For the Brave:

For the courageous souls looking to expand their culinary expertise past Top Ramen and Pizza Rolls, head down to the harbor for some good, old-fashioned seafood shopping. The Santa Barbara Fish Market is not only a one-stop shop for all your ingredients, but also a good reason to wake up early on a Saturday morning. The only direct seafood outlet in the area, the seaside market brings “fresh seafood from the boat to you,” giving you a repertoire of the freshest and highest quality. Besides supporting local fisherman, you will be provided with an abundance of species that swam to the Santa Barbara coast from around the world.

The selection of seafood is huge, ranging from local halibut to spiny lobster. Other selections along the harbor include local opah, white seabass, ridgeback shrimp, swordfish, black cod, oysters and more. The market also boasts a large assortment of sashimi-grade fish, perfect for the amateur sushi chef, in addition to many sauces and marinades. With filets of sole on sale for $7.95 per pound and juicy scallops priced at $19.95, the price tags range from steals to splurges. No matter the market price, you are guaranteed to dive into an explosion of the freshest flavors.

 117 Harbor Way #A
(805) 965-9564
Open: Saturday mornings

For the Practical:

For those of us who remain a bit hesitant when it comes to preparing our own seafood favorites, my main man, TJ — that’s Trader Joe — has a plentiful selection of fishy food in the freezer section that is easy to cook and even more delicious to eat. One of my favorite items is the Soy Ginger Cod, sold by weight, making it affordable to your fancy. This mild whitefish is marinated in a miso-style dressing, and is reminiscent of the blackened seabass at world-renowned restaurant, Nobu, but for a fraction of the price. And it’s simple: buy the fish, store it in your freezer, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, pop in the oven for a few minutes, and you are ready to eat a five-star tasting meal. Another yummy pre-marinated filet is the Chimichurri Wild Alaskan Salmon, which is tangy with a little kick of heat. Other fantastic options found in the freezer are Asian-style shrimp stir fry, Maryland crab cakes and a seafood medley of scallops, shrimp and calamari — all of which can be cooked in the microwaves of our humble Isla Vista kitchens.

When You Splurge:

Situated directly on shore, The Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach is the perfect setting for a romantic date night with an ocean view, a celebratory gathering with friends for dinner and cocktails (try the Blood Orange Margarita or the Honeycomb Moijito), or a calm family night when Mom and Dad are in town.

If you’re in the mood for a fine dining experience with a laid back vibe, this restaurant is the place to be. Although the dishes might cost a bit more than the typical college budget can afford, the huge portions are more than reasonably priced — well worth the extra cash.

Just last weekend, I helped my parents celebrate their anniversary with an early dinner at The Boathouse, and our food arrived just in time to watch the breathtaking sunset over the Pacific Ocean. As locals ran with dogs along the sand, guests dining outside on the nicely decorated patio enjoyed the sea breeze. The indoor crowd found themselves in casual conversation and laughter, while taking in the picturesque views through the vast wall of windows. The exceptional staff is friendly and informative, helping you decide on which item to choose from the menu’s many flavors.

After delving into moist sourdough bread with butter, my family and I shared a shrimp cocktail appetizer, which comprised of large shrimp and a tangy dipping sauce with horseradish and freshly squeezed lemon. For a second appetizer (yes, I ate two), I selected the wedge salad; the crisp chunk of iceberg lettuce, sprinkled with large pieces of blue cheese, bacon, tomatoes and Bermuda onions was a refreshing and filling choice. By this point, I was full but had already ordered my entree, Mesquite Grilled Local White Sea Bass, and was ready to try the rare fish. My plate was covered in a large filet of seasoned sea bass — The Boathouse is one of the only restaurants in the area to serve local sea bass, — flavorful garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables that were cooked to perfection.

General Manager Mark McWilliams adds that the Macadamia Nut Mahi Mahi is another frequently ordered dish; rolled in chopped macadamias and baked until golden brown, the fish is served on top of a bed of island rice, sautéed green beans and lemon beurre-blanc lightly poured on top.

With my major sweet tooth, I knew that we had to try the establishment’s famous Macadamia Nut Mudd Pie, a.k.a. chocolate crack. “McConnell’s coffee ice cream in a chocolate cookie crust with roasted macadamia nuts, whipped cream and chocolate sauce” is what makes this dessert a top pick among restaurant goers, says McWilliams.

If you’re not in the mood for the fruits of the sea, The Boathouse also offers many non-seafood options. Juicy rib-eye and New York steaks are available for around $25, and a half-pound Kobe cheeseburger is a done deal at $13.95, especially with the sizzling hot french fries.

But if it’s not a special occasion, and you don’t want to splurge, college students can still enjoy the beach side atmosphere of The Boathouse with a smaller bill. The breakfast menu boasts three different eggs benedicts (all for under 15 bucks), including a California-style entree with avocado, and a smoked salmon version to match the ocean ambiance. For lunch, treat yourself to an abundance of good eats ranging from $8.95 to $14.95. Hawaiian chicken sandwiches, Seared Ahi, fish and chips, pulled pork sliders, classic tuna melts and grilled seafood skewers are all fan favorites at Hendry’s Beach.

Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach
2981 Cliff Dr.
(805) 898-2628

On a Budget:

Gracing the end of the pier at Stearns Wharf is a local hot spot disguised as a seaside shack. The Santa Barbara Shellfish Company serves up delectable dishes priced to fit anyone’s budget. Overlooking the Pacific, the restaurant provides an idealized dining experience from an oceanfront table.

One of the “cool little quirks of the spot” is the order-to-go window, says Brendan Dwan of the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company. The menu items available to order at the window are the same as inside, but locals usually indulge in more casual cuisine, including a fan favorite, clam chowder, says Dwan. This soup from the sea sells for $4.50 per cup — a bargain compared to the neighboring restaurants on the wharf. Huge bowls of the creamy New England-style broth with chunky clams, potatoes and bacon can be yours for fewer than eight bucks; if you are craving even more, you can enjoy the piping hot recipe from a freshly-baked sourdough bread bowl ($8.95). Besides the chowder, seasonal bisques are also offered in cups, bowls and crunchy bread; the company is currently serving up its rightfully-famous lobster bisque.

Other popular items on the menu are a family-recipe of shrimp ceviche served with homemade tortilla chips (under $10.00), clams or mussels cooked in a white wine garlic broth ($12.95) and a pound and a half of steamed local crab served with sides of coleslaw and onion rings for just over 15 bucks. Quick lunch specials ranging from $9.95 to $12.95 also include a beer-battered calamari sandwich, crispy coconut shrimp and shrimp tacos on warm corn tortillas served with spicy salsa, smooth avocado and flavorful Spanish rice.

A great excuse to enjoy the sunset, the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company offers the best of culinary cuisine but at a college-student friendly price.

Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.
230 Stearns Wharf
(805) 966-6676