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Why Is Phil’s Fish Market So Popular?

written by Penny Sadler

Moss Landing is a very colorful and funky 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 a 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, but home to the Shakespeare Museum and Elkhorn Slough, one of the best places in the world to see otters in their natural habitat. Moss Landing is also home to the world-famous Phil’s Fish Market.

5 Reasons To Love Monterey California @PennySadler

Colorful exteriors in Moss Landing.

exterior of Phil's Fish Market California

Phil’s Fish Market. The line moves fast.

Never heard of Phil’s?  Neither did I. Even though it’s been featured on the BBC , 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!

Menu at Phil's Fish Market Moss Landing, California

There’s a lot more than cioppino on the menu


Why Is Phil’s Fish Market So Popular?

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-based soup. The serving is huge and I wondered how I’d ever finish;  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 Fish Market Cioppino @PennySadler

Cioppino at Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing. Phil’s has been voted best beach restaurant by the BBC and so many other publications it’s ridiculous.

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. Another reason to go to Phil’s, the atmosphere; maybe 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 the bartender’s 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 my 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.

Hahn SLH Pinot Noir @PennySadler 2015

Try this pinot noir from Monterey County

The 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. Dungeness 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.

Crab Louie Salad at Phil's Fish Market, Montery Bay, from, Why is Phil's Fish Market So Popular

Fresh Dungeness Crab. Yum. I want this crab louie.

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 at the bar. Phil’s is family-friendly and I saw plenty of children there too.

Why is Phils Fish Market so popular Moss Landing

Interior dining area at Phil’s, Moss Landing

Eating at Phil's Fish Market @PennySadler 2015

Outdoor seating

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.


Why Is Phil's Fish Market So Popular?

Fun bartender who does it all. Wish I had a better photo.

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.

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5 Reasons To Love Monterey California April 12, 2018 at 12:26 am

[…] charming and colorful fishing village of Moss Landing. Enjoy great food at the Haute Enchilada or Phil’s Fish Market.  Take a pontoon boat tour around Elkhorn Slough, one of California’s largest estuaries, […]

234 Sparky January 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

…local Monterey resident,first dined at Phil’s 30 yrs ago.Great place for lunch when I’m working in the area…Phil’s Snack Shack not to bad either

Penny Sadler January 19, 2016 at 8:21 pm

I’ll put the snack shack on my list of places not to miss in Monterey. Thanks!

Georgia Duran January 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm

We live in South Florida but visit Northern California once every couple of years. Several trips ago on our way to Carmel, we came to Moss Landing around lunchtime and my husband saw all of the fishing boats and figured there should be a good seafood place there. We discovered Phil’s and absolutely loved it. Now when we go to Carmel we go to Phil’s every day of our stay either for lunch or dinner. The only time we’ve had a long line was dinner on a Friday night.

Penny Sadler January 19, 2016 at 6:41 pm

Wow, every day…that’s dedication. I had a great time there talking with a couple from Florida. Maybe it was you? 🙂

Mary @ Green Global Travel February 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Cioppino is one of my favorite dishes! Thanks for sharing this local gem.

Penny Sadler February 8, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Thanks Mary!

Tawanna February 7, 2015 at 7:25 am

I’d like to swim in that cioppino and have the crab salad waiting for me when I was done. I want to go!

Penny Sadler February 7, 2015 at 10:24 am

LOL that’s a great way to put it. If you go please let me know if it meets your expectations.

Cat of Sunshine and Siestas February 3, 2015 at 5:27 am

I’d love this place – good, fresh seafood and not pretentious patrons!

Penny Sadler February 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I wish I could meet you there Cat. I can see it!

Lillie February 2, 2015 at 11:56 pm

DROOL — I think the answer to the title question is clear from the photos alone. Yum!

noel February 2, 2015 at 7:57 pm

I dropped by but it was still to early in the morning, man I’m bummed because I Really Love Cioppino and I’m sure it must be quite spectacular!

Wandering Educators February 2, 2015 at 2:49 pm

OOH!! This makes me so hungry!

Sand In My Suitcase February 2, 2015 at 12:49 am

Just as well that line at Phil’s moves quickly! But it sounds like the wait is worth it :-). The fresh crab would lure us in…

Penny Sadler February 2, 2015 at 10:03 am

The crab oh yes the crab. I want to go back just for that!

Ryan Biddulph January 30, 2015 at 11:15 am

Look at that line Penny; thank goodness it moves fast! Thanks for sharing the inspired read and for giving me food images to dream about lol…that bowl of seafood looks awesome 🙂


Penny Sadler January 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm

Hey Ryan, have you ever been to Monterey?


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