Spenger's Fish Grotto, Berkeley, California


I like Spenger's, because I like seafood and they do it well. This time we went on a Monday, when they have a $15 one-pound lobster special. I like lobster, but I hate having to work so hard for my food, so I got the wild Atlantic salmon stuffed with dungeness crab and brie. It's about $22 and certainly worth it, because I would never be fussed to make something so elaborate at home.

While we were reading over the menu, I noticed an interesting comment. The menu claimed that Spenger's is a haven for seafood lovers of various sorts, including "UC Berkeley students on a budget." Now, I may be more than a decade removed from being a starving student, but I would not consider a place where the entrees are about $15 to be "cheap." Certainly, when I was a starving college student, a $10 dinner (including drink) was pretty extravagent. Especially with the bloom of places nearer the university where you can get dinner for two for $10 (I'm thinking of Vegi Food), Spenger's doesn't seem like a good choice for the student diner.

Maybe they mean that Spenger's is the sort of place where you take your parents (which it is, and I have) when they are going to pick up the tab. It's a fancy dinner place that isn't so fancy that you wouldn't go there on a more casual occasion, like a visit to the kid at school. Most parents would balk at entertaining their children at a place like Chez Panisse, because they would suspect that age has not yet given them appreciation for that sort of food. Probably more of them would be right. For those parents, on those occasions, Spenger's is about as nice as you want to get.

Enough on the social commentary. Let's talk a bit more about the food.

Spenger's has excellent fresh fish and other sea animals, and they know how to cook it so it doesn't turn all rubbery and bland. They appear to make choices about the fish they serve that show environmental awareness, which is comforting in a place where they go through literally tons of the stuff every week.

I recommend their fish and chips for the fussy eaters, and their stuffed salmon for the more sophisticated diner.

If you're a drinker, there's a full bar, with some nice beers on tap and some of the basic American standbys, and a nicely filled-out wine list with lots of California wines and a few non-local varieties.

For after dinner, there's a really nice selection of desserts, which I rarely have room to eat after the entree, because portions are plentiful.

If you want to take the love home with you, there's a deli/fish market next door where you can buy some really good fresh fish and some short-order food to go.

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This page contains a single entry by Ayse published on June 15, 1904 6:56 PM.

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