Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dockside Grill - say goodbye to what was a wonderful restaurant

I have previously written about how wonderful I think Dockside Grill is. Terrific food, nice location, decent prices, good service, great menu. What more could you want? Well, more of the same would have been what I wanted, but that seems to no longer be possible.

The husband and I have been going to Dockside for quite a number of years, and we were last there about a week ago. I noticed the sign outside proclaiming new menu items, but the last time they did that a few years ago, they were mostly minor changes, so I didn't think anything of it.

When we checked in, the husband asked for our favorite server, who happened to be working that night. We were seated in a different section than he normally handles, so I thought maybe they'd just moved him for the night. Then they handed us our menus - and it was completely different than what we'd seen for the years that we'd been going. First of all, the menu itself was a sort of dark aqua color with black print, making the menu fairly difficult to read in the first place. Second, the menu was still printed on the front and back, but I think the entire menu could have easily fit on just one side since everything was written so it was very spaced out.

Our server came by, and we asked him what was going on. He said the new owners had changed the menu, but this was still an interim menu, that they were still finalizing everything. New owners? He then told us that the restaurant had been sold several weeks prior. The restaurant had previously been owned by the company that operates Monterey Bay Canners, and the new owners are the same people who own Damon's Steakhouse.

They have just about decimated the old menu. And in decimating the menu, they have also severely lowered the formerly upscale nature of the restaurant. Previously, Dockside was a decently upscale seafood restaurant with a very nice selection of fish dishes, quite a number of different seafood dishes and a couple of steak options for the non-seafood inclined. With the new menu, it's just a regular boring restaurant with several distinct features that mark the restaurant as being decidedly casual and middle-of-the-road.

The new appetizer menu includes chicken fingers. I'm sorry, but chicken fingers are not something I would ever expect to find on the menu of a nice seafood restaurant. In addition, many of the entrees formerly came with a choice of two sides, from a list of some really good choices. Now, many of the entrees come with french fries and coleslaw. Really.

Gone are the nice combinations of different seafood options. Gone are the plentiful varieties of fresh fish choices. And gone are the nice, interesting desserts, to be replaced by boring, run-of-the-mill, I-can-get-these-anywhere desserts.

Here are the choices on the new appetizer menu - oysters, fried calamari, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, garlic bread, fried zucchini, shrimp skewers, sweet and spicy wings, bbq shrimp quesadilla, steamed clams, chicken fingers and shrimp martini. We had the steamed clams on this visit, and they were still as good as ever. They used to have a sashimi that was quite nice, but that's gone now. I did notice that Damon's Steakhouse also has chicken fingers as well as sweet and spicy wings on their appetizer list. So I guess they decided to bring them over. But chicken fingers on the appetizer menu of a steakhouse? Ummm, ok.

They also have Boston and Manhattan clam chowder, lobster bisque, house salad, caesar salad and several dinner salads. There are also four pasta dishes which include a side salad and bread.

And the formerly nice upscale seafood restaurant now has a variety of burgers and sandwiches that come with french fries and coleslaw. They also have a variety of fried foods - beer battered halibut, coconut shrimp, seafood catch (shrimp, scallops and halibut), scallops - all of which come with french fries and coleslaw. Regular entrees include seafood cioppino, calamari steak, shrimp scampi and crab cakes. They all come with soup or salad, vegetables and one additional side.

They also offer several cuts of steak, various surf and turf items that you can order separately or in combination, and there is a limited fish market.

They do still have the signature Slamfest, though for some reason, they chose to leave it off the menu and just make the servers present it as a "special", but instead of having three different tiers/price levels, depending on what items you wanted, there is only the middle level available now.

I opted for the mahi mahi this time, which was good, but I'll miss the absolutely delicious bluenose seabass and the plethora of fresh fish to choose from on a daily basis.

One thing they have done better is with the vegetables. They used to be sort of sauteed but were always a bit oily. The new version is mostly blanched/boiled.

And for dessert, they used to have the upside down cake and profiteroles and the wonderful tempura banana fritters with the absolutely amazing macadamia nut ice cream. Now, the dessert choices are all run-of-the-mill - chocolate cake, carrot cake, apple pie, mudd pie. Bor.ing.

Dockside Grill has been an absolute treasure and one of our favorite restaurants. Everyone that we've introduced to the restaurant has also really loved it. But now, we're sad that the new owners have completely ruined the place. They already own a steakhouse, but instead of simply opening another branch of it, they've decided to come in and destroy a wonderful seafood restaurant. We will definitely not be returning nearly as often as we used to. I may decide to go back if I know I want the Slamfest, and I may decide to venture there on a Friday night just because I want to listen to the band The Subs play in the bar area. But otherwise, when it comes to seafood, I'll be going to Red Lobster more often now. Sadly, Dockside is now no longer a restaurant I can recommend.

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