Ring in Seafood Season
East Bay seafood restaurants serve up classic dishes with contemporary twists.
Nonna’s world-famous killer crab.
Photography by Misha Bruk
Cocktails With a Side of Shrimp
Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto still prepares the traditional seafood that made it a Berkeley institution decades ago, but now it has a swanky new bar to attract fresh-faced folk.
Renamed Bar 19, the renovated space debuted in late October with an innovative craft cocktail menu of 15 specialty drinks—curated with help from David Nepove, national president of the United States Bartenders’ Guild. One must-try addition: Liquid Intelligence, an orange martini made with cloves, spices, and gin from the New York Distilling Company.
To accompany the creative spirits, Spenger’s culinary team had some fun creating a menu of food pairings. The mango habanero popcorn shrimp, for example, is the yin to the Liquid Intelligence yang.
The bar’s happy hour runs seven days a week from 4 to 9 p.m., and locals won’t want to miss the restaurant’s resident musician, Jose Angel Gonzalez—aka Mr. Extremo—who creates Carlos Santana–esque sounds every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. 1919 Fourth St., Berkeley, (510) 845-7771, mccormickandschmicks.com.
Just Like Nonna Makes
In Crockett, overlooking the Carquinez Strait, The Dead Fish offers seafood dishes just like Grandma makes. The original chef’s nonna often cooked for her big family in Italy, with little time to keep track of the recipes she prepared or even what dead fish she was cooking up at any given time.
The restaurant’s expansive menu plays on the deceased theme, featuring items like The Dead Fish cioppino or the “Recently Demised” fish of the day, in addition to an entire section dedicated to “Other Dead Things,” such as seared filet mignon and prime rib.
But a crowd favorite this time of year is always Nonna’s world-famous killer crab—an order of Dungeness crab that is guaranteed to weigh at least two pounds and is roasted in a secret garlic sauce. 20050 San Pablo Ave., Crockett, (510) 787-3323, thedeadfish.com.
All About Lobstah
Walnut Creek Yacht Club (WCYC) brings back its annual January Lobster Month with a couple of new twists. The eatery will dish out its Lobster Special (along with regular menu items) from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. every day in January. The promotion is only available to WCYC loyalty members, but fortunately, you can sign up for free at the restaurant or online. That means there will be more opportunities for newcomers to try the restaurant’s seasonal Dungeness crab alongside the popular cioppino.
For those who want to test their fish-cooking skills at home, WCYC’s crab and seafood market makes it easy for landlocked residents to pick up fresh crab and even cioppino kits to create traditional dishes in the comfort of their own kitchens. 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, wcyc.net.