I Smell Something Fishy

Waterman’s Harbor in Dana Point — The Persnickety Patron

PERSNICKETY LEVEL: HIGH (4 Modifications)
RATING SYSTEM: 1 star awarded in each of 5 categories:
Vibe, Food, Service, Tolerance,“It” Factor.
SCORE: 4 out of 5 Stars.

Today I got tricked. I was taken to a seafood restaurant for lunch under the guise that this place was “all American” and “with something for everybody”. But it was not, it was a seafood restaurant plain and simple. With things on the menu like “Local Rockfish & Shrimp Ceviche” and “Grilled Hokkaido Scallops” there really isn’t a case to be made that the bread and butter here isn’t actually fish and chips. So I began my internal panic, you know the one that sets in when you’re trapped, as much by social grace as the fact that you drove everyone here and can’t just leave.

My eyes began to scan the menu wildly looking for the word “chicken”, or even “tofu”, or hope against all hopes “pizza!”. Anything but “ahi” “poke” or, god forbid — “crab cake”. Cake should be chocolate thank you very much, so I felt myself starting to get crabby. I begin to use all my mental energy to keep the feelings of dread and fear forming in my gut from forming on my face because it’s not my party’s fault they are friends with such a picky bitch. But a picky bitch I am, so I breathe deep, giggle politely when required, and grit my teeth for an unexpected lunchtime adventure. What was I going to order for lunch from a seafood place? Frankly I had no idea.

Vibe: As we walked in I truly did not realize this was a seafood place. I guess I should have, seeing as how every spot I’ve been to in Dana Point Harbor is chock full of fish. It’s advertised as a locally sourced sea-food restaurant I’ve come to find out, but at the time I didn’t know that; I was just lost in the beautiful architecture and the salty air. We were seated at at beautiful wood table that seemed like it was made from the deck of a boat. In the center was an aquarium, but not for fish, it was for fire. Oh, this is going to be fun I thought.

Food: There are exactly three items on this menu not made of seafood, except for dessert, the BBQ Chicken Sandwich, the Akaushi burger and the Wedge Salad; so I went Wedge. I got persnickety, adding chicken that had to be blackened, bell peppers and tomatoes, and holding the avocados. I also ordered the garlic cheese bread (as is, because you can’t improve on good garlic cheese bread). Often times even the non-seafood items at a place like this are laced with an unavoidable fishy under-taste, so my expectations were low. But to my surprise my selections arrived quickly and were delicious, not a trace of the sour ocean darkening my persnickety pallet.

Service: After a slight delay early on in taking our drink order the server was the perfect balance of attentive and altogether hidden. She took my order without commanding my attention, a perfect balance of service and subtlety.

Tolerance: With the modification meter registering a high level of pernsicketyness I had braced myself for at least a cheerfully sarcastic glare from the server to my friends regarding my order. But none came. My server’s tolerance was impeccable, if not entirely charismatic, and I felt welcome to make myself comfortable.

The “It” Factor: As my friend and Master Foodie, Josh pointed out when I read the first draft of this article to him, this place is one of the few in that over crowded touristy harbor to serve fantastic and flavorful fare, you can see the ocean, enjoy the view and take it easy for a while. So, while it’s mainly a fish house, even a picky bitch like me was able to find something he loved.

By the time the meal was finished I was pleasantly plump and for the first time in my life perfectly pleased with a seafood restaurant. I wouldn’t recommend the seafood, but I’d recommend Waterman’s Harbor for a great time, anytime.

I know I can be a bit persnickety, but this place made a patron out of me.

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