The Sea Chest Oyster Bar
6216 Moonstone Beach Dr.
Cambria, CA 93428
What it is: Popular seafood restaurant among bed and breakfasts facing the coastline, specializing in oysters and clams.
The good: Huge portions, broad seafood menu, tasty broiled oyster options, beautiful views, friendly service.
The bad: Cash only, no reservations.
I figured I’d see what all the fuss was about with The Sea Chest Restaurant and its oysters. Supposedly in the high season, lines form an hour in advance so people can get a good seat to partake in the seafood here. Fortunately, in the autumn, there wasn’t a line, and I was able to seat at the counter facing the kitchen. (In snootier cities, this is called the “chef’s table”.)
My cash count was low since the closest Wells Fargo was about 20 minutes away. Plus, given the huge portions, I decided to get one of the appetizers as my meal. But which one, the Oysters Rockefeller or the Oysters Casino?
First off, what do those descriptions mean? The menu wasn’t too helpful. The cook / server that was in charge of the bar didn’t give me a great description either. The latter has bacon. The Rockefeller has spinach in the topping. Given that lackluster explanation, I still couldn’t decide.
With 7 in a typical order, the server kindly suggested that he could do a half-and-half order (and give me 8 *cha-ching* oysters). Kudos to him and the management for allowing such an option. For $15.50, this is not a Grubgirl dirt cheap bargain, but I think I helped pay their rent a little. Also for the that amount of money, I’m sure they are saving a ton on not having to give the good ol’ credit card companies any surcharge on their revenue.
In case you need to know:
Oysters Rockefeller (from Wikipedia): “The dish consists of oysters on the half-shell that have been topped with various other ingredients (often spinach or parsley, cheese, a rich butter sauce and bread crumbs) and are then baked or broiled.”
Oysters Casino (from About.com): “Tasty oysters casino, made with oysters, bacon, and green onion, along with seasonings. “
The Rockefeller oysters appeared to be meatier (it could also be due to the fuller topping). Both types were tasty though! Butter seemed to be a main ingredient but each oyster didn’t taste weighed down by too much of it. Seasonings were standard in that McCormick’s way, and a supply of Tabasco sauces and Chilula on the counter allowed for experimentation with spicier variations.
While perched on my rickety wooden counter stool, I was able to observe the other orders being prepared. Looks like the cioppino is popular – and one order is huge. Also the fresh deep fried calamari strips, and various orders of seafood steaks looked tasty too. The seafood entrees run $24-25; the portions didn’t seem comparable to the price charged, but I didn’t try a real entree.
If you’re cruising down here for the summer, you’ll have to prepare for a wait since they don’t take reservations, and they’re only open for dinner. Make sure that all those oysters and booze can be paid for with cash only. (No credit cards, and I didn’t spot an ATM nearby…a little odd, considering the prices of their entrees.)