How To Gain Five Pounds In Two Weeks; Eating Out At Brick, Kyoto, Toni’s and the Benbow

Had a crowd of summer visitors? At least they’re a excuse for eating out. Here are some meals we enjoyed recently.

Brick & Fire- this is everyone’s favorite restaurant and if you haven’t been,  do yourself a favor and go.  Go now.   They’ve had a good run and nothing lasts forever.  Yes, it’s spendy but you could have a Wild Mushroom Cobbler ($9) which is pretty darn filling. Add a salad for $7 and you’ve got a nice meal. Add WINE  and your costs increase exponentially. If you order the brick-pressed bird, ask for it well done. ($22, enough for two meals.) The Italian Mac’n’Cheese ($15- also so rich it’s two meals) is so good I ordered it for my birthday dinner. We came back the next week and I ordered it again. We are so luck to have a bistro of this caliber I don’t even mind calling it a bistro.  Their website is HERE.

Masaki’s Kyoto- We wanted to see how the Kyoto was holding up without Eric Masaki, now with the HCSO and good for him. The answer is : just fine. We walked in on a Friday night with no reservations, ordered dinners and sushi-  lemon and Eureka rolls and something with eel. Service was quick considering  we were ordering sushi.  I’ve always loved the Kyoto but one of our group is a Shanghai native who has lived in Japan, is a damn picky eater and has an encyclopedic knowledge of Asian food. He pronounced the meal excellent and we all agreed. No website.

Toni’s 24-Hour Restaurant – is just that, a real restaurant, not a burger stand.  I didn’t take Toni’s seriously because all I ever heard about it was that it ‘s a great place to go when you’re drunk, hungry and it’s 3am. Also I could never figure out to get there. With someone else driving, and headed  for a movie in Arcata, we got there at around 7pm and found only a short line. The menu goes ‘way beyond burgers. The folks across from us were all eating chef salads and they looked good. I had a blue cheese burger on ciabatta and really liked the way they grilled the ciabatta. The onion rings, unfortunately, were cooked with oil that tasted stale,but I would try them another time. The burgers and shakes were excellent, but I would definitely think about getting the chicken-fried steak next time. Cozy atmosphere. Their website is HERE.

The Benbow Inn- Our family has always loved the Benbow and it just gets better and better. We lost a family member earlier this year 

and a reunion at the Benbow just seemed like the right thing. Actually, my parents spent the first night of their honeymoon there and I thought that perhaps the reason I love the place so much is that I was conceived there. HA! Probably not since it would have involved a two year gestation. Yes, its spendy but they’ll negotiate, especially for groups. We had nine, in three rooms and two KOA “cabins” and they gave us a rate of $175 for Terrace Rooms, which are much nicer than some of the “historic” building rooms and are located on the other side of the building. The Terrace Rooms are a lot better for anyone who wants to avoid that godawful staircase going up to the front entrance. The food was perfect as always. They were featuring a white gazpacho ($7) with grapes which was pretty wonderful and very refreshing.  (The temperature was 95 and it didn’t start cooling off till 8pm.) The salmon ($32) was great, the linguini with vegetables was a big hit ($19) and the crab cakes ($15) are good and substantial  enough for a main course.  If you drive down for lunch , which is a nice excursion, you can have sandwiches and that gazpacho. You won’t spend any more at the Benbow than you will at Jack’s and some other mediocre places in Eureka. Benbow is especially nice for lunch around the holidays, when you can eat in the lounge near a roaring fire. And you feel like a millionaire. The website is HERE.







It’s NOT All Right, Jack, It’s Just OK. (Jack’s Seafood Restaurant)

(I couldn’t help myself. One of the great movies of my childhood was the goofy 1959 Peter Sellers comedy, I’m All right Jack.  It’s a comedy about unions and corruption and several other things and if you’ve never seen it, you should. It’s timely.)

Jack’s Seafood Restaurant, which opened August 14th, in the Fishermans’ Terminal building, has been avidly anticipated and  heavily subsidized. As you may recall, the City put out an RFP for restaurant  operators back in 2013 and received around a dozen applicants but-mysteriously- NONE of these folks were deemed qualified and we mere peasants and taxpayers are not privy to the reasons. The contract was awarded to Jack Wu, a crony of former Councilman Chet Albin. Mr Wu has operated the nearby Bayfront restaurant for four years. For Jack’s Seafood, the CIty spent $550K on the building, another $240K on fixtures installed at City expense and will collect NO RENT for the first nine months, after which Mr Wu will pay $4500/month.

Now the Bayfront has not exactly been an unqualified success. Their Yelp reviews have run about 50/50 with positive reviews for the scenery, sushi  and teppanyaki,  negatives for the rest, especially  the service.  Mr Wu has had years now to solve his service problems, so how does Jack’s measure up?

First of all, the space is beautiful. The waterfront views are great and the bar, which looked like they were still setting it up, is nicely appointed. 

