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RestaurantsSanta Cruz
October 11-18, 2006

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Crow's Nest

Photograph by Carlie Statsky
Something to crow about: Seaside food and festivities are a Crow's Nest tradition.

Nesting Instinct

Comedy and cuisine get together at the Crow's Nest

By Selene Latigo

In my opinion, being a standup comedian is crazy. Just thinking about the glaring stage lights, critical audience and pressure to draw out laughter makes my stomach tighten with anxiety. I could actually feel myself taking on the hidden energy of fear that was accumulating from the 14 comics gathered at the Crow's Nest for the semifinals of the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. It took me a few minutes to ease into the evening, greatly assisted by the comfortable sports bar-meets-dinner club surroundings and the unmatched ocean view from this upstairs "nest" called the Breakwater Bar & Grill.

A clear pink sunset, twinkling distant lights and the sliver of a waning autumn moon hanging over the wharf created a calming lull before the riotous laughter storm as we nestled into our candlelit table. I settled my adopted nerves with a signature cocktail, the Guava Rita ($6.75), with Hornitos tequila, a splash of guava juice and some lime on the rocks. I was quite happy with this drink's tart and musky undertone, far from the syrupy cornucopia of fruitiness I generally expect from house cocktails. Unfortunately, a lot of salt fell into my Rita pre-delivery, countering the subtle sweetness. I added more ice, another squirt of lime, and sucked it down regardless while Dave sipped on his Spatten draft ($4.75), cold and crisp, a perfect companion to our beer-friendly food to come.

When it comes to the deep-fried specialties that haunt drinking establishments throughout the nation, Dave is an expert judge. Our order of buffalo wings ($5.95) was quickly assessed and proclaimed meaty, adequately spiced and well fried, the essential key to creating nonsoggy yet well-sauced chicken meat on a bone. The six fat wings were served with a side of peppery blue cheese dressing and a few crisp, mouth-cooling celery sticks. The room was rapidly filling up with an expectant buzz and we noticed "the hover" starting to occur, a typical bar phenomenon in which people vie for choice seats before an event. Our food arrived as the competition's judges sat down at the reserved table directly in front of us, adding a bit of excitement to our meal. The upstairs menu features a wide array of salads, countering more typical pub fare, as well as entrees and sandwiches, all with a choice of soup, fries, Caesar or spinach salad or one trip to the abundant salad bar downstairs.

I grappled between the fish tacos and the fish sandwich ($8.95), both house specialties, as indicated by a little sailboat picture next to their title, but ultimately decided on the sandwich for its sturdy classic appeal. The generous, freshly grilled fillet of tilapia with dark, fire-kissed edges, was moist and unadorned by excessive seasonings. The fish was laid out on a thick square of tender focaccia bread with red onion, tomato and lettuce. I had to ask our server for the tartar sauce that was absent from the plate, but once slathered on, it added the final touch to this sandwich, proof of how great just a few well-treated ingredients can come together.

Dave ordered the Aloha Burger ($7.95), a huge, thick chuck patty, cooked perfectly medium and topped with saut»ed onion, a slab of grilled juicy pineapple and a sweet glaze of teriyaki sauce. The bun was only standard quality but the fries were thin, extra-crisp and dark golden brown, an essential component of any bar meal.

Since my salad plate wasn't brought out until after the rest of our food, we ended up sharing a heaping salad for dessert. With a single-trip cap on this salad bar visit, I fell victim to a buffet mentality of overpiling my plate with almost every topping available. The three dressings I carefully poured over their designated sections became a muddled puddle, of course, as we gobbled up the fresh veggies, crunchy seasoned croutons and dilled pasta salad.

Our plates were cleared, beers were ordered and the lights dimmed for what turned into the beginning of a long night full of hilarious comedy. The Breakwater Bar & Grill at the Crow's Nest was an ideal location for this event, offering a cozy ambience and good food at much more affordable prices than downstairs.

Crow's Nest

Address: 2218 E. Cliff Dr., Santa Cruz

Phone: 831.476.4560

Hours: 11:30am-11pm daily

Price Range: $5-$14.

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