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Fort Bragg's Noyo River Waterfront has a reputation as a magnet for tourists much like Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and Monterey, and so it's not surprising that it's difficult to find seafood restaurants that are particularly good in value. But, in California down right rip-off restaurants usually fail because word gets around, and high real-estate and rent prices being what they are, don't allow unpopular restaurants to survive for long. In Fort Bragg, we have unfortunately a chronic problem restaurant right on the Fort Bragg waterfront, which for the life of me I can't figure out how they are allowed to continue. This place after all is a place that targets unsuspecting tourists hungry for seafood, then delivers horrible food at an astronomical price.
After reading my extensive remarks, see the ratings of other customers in the Yelp link below. This place is a real gem. Fort Bragg Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce need to push this place out of business on the waterfront to save the city's overall reputation.
Now, we are not simply talking about old fashioned deep fried versus more healthy and inspiring treatment of fish in the California cuisine, although if you are looking for the latter, forget it; it's not here. In any case, the deep fried issue is a common challenge for restaurants that cater to families and tourists from the midwest and south of the USA where palates for fish are finicky.
What is unique about Carine's Fish Grotto is the family management's apparent ability to make suckers of their patrons. Although the restaurant is likely to be empty, the staff are quick to help seat anyone who walks through the door to a formica table covered with a red and white checked plastic table cloth. This begins the game.
A listless young adult adult takes the order, showing no interest whatsoever to explain the astronomically high menu prices, catch of the day, nor the preparation of the food at this establishment. The menu shows the fresh crab and catch of the day either "market price" or $25- to $30 dinner prices--ridiculous pricing for this place. Looking around at the room decor, even I wasn't stupid enough to fall for these entres. My gut told me this was a rip off. So I looked for something cheap.
The entertainment won't stop there however. Grandma then trots out, trying to project a harmless image of an old pushy Italian mother, trying to offer you her best. In reality, she has some lousy leftovers or soup she needs to get rid off. Her goal is to project family charm, distracting customers from the real game of bait and switch.
By the time the food is brought to the table, the guest is likely to be disappointed if they know anything at all about seafood because there is precious little seafood to enjoy. Most of the ingredients are fillers of one sort or another. At the end of the meal, grandma wants the guest to check themselves out at the register. Whereas the front door window has all sorts of bank card logos, the countertop screams CASH ONLY. The final insult is an unitemized tally with is double or triple what the meal is worth.
Favorite Dish: There is NOTHING worth eating on this menu. I went for the cheapest item, an $18- crab sandwich served with sliced tomato, onion, and pile of French Fries. The crab was old and heavily mixed with mayonnaise, which was also smeared in generous portions on the plain bun.
My wife chose a similarly priced crab cake salad, which was a tiny deep fried mixture of who knows what--there certainly wasn't much crab in it. The salad greens were OK, but for the price, a lot more should have been on her plate.
The old Italian grandma pushed a lousy clam chowder, which was almost entirely a white cream sauce with precious few flecks of clam, and even less clam flavor. The clams were almost certainly canned, not fresh, but the price was for fresh.
Updated Feb 22, 2012
RESTAURANT IS CLOSED...With its warm, redwood-paneled dining room and its superb food and service, the Rendezvous provides one of the Mendocino Coast's finest dining experiences. It focuses on Country-French cuisine and has been rated #1 for food in Mendocino County by the 2006-2009 (tied in 2009) Zagat Surveys of San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants. The Rendezvous has been described as "unpretentious, yet sophisticated" by Sunset Magazine. Its ambiance is one of rustic elegance. The Rendezvous is also a B&B, and has 6 cozy inn rooms. Its dinner chef cooks and serves a full breakfast to inn guests.
Favorite Dish: Can't decide!
Updated Sep 29, 2011
Address: 647 N. Main St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
When thinking about breakfast in Fort Bragg, don't miss Eggheads. It's seafood breakfasts are amazing, mixing crab and other seafoods with traditional dishes such as omelletes. After eating here you would definately be returning, and I always make it a point to stop in when visiting the Fort Bragg area.
Favorite Dish: The crab omelletes are amazing, and you definately cannot go wrong with them.
Written Nov 25, 2007
Cafe 1 is a great local diner-type restaurant with a wonderful triwst on standard American fare like pancakes, eggs, turkey, etc. It's primarily a breakfast-and-lunch place but apparently has dinners on Thursday-Saturday as well.
It has an emphasis on organic foods and nautral ingredients, and it has very good cooking. They use lots of vegetables and real maple syrup for their pancakes, which can be hard to find even at great breakfast places.
I've only had breakfast here, so I cannot specifically describe the other meals, but this is certainly a top choice for breakfast.
It's also a good place to take kids.
