28 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY February 15-21, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Different worlds converge in Moss Landing. There is commercial fishing, and people who make their living from the sea. There’s a power plant in the midst of demolition as it transitions to the battery era. There are liveaboard boats, and there are super-quiet eco-tour vessels. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is expanding, with an active construction site. There’s tourism and there is marine research and there is industry, side by side. There is also a restaurant aiming to serve the people in each of those worlds. Good food without the pretense, but elevated enough to entice a foodie—it’s a narrow needle to thread, but the small team at Woodward Marine Market does it elegantly. “Food is the equalizer in a lot of ways,” says Chef Nichole Robbins. “You could be coming from the Carmel Highlands or building that building [gesturing toward MBARI], and my goal is to make stuff that different kinds of people can eat.” That means a menu featuring harborside classics, but prepared from scratch and with attention to detail. The perfectly crispy cod in the fish-andchips is served with a unique take on tartar sauce, made with capers and togarashi. The bouillabaisse broth is made in about three hours from mussels and clams and whatever fresh fish Robbins finds from the harbor. The clam chowder offers big, toothy pieces of shellfish and potato, and is served with garlicky croutons that are pillowy in texture and big on flavor. The grilled cheese sandwich includes ginger mango chutney. But Woodward Marine is less about the food than it is about a vibe. Jennifer Lawrence—technically the controller, but more of a manager and visionary—previously owned Steamin’ Hot Espresso for a decade, which shuttered during the pandemic. Her hospitality goal, however, remained. “I just want to provide this great experience for people, where they can pause in their week, in their life and go, ‘I feel good,’” she says. “I want to bring people together—it’s really important to have connections with human beings.” Lawrence’s career began in bookkeeping, and after her coffee shop closed, she dusted off those credentials and came to work for John Gregg, who owns the Moss Landing boatyard property, and who also acquired the legendary fishing vessel the Western Flyer that John Steinbeck and Ed Ricketts took to Baja. (That boat is currently docked out front, until it finds a more permanent home in Monterey.) He collects fossils and ship figureheads, all of which feature into the restaurant decor. The space that is now Woodward Marine had been a bait-and-tackle shop for a generation. Before that, it was a market serving the fuel dock— and out of a tiny kitchen, Lawrence says a previous operator made hamand-cheese sandwiches. That history gave Gregg and Lawrence a leg up with permitting since there was a preexisting kitchen use. The new version is decidedly sleeker than before, including the inviting deck overlooking the busy harbor, with lots of passing wildlife. But in keeping with the Moss Landing theme and the chef’s vision, it can still be all things to all people—they host multi-course supper club events, and also sell a lot of clam chowder. (On a recent rainy afternoon, a man just off his shift at the Vistra power plant stops in just for a bowl of chowder to go.) The restaurant opened in late 2022, and Lawrence is envisioning some big changes. She’s thinking of transitioning from counter ordering to table service, which requires more staffing and would mean a revised menu. They may ditch a concession area with kelpbased products and children’s books about marine life to make room for more tables. They hope to lengthen hours of operation. Whatever direction its future takes, Woodward Marine has filled a gap left behind when Phil’s Fish Market moved to make way for MBARI’s expansion. (Phil’s relocated to Castroville.) “Out with the old, in with the new,” Lawrence says. “It’s not a competition with Phil’s, we don’t like to even be compared—it’s different.” Woodward Marine Market is at 10932 Clam Way, Moss Landing. Open 11:30am-6pm Tue-Sat, 11:30am-4pm Sun. 632-0857, woodwardmarinemarket.com. First course The fish and chips, served on the harborside deck at Woodward Marine. “The fish and chips sell like crazy. My goal is to make the best,” Chef Nichole Robbins says. Heart Happy Hour…Carmel Valley neighbors Big Sur Vineyards and Quail & Olive are putting on a happy hour filled with things to make your heart happy. Quail and Olive are bringing a selection of olive oils to taste as well as appetizers made with their incredible oils and balsamics to Big Sur Vineyards on Friday, Feb. 23. Enjoy those with wine to complete the delectable evening. Tickets are $55 and can be purchased at eventbrite.com. Big Sur Vineyards, 1 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley. (415) 686-4550, bigsurvineyards.com. Quail & Olive, 14 Del Fino Place, Carmel Valley. 659-4288, quailandolive.com. pour a Margarita…Thursday, Feb. 22 is National Margarita Day and Mezzaluna Pasteria & Mozzarella Bar is celebrating. Join them for margaritas and craft cocktails made with Tequila Fortaleza, a family-owned tequila brand. 1188 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. 3725325, mezzalunapasteria.com. Best In Class…Wrath Wines was awarded Best In Class at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition for their estate grown San Saba Vineyard Pinot Noir. They were also awarded a Double Gold Medal for their 2021 Fermata Chardonnay and a Gold Medal for their Boekenoogen Pinot Noir. Taste these award-winning wines for yourself at either of their locations. Winery at 35801 Foothill Road, Soledad, 6782992; tasting room in Carmel Plaza, Ocean and Mission, Carmel, 620-1909. wrathwines.com. Presidential Trivia…Peter B’s Brewpub is hosting a special trivia night on Monday, Feb. 19 from 7-9:30pm. Participants will play rounds of Presidents’ Day trivia, with opportunities to win prizes. They can also enjoy special cocktails for the evening. 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey. 649-2699, portolahotel.com/dining/peter-bs-brewpub. golfing go…After a long delay, partly related to Monterey’s signage regulations, Tipsy Putt is opening at last. The grand opening celebration takes place Thursday, Feb. 22 from 5-10pm. Take a swing at the mini golf course while nibbling on tacos and sipping on local beers and craft cocktails. There will also be raffle opportunities, discounted memberships, photo ops and more. This event is free but tickets are required. Get your tickets at eventbrite.com 95 Prescott Ave., Monterey. 297-9048, tipsyputt.com. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “Food is the equalizer in a lot of ways.” Eat + DrinK Daniel Dreifuss Harbor Side Woodward Marine Market brings new energy and a high culinary bar to Moss Landing Harbor. By Sara Rubin