The Boathouse Bar & Grill feels like a moment in Humboldt County history. And, to be fair, it is. Locals (and repeat visitors) will remember its predecessor the Whaler's Inn, a hallowed and storied Fields Landing bar and restaurant that was, for most of the county's residents, a destination.
Fields Landing itself is retro, in a way. The unincorporated community (population: 217; elevation: 13 feet) is speckled with charming houses, between which you can spy the waters of Humboldt Bay. It's a tight community that found purchase as the fishing and timber industry declined around it.
And stepping into the Boathouse feels like stepping into that transition time — a recent history. The front door opens right into a bar that might appear kitschy at first glance. But settle onto a barstool, and you'll notice real craft, from the framed stained glass whale to the ropes and pulleys, to the Japanese fishing floats on the bar and the bar itself — a repurposed skiff whose mast juts through the ceiling.
Make sure to come hungry or thirsty, or both. If I say the Boathouse is no-frills, I mean it lovingly. There are beer and wine specials, 20 taps and a full bar, but it's not a craft cocktail place. They'll make whatever you order but it's up to you to order. On this particular visit, I stuck with the 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA, but a wide array of drinks, including an enticing Bloody Mary, emanated from the bar.
The menu is solid pub fare with a few standouts. The fresh beef burgers are juicy and served with a mountain of fries. The pepper jack burger comes adorned with "bottle caps" — battered and fried jalapeño rounds. Just the right amount of kick to necessitate a second round.
The fish and chips are heartily breaded and the specials feature a rotating variety of seafoods. Also: garlic fries.
If sitting at the bar isn't your thing, there are small tables in the barroom, and a labyrinthine back area that can house a good crowd. It feels like a pirate's tavern (thankfully free of menace), a place where you can sink into the dark corners, cloaked in privacy. You really should belly up to the bar though. It's a friendly place full of regulars and, on my visit, some of the patrons fell into a deep conversation full of bulldozer jargon that had me completely lost.
If the conversation isn't entertainment enough, seek out the pool room, which houses two tables in a room that slants upward and narrows like a ship's bow. Don't worry, the felts are level. I imagine the slope accounts for some interesting late-night billiard matches. Those with sea legs are definitely favored.
There's also an outdoor area where you can soak up Humboldt Bay fog, enjoy a smoke, or get that above-deck feeling if you need to steady.