Favorite Dish: The Window Plate for breakfast is great, with eggs and lots of different vegetables on top of sourdough bread with "Hippy Sauce." I don't know what is in the sauce, but it's great, being light but flavourful.
The breakfast sandwich is also delicious and pancakes are good with real maple syrup.
Written Jun 28, 2007
Address: 753 North Main St, Fort Bragg
We ate there on a Tuesday morning and were promptly seated and brought coffee and orders taken. About 10 minutes later our breakfasts arrived. I had the "munchkin madness" which consisted of two english muffins topped with spinach, poached eggs and salsa. It was delicious! By the time we were leaving the restaurant was quite crowded with people lined up outside.
Written Apr 9, 2007
Address: 326 N Main St
We had been traveling in our trailer for over a week at this point and wanted to splurge a little and this restaurant was recommended by the staff at the local trailer park. The food here was nothing special -- seemed geared toward the silver haired crowd. Very bland and uninspiring. I had the Petrale Sole which tasted like it was dredged in plain breadcrumbs, lightly salted and quickly pan-seared. The rice accompaniment had no flavor and the veggies were overcooked. The whole dish was prepared as if a diabetic was eating. To add insult to injury this place is not inexpensive. Each of our meals was over $20 per plate. Service was just OK but the view is fantastic. Mediocre food + just OK service + high price = Thumbs down.
Updated Oct 14, 2006
Address: 32260 North Harbor Drive
Cowlick's is a great local ice cream place making its own ice cream. Unfortunatelty, this is something of a rarity these days and although I love living where I do, I miss having the good local ice cream parlours that I was able to enjoy when I lived and worked in the Sacramento area. Anyway, Cowlick's is one of the few in the Sonoma-Mendocino area of California and it's very good.
I stop here every time I'm in the region since it's over 100 miles from my home and I never want to miss it.
Favorite Dish: Great vanilla, black walnut (not too sweet) and chocolate (good chocolate ice cream is divine, but exceedingly rare). Their ginger ice cream is out of this world, being nicely gingery but not too much so, and being quite creamy, too. They have wonderful blackberry-chocolate chunk, and excellent oreo-cookie ice cream, too. Their peanut-butter ice cream (I forget the name) is also great.
Updated Jul 18, 2006
Address: 250 N. Main St.
I had never eaten raw food before. I thought that uncooked food would taste funny. I thought it was all salad and seeds. Then I tasted the Green Burrito from this place and could not believe the flavor, texture, and quality! All the food is to go, but you can sit at one of the tables outside, and most of the containers are biodegradable (yay!). Service is slow, however, so plan for this. There's a really cool shop next door full of raw food products and other things (nut and seed butters, chocolate, aprons, cooking items, books...) to explore while you're waiting. Living Light also does 5-course meals about once a month. I have yet to go to one, but they all have a theme, like Italian or French, and you have to make reservations.
Favorite Dish: I haven't tried everything here, but I keep coming back for the Jubilee smoothie (cocoa nibs, cherries, almond milk, and cashews, if my memory is right), the dolmas, the Green Burrito, the cheesecakes (cherry vanilla, chocolate with raspberry coulis, or mocha) and the wheatgrass shots. Mmmmm!
Written Jun 9, 2006
Address: 301-B N Main St (at Redwood), Fort Bragg
We didn't know what to expect of the food, but Mark likes a good beer so it seemed like a good enough spot for dinner. Wow, were we surprised by the incredibly delicious food! For an appetizer we shared shrimp stuffed rissoto balls and a mixed green salad with mustard vinagrette. For entrees, Mark had the penne with fresh basil, tomatoes and feta which was out of this world. I had the sauteed diver scallops in a sauce of coconut milk, red pepper, lemon and ginger with dirty rice and lightly cooked broccoli. Out of this world!! Also, ample portions ensured we had left overs of both our entrees (though I made quick work of the scallops and only took home the rice and veggies).
Mark had the 10 beer sampler -- small glasses of each of the brewery's 10 beers. He wasn't crazy about them all, though he did like several. We went home with a 4-pack of the PranQster belgian style ale, and I thought the weisbier was particularly honeyed.
Favorite Dish: It's a tough call, but it has to be the shrimp stuffed rissoto balls.
Written Dec 27, 2005
Address: 455 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Step back into the Land Of OZ in this small cafe. Old photos of the Wizard of Oz on the walls makes this a charming place to dine.
Get there early as there are line's out in the street waiting to get in.
Favorite Dish: The Eggs Benedict with a champagne Hollidase Sauce! You have to try it!
Crab Omlette is out of this world
Every thing is good but they are know for this delicious breakfast..lunch item.
You will be back after biting into this menue
Updated Jun 6, 2005
Address: North Main Street next door to Nitz
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