It’s an age old debate between couples and nobody ever seems to have the answer. One that usually takes place while sitting in the car, not going anywhere. I’m sure you are familiar with it.
Her: “Where do you want to go for dinner?”
Him: “I don’t know where do you want to go?”
Her: “I’m not picky, anywhere you would like is fine.”
Him: “I really don’t care, just pick someplace already.”
What happened next may surprise you.
I actually picked a place!
He didn’t expect me to pick someplace 750 miles away, or have an inkling of an idea how to get there for dinner, but I did and it actually happened.
Have you ever had a craving for a food so delicious you would do just about anything to have some? Well it happens to me more often than you would believe. I guess its one of the curses of being a foodie. Nonetheless it usually leaves me planning and strategizing for months on how to get my tastebuds wrapped around that delicious goodness.
Not this time though. I went out on a limb and decided to just go for it.
The craving – clam chowder in a sour dough bread bowl. And not just any clam chowder. It had to be the most incredible clam chowder we have ever had, served from a stand overlooking the pacific ocean on Cannery Row in Monterey, California. A chowder that boasts big juicy pieces of clam bathing in a smooth creamy sauce, with just the right mixture of carrots, potatoes and celery so that none of the ingredients overpower the star of the show, which of course is the clams.
Creamy delicious Monterey Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl from The Fish Hopper on Cannery Row in Monterey, California
Now it may just be my imagination, but I’ve eaten the clam chowder seated inside the Fish Hopper restaurant, as well as at the Shake Family’s other nearby restaurant Old Fisherman’s Grotto on Fisherman’s Wharf. They are both pretty amazing. But to me they just don’t taste quite the same as when you get it from the stand outside of the Fish Hopper on Cannery Row.
The Fish Hopper on Cannery Row is known for its creamy delicious clam chowder served in warm, soft sour dough bread bowls
Maybe part of it has to do with the atmosphere of sitting outdoors on a park bench overlooking the water in Steinbeck Plaza.
A cool ocean breeze blowing through your hair. Seagulls flitting about and chattering from the rooftops. The soothing sound of the waves breaking against the rocks, buildings and sandy shoreline below. The romanticism of what cannery row used to be.
To highlight this the community has erected a large memorial statue in the center of the plaza. It features author John Steinbeck sitting atop a rock with some of Monterey’s other most notable characters, including marine biologist Ed Ricketts, four local entreprenuers (Ted Balestreri, George Zarounian, Harry Davidian and Bert Cutino) who helped to revive Cannery Row into the bustling tourist attraction it is today, and depictions of the men who worked in the canning industry that shaped this town.
Whatever it is, the Shake family knows how to do clam chowder right! So much so that we chatted about it over lunch and with the following day off work we hopped on a plane from Phoenix to Monterey that afternoon. By 7:30pm we had breadbowl in hand and spent the evening enjoying a beautiful California sunset and wine tasting on Cannery Row.
Monterey has become quite a tourist attraction and last minute hotels in the area were a bit pricier than we would have liked. We could have saved by staying closer to the airport, but we opted for a place on the water near Cannery Row.
We stayed at the Monterey Bay Inn. It was a good location within easy walking distance of historic Cannery Row and Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The staff was very friendly, our room was spacious, clean and comfortable and the hotel offers amenities such as spa services, turn down service and a complimentary in room continental breakfast. They also feature a rooftop hot tub overlooking the water. My only complaint was that we didn’t get to enjoy that as when we went up there after 10:00pm the hot tub was full of young children splashing and playing around.
The following day, we enjoyed breakfast overlooking the water at Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen on Cannery Row. From there we strolled down to Fisherman’s Wharf talking to people fishing from the docks, enjoying the local wildlife and tidepooling along the rocky coastline.
The water is so clear you can see the jellyfish swimming around from the docks
After a late lunch of fried calamari, more delicious clam chowder and a tower of crab meat at Old Fisherman’s Grotto, we had just enough time to head back down to Cannery Row for ice cream at Ghiradelli’s before catching our flight back to Phoenix.
It was a quick trip, but is was just break from the hot Phoenix summer we needed. And the clam chowder really hit the spot!
Planning a trip to Monterey?
If you have a few days to stay there are plenty of things to do besides shopping and going to the beach. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Stroll along the waterfront from Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Signs along the way share information about the community and local wildlife. One fun fact I learned is that sea otters have over 1 million hairs per square inch of their body, giving them the densest fur of any mammal.
Visit the aquarium. Probably Cannery Row’s largest attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit organization that features exhibits on animals in and around the bay as well as out in the open ocean, and focuses on ocean conservation. They have hands on exhibits and offer educational programs for all ages.
Stop by the old Customhouse. Visit California’s very first landmark, an old adobe style building that was used first by the Mexican government then by the United States goverment to collect duties on foreign trade. It was on this site in 1846 during the Mexican-American War that Commodore John Drake Sloat of the United States Navy raised the American Flag and declared California part of the United States.
Kayak or SUP the bay. Paddle around the bay for a closer view of the sea otters, sea lions and marine life. If you don’t have your own kayak or paddleboard don’t worry. There are plenty of outfitters who can get you set up and even give you a tour.
Take a whale watching tour. Humpback whales and dolphins frequent the bay. In fact when we arrived Thursday night we heard we had just missed sightings of humpback whales breaching just off shore. According to Monterey Bay Whale Watch, during the day 15 humpback whales and 110 Risso’s Dolphins were spotted.
Go scuba diving. San Carlos Beach right next to the hotel we stayed at the end of Cannery Row on the corner of Cannery Row and Reeside Avenue is a popular spot for scuba diving. Make sure you have a nice thick wetsuit because water temperatures are chilly, usually around 50 degrees. Local dive shops can hook you up with gear and training if needed.
Go to the races. Just a few miles away from Cannery Row, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca hosts events for race fans year round including the FIM Superbike World Championship, Ferrari Challenge and Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix. They offering camping for race fans as well including RV and tent sites.