Po' boys and sympathy
If you go to Fat Anne's Bakery & Bistro's new spot on Main Street in Ferndale (939 Main St.), get the fried chicken. Then tell me what it's like because the fryer was down the day I visited, though I hear it's being remedied. It happens. But there is little that can stop my body-shaking sobs when I psych myself up for fried chicken only to be denied.
Which is why the blackened shrimp po' boy on the lunch menu is remarkable for having cheered me up ($15). The very plump shrimp are curled up in a soft, dense hoagie roll (baked on the premises), rather than French bread, and are grilled to firmness and no further. The smoky char of butter and Cajun seasoning let the flavor of the seafood through and the homemade herbed remoulade would probably make anything taste good. The menu announces slaw but mixed greens with lovely house made croutons and ranch dressing are a fine swap.
Do not dismiss the power of homemade ranch dressing — it is another creature entirely from the bottled stuff in which someone somewhere is currently drowning a slice of pizza. (Not judging you, ranch-pizza lovers — this world is hard and if you find something that makes you happy, hold onto it.) Take a moment to appreciate what a light toss with the fresh stuff, creamy and herby, does for ordinary spring mix. And for sobbing strangers.
Down at the Docks
Sometimes I walk from the Journal offices down F Street to the plaza, with its wind-whipped flags, and look across the water as the fishing boats come into the bay as they have for lifetimes, bringing their haul back from the unknowable depths and think, "Shouldn't we have, like, a million places for fish and chips, chowder and steamer clams?" There is a solid handful but among those three items, it's hit or miss at each. What happy news, then, to discover Jack's Seafood (4 C St., Suite B, Eureka), overlooking the bay and the crane lifting catches from boats just a couple of blocks over, has conquered the trifecta.
The chowder is more about the fresh cream than the usual flour-thick version of the New England classic, with chopped clams, vegetables and a little pepper ($5 cup, $8 bowl). It's light on the salt and served with crackers, herb butter and sliced sourdough — it's the North Coast, after all and nobody's defecting to Maine.
Steamer clams, in their amphitheater bowl, are your basic white wine and clam broth with garlic, parsley, green onions and black pepper, and that is truly all anybody is asking for ($14). That and a few crusty slices to dip as you pick your miniature fork through the clinking shells like a very civilized otter. (I have long considered bringing my own baguette to restaurants that serve only soft rolls or hard bruschetta toasts with steamer clams, but I cannot decide if it makes me look like a cool actress from French New Wave cinema or just very troubled.)
You have choices for the fish and chips, but they all come from Pacific Seafoods next door. The rock cod is tender with a delicate batter crust that holds together just long enough to be dipped in tartar sauce and/or splashed with lemon or malt vinegar and bitten ($15). The chips are skin-on, hand-cut wedges, and the slaw is not to be ignored — lightly dressed and freshly cut with an option for spicy, it's worth ordering a side if you aren't getting the fish.
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