Moss Landing is a very colorful and funky little harbor town located on Monterey Bay in California. It’s the kind of place you can not ignore with brightly painted buildings, quirky signs, and scenic harbor – I liked it immediately. Moss Landing is tiny, only 200 people, but it has the busiest fishing harbor in California. It’s a bit off the beaten track and the only reason I ended up there was for a tour of the Elkhorn Slough (more about that later). After the tour, I decided it would be fun to have lunch in Moss Landing and do a little more exploring. Unknowingly, that was the best decision I made all day … Moss Landing is home to the world famous Phil’s Fish Market.
Don’t know about Phil’s? Neither did I. Even though it’s been featured on the BBC and the Food Network, and countless other places. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend you check it out when you’re in the Monterey area, assuming, of course, you like fish and seafood. Since you’re reading this… I guess you do!
Phil’s is famous for cioppino, and since that’s one of my favorite dishes, that’s what I had. It was loaded with fresh fish, shrimp, mussels, crab claws, and clams in a savory tomato base soup. The serving is huge and I wondered how I’d ever finish it. But it was as delicious as it looked, so no problem there. The cioppino is so popular they sell it by the bucket! I wanted to try several other things on the menu but that would have been total gluttony.
Phil’s receives visitors from all over the world – many are repeat customers. They come for the seafood of course, always fresh and huge portions but I also liked the atmosphere. Maybe that’s because I sat at the bar where I was able to talk to a lot of different people and enjoy the show the bartender puts on.
I don’t know his name but he’s quite a character and aims to make sure everyone is happy and having a good time. I mentioned that it was m first visit to Monterey and that I had not yet tried the local wines. He poured me an impromptu tasting of three different local pinot noirs. My favorite was the SLH – full bodied for a pinot noir with lots of nice berry fruit. Perfect with my cioppino.
A woman sitting on my right ordered the crab louie. I really wanted to try it, and regret that I did not. Loaded with fresh Dungeness crab over crisp salad greens and the usual crab louie ingredients it looked amazing, which she confirmed. Dungenness Crab was in season, so you couldn’t go wrong with that. I don’t know if she told them to put the traditional louie dressing on the side or if that’s the way they serve it, but that was brilliant. After all, who needs fresh crab ruined with mounds of dressing? I didn’t get a taste, but I got a tasty photo.
A few tips: there’s always a long line at Phil’s, but it moves pretty quickly. You can bypass the line by sitting at the bar to eat. If you’re not a bar person there’s plenty of seating both indoors and outside. The outside seating is heated. All seating is wheelchair accessible, except obviously, at the bar. Phil’s is family friendly and I saw plenty of children there too.
Why is Phil’s so popular? Great food, good service and fun location. It’s a local institution. If you love seafood, don’t miss it.
Phil’s Fish Market
7600 Sandholt Rd.
My trip to Monterey was sponsored by See Monterey, however my trip to Phil’s Fish Market was on my own dime. As always all opinions are my own.