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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

Quite a Catch!

Contributed By: Mark Bonovetz

The first thing he says to me is, “Phil’s Fish Market.” I’m like, “what??” “If you are looking for a great place to take me to eat, Phil’s Fish Market is the best place to go in Moss Landing.” The running joke on all the job sites I visit is that “corporate” takes everyone out to eat when they visit the job. And this young project coordinator is establishing his groundwork before I even unpack my computer. “Can I at least unpack my gear before we start talking about food?” I say. But he has peaked my interest.

I am in Moss Landing, California for a week working at the power generating facility. Unique little town with an amazing project we are working on. But I know the days are long and I am hoping I can make time to have at least one sit down dinner. After two long, full days, I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s on! I am off to Phil’s.

Phil’s is located off what appears to be a sand bar on the west side of Moss Landing marina. Parking is extremely limited, but that is to be expected. But no problem. If you park on the street you get to walk down the street next to the marina and all the boats. Phil’s is tucked in right off the street. Once you walk in through the first doorway you are in the covered dinning are. The great part about this is examining what everyone else is eating as you walk by. I am in heaven. Fresh sea food meals everywhere you look. And huge portions as well. Good thing my meals today consisted of almonds and flavored water. Because stuff is about to get real.

Once through the opening you enter the main fish market/ordering station. As soon as you walk in the door the first thing you see is the fresh fish on the right, packed in ice. Now I need to look further, as off to the right is the raw and fresh fish, the clams and oysters, the crabs, and the fresh lobster tank. Too bad I am flying back in the morning as I would be loading up on fresh seafood to take back. Everything is neatly packed on ice and displayed for sale. There are friendly workers all around willing to help get what you need. But I am about instant gratification and the cooked food I was being told about.

As I walk back over to the main door the menu is there, displayed proudly on the wall. And when I say on the wall, I mean rows upon rows of all different kinds of seafood dishes. Fresh fish, Crabs. Lobster. Pasta with Shrimp. Pasta with scallops. Just plain scallops. Names I can’t even pronounce. But that doesn’t matter. Challenge accepted. Let’s scour the listing and start to narrow the choices. I can tell right now this is going to be the hardest part of my trip, deciding what I want to eat from this overwhelming selection of food.

I am a huge ceviche fan. First tried it two years ago. Now I can’t get enough of it. And it’s there. Check. But I’m not done. Right next to the ceviche is the menu listing for the clam chowder. And just the way it is written on the board tells me I should order a bowl of this. Check that, I NEED to order a bowl of that. So mentally I tell myself that I have just ordered an appetizer and soup. I need a main course. The last pasta dish I read off is Linguini with Shrimp and Crab. After reading the menu items for what seems like hours (about 5 minutes actually,) I can’t go through it again or I will order one of everything. The linguini it its.

My group and myself order our food, pay at the register, and head to our table. We are eating out in the covered area as it is full inside. No worries as I see musicians walking in with instruments. Live music. Another favorite for dinner time. We sit and no sooner do I go and I retrieve my drink than does the salad that comes with the meal arrives. A fresh array of lettuce and tomatoes with a robust creamy Italian. And my clam chowder. Now, most places you dine at forgot what a “bowl” of soup is. They call it a bowl, but it is nothing more than a glorified plate with a higher than normal edges. Not here. The bowl is extremely generous. Heaping to the top. And the smell is so good I feel like I am already eating it.

The soup was amazing. Large chunks of clams, perfect size cut potatoes, and creamy to the point of gravy, but not quite there. Filling to say the least. While this was delivered, so was the ceviche. Just by looking at it you knew there was noting but goodness marinating in that bowl. And it was everything plus. The mixture and consistency of it was spot on. Not an overpowering tang from the lime juice, not a lumpy mixture of seafood and vegetables. Who ever perfected it mastered it down to a science.

It was then that they brought out our entrees. Either my eyes were bigger than my stomach, or the bowl in front of me was a portion for two. Nope, all mine. I could not wait to dig into what was now steaming in front of me. All the flavors in the bowl were now permeating the air in front of my nostrils. And the taste was even better. Just a perfect mix of seafood, seasonings, and sauce. And the noodles were very loose. No over cooking done here. Totally impressed. And totally happy that I had leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

After dinner was complete, we sat and listened to an incredible little bluegrass band. If I had more time, I think I would have stayed until they finished. But having to work in the morning is the reason I am out here, and duty calls. I highly recommend stopping here for lunch or dinner if you are ever in the area. Not only is the food good, but the atmosphere is unique. The staff is extremely friendly and you never without someone checking on you. I can’t wait until my next visit out there.

To see more about Phil's Fish Market, visit their website:

Mark Bonovetz travels regularly for his job, and he thoroughly enjoys trying out new places to eat--and then writing about it!


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