, but they do have an understated understanding of what is gourmet ocean side dining, of the 60's, not the 90's or this century. Cap'n Flints features several vermouth cocktails, domestic boxed wines, domestic beers, lemonade and iced tea with free refill. The menu is short but sweet, with shrimp louies, and calamari being as popular as fried chicken and hamburgers. The menu has throwbacks like these little creamy triangle puffs they call “shrimp won tons”. I'm sure these were a huge hit in the 60s, so why not now?
I once came across a copy of a Sunset or Western Living Magazine from the early 70's, which featured the recipe for Cap'n Flint's Shrimp Creole soup. It's really a very good soup and a nice change from clam chowder, which they also serve. My bowl of soup came with oyster crackers, slices of sweet french bread and cold butter. They only ding I'm giving Flint's is for the cold butter, though the Mendocino Health Department would side with Flint's. Our pretty young brunette waitress said that the Shrimp Creole is her favorite soup. I was talking so much I didn't eat most of my bowl of soup, but enjoyed all I consumed and I recommended my friend try it, who agreed the soup was tasty and appeared happy to return home with a sample.
What did he have? Not the famous “Cap'n's Treasure Chest”, but he devoured a basket of fish and chips. So old school. The basket was heaped with beautiful crispy juicy pieces of fish. Picture perfect. So much fish and chips I didn't see the little paper cup of coleslaw I know is included. My friend appeared to enjoy his meal more than my monologue, but the food was great and I'm really happy to see Cap'n Flints ready to take on all who dare to share the best dining view on the Mendocino Coast. Get yourself some shrimp creole soup and fish and chips while you can.