For a New Year's Resolution this year, I challenged myself to be increasingly adventurous, culinarily speaking. But as I planned my undertakings, I did not expect them to include sitting at the tip of the Municipal Wharf as a powerful storm moved in. But it was cold and dreary, and the previous deluge had overwhelmed my sump pump, extinguishing the water heater. I needed some hot clam chowder, and I needed it immediately.
The Dolphin Restaurant has served seafood for two decades in a tiny building, as well as through a take-out window. Since its purchase two years ago by Mark Gilbert Ventures, which also owns a large seafood grill as well as a gift shop on the wharf, a glass-walled patio has increased the seating dramatically.
It was odd that the wharf's toll booth was closed, as well as many businesses. I would learn later of a power outage. Colorful flags waved wildly and seagulls with wings extended hung motionless in the strong wind. A flock of feathery grebes and families of sea lions bobbed on brown and grey waves, which rolled by in rapid succession. A crack of lightning split the sky farther south.
The cup of cream-colored Boston Clam Chowder ($3.95) was rich with the flavor of bacon. It was thick and less chunky than many, and surprisingly enough, the clams were not tough, but instead silky and tender. I confirmed with the friendly server that the mollusks were added just prior to serving, rather than being cooked all day until leather-like.
While driving to the wharf's exit, the eerie tone of the Emergency Broadcast System preceded the warning of a severe thunder and hail storm hitting Monterey, and heading north. I was glad to have dinner planned at home.
The Dolphin Restaurant, tip of the Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, 426-5830. Beer and wine. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily from 8 a.m.
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