I guess we should start with the chowder, which should be the hallmark of a waterfront joint.  The chowder has a nice flavor, but a thin consistency, off-putting to folks like me who like a traditional chowder such as that available at Gill’s or the Seascape.  It’s not terrible, but, as one of our party said, it was “not yummy”.  Both people finished theirs  but no one was licking the bowl. Our third person had a salad instead, which was large and very fresh.

In fact, the ingredients overall are fresh and presented nicely.  I had the fish sandwich made with rock cod.  I thought it might come on a bun or roll but it was served on toast made of sandwich bread, which was different, with a huge mound of romaine and some sliced heirloom tomatoes.  The fish part was fine.  I ended up eating it with a knife and fork. The other two had the fish and chips, also with rock cod, and the halibut and chips. The remark was made that the halibut could have been tastier. The “chips” are quarter-sized slices of potato, fried. Again they were “not yummy”, but okay. The coleslaw was served dry and definitely needed dressing.

What about that old bugaboo, service? The staff are young and eager but the service was awkward.  We waited quite a while and then our server brought our chowders and salad at the same time she brought our mains. She explained that they had run out of chowder (at 1pm on a Tuesday, with the place only half full) and had had to make more.  I kind of think we should have been ASKED if we wanted everything dumped on the table at once but I guess I’m an old grouch.

Now, let’s talk prices.  One would expect a “view” restaurant to charge a dollar or two more than a place in McKinleyville, and the $15 fish and chips does include soup or salad.  It’s not a rip but it’s not a good deal, either. 

Bottom Line:  Has YOUR money been well-spent?  As I said, it’s a beautiful space.  Of the three of us, not one was eager to return, at least for food. The bar, however, has real possibilities. The food is okay, “not yummy”.  The service is cheerful but raggedy. Jack’s has a captive audience of tourists just from its location,  which is about thee feet from where the Madaket boards. Will it develop a local following?  I really hope so. But they definitely have work to do. If you get down there, let us know what you think. 


Airport News- Medford Is BUSY, Eugene’s Adding Service

While our ACV struggles to maintain a four-flights-a-day schedule, the Medford airport is jammed. A Friend of the Blog turned us onto this story from the Medford Mail Tribune . Medford is handling 19 departures a day to ACV’s four and passenger traffic is at an all-time high.

Eugene too! The excellent article also points out that “Eugene’s Mahlon Sweet Airport has announced expanded service, with a daily flight to San Jose by Alaska Air Group’s Horizon unit, a Southwest Airlines flight to Dallas and five flights per week to Beijing by Hainan Airlines.”  (One-stop in San Jose). Yes, Beijing.  Whee!

I mentioned the Eugene flights to a Chinese friend who commented that due to the economic expansion in China there are direct or one-stop flights to China now from American locations that would have been unthinkable until recently.  Like Eugene. 

Our Friend also points out that the departure of Avis R/A/C from our ACV has been accomplished and Avis didn’t mind paying $9K to get out of its contract.  A windfall!  Not exactly, but it will cover the cost of trimming a few trees.

The invaluable Mad River Union has a story today about the Grand Jury recommendations re: ACV.  The piece is not online but contains the following startling statistic: “Between 2007 and 2013, McKinleyville enplanements plunged to 56,682 from 105,969, costing vital federal dollars, which are apportioned by a formula linked to the number of annual enplanements.”


OYSTER FESTIVAL-Too Big For the Plaza?

It was only a couple of days before Saturday’s Festival that I took a really good look at the festival map. I discovered to my horror that the powers-that-be at Arcata Main Street had decided to eliminate the parking lot/shuttle stop on Samoa Boulevard down around K Street “due to not enough use”, as the staffer told me when I called to complain. Their revised plan was to cut off access to the Plaza from the North so that anyone who rode the shuttles and got off at their stops on 11th Street had to walk all the way down to 7th Street to get access.

I know three extra blocks doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re (hopefully temporarily) disabled as I am that’s a real issue. I’m using a cane due to a recent knee replacement and three blocks is beyond my comfort zone so I called Arcata Main Street and spoke with a nice person who directed me to their “ADA parking” off 7th Street. Those dear folks, with all the good intentions in the world, had set side a big fat 16 parking spaces for a festival expected to attract 16,000 oyster fans. Even the person I was speaking to realized how silly that sounded. I don’t recall the actually ADA setasides for outdoor Festivals but it’s a helluva lot more than 1 in 1000. 

So we ended up showing up at before 8am in order to get a closeby parking space. In a way, it was great because by the time the Plaza got hot and crowded, we were ready to go home. On the other hand, when you leave at noon you miss a lot of stuff.  I found myself wondering WHY the Festival is on the Plaza in the first place. There’s no connection between the Plaza and the Oysters and the Festival disrupts the Farmers’ Market every year. Moving it to the Community Center would lost the “Festival” aspect. The Festival should be held on the BAY!!  Woodley Island isn’t part of Arcata Main Street’s domain plus it’s too small and getting everyone on and off the island would be a nightmare.  But looking ahead to an era when lots of interesting developments are coming up in Samoa, I hope that one day the Festival will expand its footprint,  reducing the congestion.  We can only hope.

