Our time in Bodega Bay yielded itself to a winding drive up the coast, and a brief stop in Mendocino. It felt a little too much like Boulder, which I more than get my fill of, so we kept moving north to Fort Bragg. We were seeking inexpensive shelter, and the Internet lead us to a place called the Pine Beach Inn. I immediately called for availability, and spoke to the “concierge,” who informed me that they did indeed have space, but she was very busy, and I would need to call back or she could call me back in ten minutes. While it sounds rude, it was in fact hilarious, and turned out to be an effective, if inadvertent, sales’ ploy. We were greeted by a boisterous bleached blond (the one whom I had the charming conversation with), and she hooked us up with an ocean view room, and a recommendation for lunch at Silver’s on the Wharf. It was approximately 3 miles away in central Fort Bragg, right off the wharf.
Shelley was our bartender. I immediately asked twelve questions about the fish, the specials, and her recommendations. It turns out that Shelley does not eat fish, but she was effectively able to point me towards the cod tacos. When it comes to fish tacos, the easy and delicious choice is always to fry the fish; it is a crowd pleaser. A Silver’s, they sang for their supper by perfectly sautéing the cod, topping it with house made guacamole, pico de gallo, and a crunchy slaw, seasoned with chipotle and cilantro. It was served with simple beans and rice, but perfectly presented. Each grain of rice in tact, al dente, and flavorful, I scooped up mouthfuls with my tacos. When I placed my order, my friend, Shelley, warned me that they were big tacos, usually eaten open faced. Indeed, they were overflowing with large shards of cod, which was fresh, and tasted like the sea, not fish, just as fish should taste.
Nonetheless, the true surprise and delight of the meal is something that is probably overlooked by most; it’s the unsung hero on a great plate of fish tacos: the tortillas. Shelley actually told me that most people actually don’t even eat the tortillas, and let me tell you, that is an egregious mistake. The delightful rounds were chewy, lightly browned in the right places, and had a noteworthy corn flavor. I suddenly knew what was going on, and I immediately consulted with Shelley in order verify what I knew to be true. “Shelley,” I said with utter disbelief, “are these tortillas home made?” She nodded with knowing smile. I think this is a remarkable detail: a seafood restaurant, perched on a local wharf, whose menu is overflowing with fried oysters, prawns, cod, and halibut, has someone in the kitchen taking the time to make fresh corn tortillas for the fish tacos. Ironically, this detail isn’t even noted on the menu description. Exasperated, I told Shelley repeatedly that this must be amended; theses tortilla deserved their day in the sun. She was surprised that this had been overlooked, and she assured me that she would tell Silver.
Honestly, Silver’s was paying attention to all sorts of details: all their draft beers were craft, and mostly local; their breadbasket was loaded with carefully sliced pieces of warm bread, which also came from the local Fort Bragg Bakery. The bread was chewy and stretchy on the inside, with a slight sourdough flavor, and a perfectly crusty exterior. Overall, I loved Silver’s on the Wharf; I loved Shelley; I loved the food; I loved the mild but delicious Pilsner she recommended; I didn’t get to meet Silver, but I think I love him, too. If you’re ever passing through Fort Bragg, Silver’s is definitively worth a stop for some thoughtful and fresh fish tacos. If you’re really lucky, Shelley will be there, too.