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Santa Cruz: The Dolphin

Sometimes being known as a foodie is kind of hard.  People expect that all your dining out decisions are based on selecting the best, newest, coolest, etc place to go.  And often that does influence dining choices but not always.  I hate to disappoint people but sometimes non-food factors influence where I choose where to eat.   So I don’t always choose where to eat based on reviews or recommendations or where the latest star chef is hanging his toque at the moment.  Often it’s based on a desire to experience some other aspect of dining.  In my opinion, being  foodie really means that you can appreciate all kinds of food and dining experiences.  Variety is the spice of life, remember! 
Sometimes it’s a craving for a certain kind of food, often something from a past memory.  Sometimes it’s based on a certain feel or the ambiance of a place.  And sometimes it’s much more straightforward as it was on the last day of my November Santa Cruz visit.  I wanted to be outside, in the sunlight, eating seafood.  So I chose a place that met those requirements, The Dolphin, located on the Santa Cruz municipal wharf. 
The location of this pier is right in the middle of the tourist area.  Not a place you expect to find fine dining by any means.  But the wharf is lined with restaurants and, I’m guessing that some of them serve great food.  I chose The Dolphin because it was at the end of the wharf, it had a big glass-enclosed outdoor seating area and a 180 degree view of the Santa Cruz shoreline.  I didn’t have high expectations for the food but figured it would be okay. 
This place is sort of a throwback in some ways.  I really just wanted some sort of seafood and chips combination but found it was actually less expensive to order a "dinner", meaning that a salad was also included.  I decided to try clam strips for my seafood option. 
I’d barely placed my order before my salad arrived and had only taken a bite or two of salad before my clams and chips came out!  I doubt that timing is normally an issue at this place.  My guess is that in the summer they are packed and scrambling to get everything out in a timely manner so no one bothers to worry, or even thinks if you have had time to finish your salad before bringing your meal.  So a Monday afternoon, which happened to also be December 1st they were just slamming through orders as they normally do, even though there were only a couple of occupied tables.
The salad was actually very fresh, and crisp and was a nice mix of vegetables.  My clams were a bit chewy – that was a little disappointing, but my chips were perfectly fried.  The people were very nice and even though my food came out in a hurry no one rushed me in anyway.  So I was able to do what I’d set out to do; eat some seafood, enjoy the sun and soak in the sight of the Santa Cruz shoreline before heading over the mountains to catch my flight home from San Jose. 
The Dolphin
71a Munincipal Wharf
Santa Cruz, CA

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