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Nesting Instincts

[whitespace] Crow's Nest
Janet Orsi

Steak a Claim: Crow's Nest head chef Joe Miyoshi cooks up traditional, no-frills food, like the tasty grilled filet house special, at the beach-side Santa Cruz landmark.

Crow's Nest offers reliable food and dazzling views

By Christina Waters

FOR A RECENT CULINARY menage à trois, we chose the Crow's Nest, where we'd dined--collectively--many dozens of times in the past. Dripping with plant life and pulsing to the beat of the music upstairs at the Breakwater Bar, the interior, as always, was warm and inviting. One of the longest-lasting institutions in the county, the Crow's Nest has been on everybody's must-see list for decades. No visitor can resist the invigorating view of the sailboats all performing gracefully on the bay outside, or sampling the salt air on a balmy day from the deck.

The salad bar here continues to carry out its mission of reassuring multigenerational diners that they won't have to endure an overly gourmet experience. After all, many of us have always considered the Crow's Nest a great bar and schmoozing scene with a restaurant attached.

Well, the restaurant is very much attached, as we noticed while taking possession of our wines by the glass--a terrific Ravenswood Merlot 1995 ($6.75), an excellent Cuvaison Chardonnay 1996 ($7.50) and an indifferent Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 ($6.50). I tore into the basket of two breads--one an excellent, chewy-crusted sourdough, the other a delicious dark molasses number--as my companions, Charlie and Di, got acquainted. In search of an only-in-Santa-Cruz evening, Charlie had tucked a tarot deck into his jacket, just in case Di was up for a tableside reading.

Our waiter--a nice guy with a great, savvy attitude and highly developed waitering skills--made sure that we all got our appetizers at the same moment. Charlie had ordered the most predictable appetizer a seafood house can offer--a shrimp cocktail ($4.95). And after a few bites of the rather mushy contents, he wished that he'd ordered the prawn cocktail instead. "The sauce is inconclusive," Di agreed.

But we all loved my abundant spinach salad ($1.95 with entrée), tossed in a delicious honey-mustard dressing, dusted with grated egg and a healthy handful of lean bacon shards. Lots of bacon. Di's plate of fresh steamed asparagus ($3.50) was a hit. Cooked to the al dente stage, the long emerald-green spears were enhanced by a sauce that Charlie pronounced more garlicky than garlic. We all delightfully agreed.

Over a freewheeling discussion of the hippie era in Luxembourg, Di let fly one last comment about the unappreciated shrimp cocktail. "It really should have some character--but it doesn't," she sniffed, surveying her gorgeous plate of fresh broiled salmon with unnatural passion.

The salmon ($14.95) was wonderful. Perfectly and simply broiled, it arrived with pilaf, drawn butter and lemon. Charlie's chargrilled teriyaki swordfish ($13.95) came with a wickedly hot wasabi tartar sauce and more of the rice pilaf.

We all aggressively ignored our tired pilaf and side garnish of decorative kale and melon cubes.

However, everybody fought over my petite filet mignon ($14.95). For years, I've perhaps perversely ordered steak at the Crow's Nest. It's great here. And the aged, charbroiled slab of perfectly cooked beef in front of me--or rather in front of me or Di or Charlie--was true to legend. It came with a standard baked potato.

Our entrées--with the exception of Charlie's too-thin, too-teriyaki'd swordfish--were great. And as the plates were cleared, the tarot cards materialized on the white table linens.

"Mmmmmm," said Di between bites of a sweet, gooey, cream-topped, sugar-sprinkles-strewn chocolate mousse pie ($4.50). "Everything works out in the end, but there are some obstacles ahead."

I considered this destiny over a tangy tangerine sorbet ($3.50), beautifully served over a layer of raspberry purée. And Charlie liked the way the Ace of Swords was cutting through a lot of confusion in his path, just as the bill arrived.

"Is it a good reading?" our waiter asked knowingly.

Hey, it's Santa Cruz, isn't it?


Crow's Nest
Address: 2218 E. Cliff Dr., SC Yacht Harbor
Phone: 476-4560
Hours: Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm daily (till 3pm weekends), dinner 5:30-9:30pm nightly
Price: Moderate
Head Chef: Joe Miyoshi
Disability Access: Marginal in restroom, complete in restaurant
Ambiance: *** Quintessential seaside fish house with laid-back style and easy appeal
Service: *** Top-notch, amiable, on the ball
Cuisine: ** Standards, plus some fine specials, fill the non-threatening menu, which includes a classic salad bar and good vegetable presentation
Overall: Good vibes, great views and reliable food spell longevity, Santa Cruz style.

****Great, ***Excellent, **Good, *Okay


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From the February 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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