Congratulations to AMS and their volunteers for another successful Festival, but let’s put a little more thought into the arrangements next year. 


“Hire A White Guy”

Bill Maher’s show “VICE”,  which is an excellent documentary series, just ran a segment called “Hire A White Guy”.  It’s about the propensity of Chinese corporations to hire white folks to dress up their corporate headquarters as ushers, greeters, even masquerading as Western doctors. They interviewed one fellow who said he regularly gets five or six job offers a DAY. Plus if you stick to Shanghai,  the city is so vast you can impersonate Western doctors all over the place and never get caught.  We all look alike to them, remember.

This sounds like a job even I could do, but the word “women” wasn’t uttered even once during the show.  So I asked my Shanghai-born friend if there was a market for women. He didn’t think so.  Even so,  I wonder if some of the single men languishing in the homeless camps  couldn’t be employed for the price of a new suit and a plane ticket. Food for thought, anyway.


A New Way To Fly?

An interesting development is reported by the Sacramento Business News.  Surf Air, a private membership airline headquartered in Santa Monica and flying out of the old McClellan AFB,  is flying round-trips between Santa Rosa, Hawthorne and San Carlos beginning next month, and will add service between Monterey and Hawthorne and San Carlos in July.  On August 24,  they’ll begin round-trips between McClellan and Hawthorne, San Carlos and Santa Barbara. Then in November they’re adding service between Palm Springs and Burbank and Oakland.

A private airline? Affordable?? Well, maybe.  Surf Air’s customers pay a flat monthly fee starting at $1750 for membership and unlimited flights.  If you’re doomed to fly more than three or four times a month, it starts looking downright reasonable.  Add in the sheer pleasure of not having to deal with the major airlines and…well, I’d sure like to try it.

In another development, Pen Air, which is supposed to start service beween Crescent City and Portland later this year, is making nice with the Redding airport folks and has been heard to say they are interested in flying out of AVC.  We’ll see. Stay tuned. 


The RCMF 2014

Before the memories have faded, I wanted to say something about the Redwood Coast Music Festival,  formerly the Jazz Festival,  that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. This year we had the added pleasure of being able to show out-of-town friends why Humboldt is so special. 

The headliners were a mixed bag. Dana Fuchs was very theatrical, very talented but left us cold. Curtis Delgado,  on the other hand, was a complete knockout, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of the guy. He has several songs on You Tube. Other knockouts included the Au Brothers and Miskha Lake, both from New Orleans. 

Then there were the dancers. Ah, the dancers.  How do they learn that stuff? And the kids!  If I had learned to dance like that as a kid…You look around and there are a few faces missing from last year. But there are always the kids.  And there will always be more. 

The Music Festival is expected to raise $300,000 for local causes this year. What a wonderful way to spend a Spring weekend1  See you next year.

No Silver Lining

I was surprised,  as was airport management, apparently,  to hear that the Silver Lining restaurant at the Humboldt County Redwoods whatever airport is closed. That’s a big step backward for the folks who have been promoting the airport and while I don’t think many flyers would cancel a flight because their destination didn’t have a coffee shop, it still doesn’t say much for the infrastructure we offer our visitors.

According to the NCJ,  an attempt will be made to find another operator.  That might be difficult.  Most airport restaurants overlook a busy runway where diners can observe takeoffs and landings more often than four times a day. Maybe the County should contract with Dell’ Arte or Access Humboldt or someone else who can produce a light show to resemble a busy airport. At least it would LOOK like the return of normalcy. Stay tuned. 

The Durst Saga

I  got interested in the Durst story because he had lived in Trinidad, although I still don’t know where or for how long or whether he actually owned property there. Someone should do a book about famous people who have sojourned in Humboldt.  I know there was a MLB ballplayer who lived there for awhile, no idea who.

Anyway, I watched the entirety of the HBO series “The Jinx” just for that reason. It was an AWFUL series, well below usual HBO standards.  HBO has pretty much singlehandedly been keeping documentary alive in this country, but this was not a good series. It was BORING! How could such a compelling story be made boring? Too much focus on the producers, too much repetition. Sure enough,  in the middle of the last episode, I actually FELL ASLEEP and awoke to a sports show.  Luckily I taped it and was able to watch the end, which was what  the excitement is all about.  In the last couple of minutes, Durst, wearing a clip-on mike he had apparently forgotten about, visits the restroom and mutters to himself, “Yeah, I killed them all.”

To the filmmakers and to HBO this must have been manna from heaven, also for the prosecutors who wants another shot at him.  He’s in 71 now, so hopefully another charge would keep him locked up for what’s left of his bizarre life. I think it could be argued that a guy muttering to himself in a bathroom is not necessarily telling the truth about anything.  We’ll see how it shakes out.  Personally, yeah I think he did it.  So far he’s bought his way out.  This case will generate media frenzy such as we haven’t seen since Patty Hearst. Too bad they didn’t say more about Trinidad. Might have generated some tourist spending.  LOCO is carrying the links to the LA TImes coverage.