I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Morro Bay, California.
Greetings from Morro Bay, California
N 35° 22.2203’ W 120° 51.3771’ Elev. 20 ft.
I had a hankering for fresh fish — Feesh! — so me and some dear friends meandered over here, landing at the Great American Fish Company (known to the locals as GAFCO). The restaurant is located right on the embarcadero (pier) just a stone’s throw from The Rock. Morro Bay used to be home of a thriving, bustling fishing industry but, alas, not so much anymore. Still, it’s an idyllic setting and a great place to get fresh, locally caught seafood.
Great American Fish Company has been here for as long as I can remember yet I’d never eaten here. Its claim to fame is mesquite grilled fresh seafood. Our food was grilled by a surly looking Latino or, at least, that was the impression I got every time I looked in at the plexiglass-enclosed grill. He seemed even surlier, scowling, when I took a photo. I could almost hear him saying, “¡Vete a la mierda, turista gringo!. Of course, he didn’t really say anything. But who could blame him if he did? He’s probably grossly underpaid for his very hot, highly skilled work!
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what my friends ordered — one ordered Halibut, the other a Ling Cod special, I think — because I was preoccupied by the fact that I could actually order off the Senior Menu legally! I almost hate to admit that there was no fudging of facts or taking advantage of a restaurateur’s largesse. On second thought, it’s depressing. Getting old sucks. “Waaaaaaaaah!!!”
They had a couple of great things on the Senior Menu, so I got both. I first ordered the fresh, locally caught Red Snapper ($9.95). If it was caught locally, which I’m sure it was, it wasn’t actually Red Snapper. Red Snapper is an Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fish. More than likely it was a rock cod that happened to be red. But who cares? It’s kind of a given, substitution-wise. Besides, all West Coast rock cod are exceptionally delicious. This was no exception.
The “snapper” was outstanding. Firm yet flaky, moist, perfectly cooked con un gruñido, served with a really decent tartar sauce that it didn’t require at all. It was a small but satisfying filet, accompanied by a sweet-and-sour red cabbage salad and a choice of rice pilaf or French fries. I went for the pilaf, which was marvelous.
Also offered on the Senior Menu was a skewer of either shrimp or scallops with bacon, bell peppers and onion ($9.95). So I ordered one of them, too, with scallops. The waiter asked me if I wanted the sides with it. If not, it would be $4 less. Well hell, I thought, How many sides do I need? So I just got the skewer of four mid-sized scallops. Although they weren’t local — scallops are also an Atlantic Ocean habitué in America — they were great! They weren’t overcooked and rubbery — abused, I call it — with that buttery firmness well-prepared scallops are known for.
This perfectly prepared, mesquite-grilled pairing of fresh feesh and scallops came to a whopping $15.90! Evidently it pays to be old sometimes. Plus, GAFCO is situated right on the water with a million dollar view of Morro Rock. Could life get any better? Well …
On the way back to San Luis Obispo I had to make a stop up the hill — a 60 foot climb, mind you — at Taco de Mexico. I knew I was going to want one of their incredible food tubes later. And they are the purveyors of the best burritos on the Central Coast and, quite possibly, the world!
“Taco de Mex”, as the locals fondly call it, has likewise been here ever since I can remember. Because the food is so great and the prices so reasonable it’s always busy, often with a line queuing well outside the door. Moreover it doesn’t matter what you order, it’s going to be great. Hell, the place is so good the Latinos eat there.
My favorites at Taco de Mex have always been the al Pastor ($5.50), a spicy marinated pork affair, and the Lengua ($6.25), the lip-smackingly good beef tongue. Because I didn’t want to end up with too much food, I ordered a half Pastor/half Lengua, with everything. “Everything” at Taco de Mex is rice, beans, onions and cilantro, avocado sauce (not to be confused with guacamole) and your choice of mild or hot hot sauce (get the hot!). Unlike many burrito vendors Taco de Mex is very generous and never skimps on the meat. As a result you can actually taste whatever meat the burrito is supposed to be.
I also always order extra sides of onions and cilantro (they come combined), and hot sauce. There is no charge for those. Unfortunately, Taco de Mex failed me this time and only included the extra hot sauce. I should’ve checked the bag before I left, but they were very, very busy.
I didn’t know what they would charge me for the burrito, there being a 75¢ price differential; I was surprised to see that the Lengua cost substantially more as all the burritos had been priced identically forever. The nice young lady ended up charging me only $5.50. It wouldn’t have mattered. The burrito was every bit as fantastic as I’d remembered.
I also ordered a half-liter bottle of Coca Mexicana (Mexican Coca-Cola®) which was $2. The difference between Mexican Coca-Cola® and American Coca-Cola® is that the South-of-the-border version is made with cane sugar rather than High Fructose Corn Syrup. Fun fact: High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in virtually every soft drink as well as every processed food in America. It has been blamed for being largely responsible for America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics. Sweet, huh?
Another major difference between the two versions, of course, is that occasionally some people — Jason Lam comes to mind — orders a Mexican Coke® and gets a little something extra for his $2. Sweet.
And so we roll.
The Great American Fish Company, 1185 Embarcadero Rd., Morro Bay, California
Taco de Mexico, 980 Main St., Morro Bay, California
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.