Playing the fourteen year, two thousand plus restaurant Zagat game has included numerous ups and downs. One of the bumps in the road occurred last year when the new guide came out. Only forty-four restaurants away from finishing the 2010 edition, The Monster was positive 2011 would prove easy. Flipping through the guide The Monster was dismayed to find it added far-flung places for the first time like Ojai, Ventura and Catalina Island. The Zagat guide added a (curse, curse, curse, swear, swear) island two hours away by boat.
Forty-four restaurants rocketed back to one hundred and three. The Monster was in a foul mood for days. And so it’s with excitement (and a bit of resentment) Mr. & Mrs. Monster head to Catalina for the weekend to hit the five restaurants now listed in the 2011 Zagat Guide. Having never been to Catalina, the ferry ride over is mostly monotonous save the school of dolphins that accompany us for a bit of the trip. When we dock it’s a quick trip to drop off luggage and then head straight to Armstrong’s Fish Market & Seafood Restaurant, final Zagat meal #8!
Since The Monster has to hit five restaurants in less than two days it’s going to be a marathon session of eating, complaining, eating, complaining. Can’t wait!
Like most of Catalina, Armstrong’s is nestled right beside the water with views of the boats docked in harbor. It’s casual with both a great deck and small inside eating area. The staff is friendly in a relaxed manner. Nothing stuffy or fastidious going on here. It’s nautical themed with large marlin adorning the walls and black and white photos of fishing trips from the past. There is also a small display case for the market and a bar tucked in the far corner.
The menu leans heavily on seafood, much of it caught fresh locally. That suits The Monster just fine.
For a starter a bowl of New England clam chowder is the call. It’s thick. Like concrete mix thick. It’s filled with clams. It’s lacking a bit in flavor. That is why the man above invented Tabasco. It cures all taste ills. Still, this soup becomes a hugely thick bowl of clammy tasting Tabasco. Campbell’s Soup offers a similar clam chowder you can buy in a can at Vons. Do that.
Fried scallops with fries and a salad and a combination plate of grilled shrimp, scallops, fish and vegetables with rice are the main courses.
The fried scallops are…fried! Woohoo. Very fried. That being said, the cocktail sauce is tasty so this is a case of you get what you order. The French fries add just that added level of…fried taste the whole dish is missing. A skimpy salad doesn’t do much to overcome the fact that this is surely a case of The Monster misordering.
The grilled combination plate saves the day. The ingredients are fresh and you can taste what you order, not the coating the scallop dish is entombed in.
Knowing The Monster is heading straight from here to lunch number two, dessert is skipped. And while it may not be a great meal, Armstrong’s is the kind of place one can get sufficiently fed at a decent price.
Why go? You want to trace the footsteps of The Monster’s Catalina food extravaganza.
Monster rating 2 ½ /5 Monsters
306 Crescent Avenue
Avalon, CA 90704