This restaurant is across the road from the Inn of the Lost Coast and one of the few dining places in Shelter Cove.
The couple who run the restaurant, Jon and Annie, bought it 15 or so years ago and now want to sell it - Annie is 78.
The food is prepared to order (Jon does the cooking, Annie runs the floor).
If you're used to efficient, fast, bump-free service, either adjust your attitude or go order a pizza across the street and eat in your room. The Chart Room is not McDonalds and it's not the Restaurant at the Ritz. It's a creaky and quirky mom and pop joint. Roll with it and enjoy yourself.
On the night I ate there, a Wednesday night, they had a rush (a rush in this case consists of 10 people, plus myself). Annie complained that no one had called ahead for reservations and wondered aloud if there'd be enough food to serve everyone (they ran out of calamari and the chicken dore).
A table near me, a table of four, were obviously worried and uncomfortable - they seemed like upper middle class suburban types more used to demanding and getting precise service at whatever chain restaurant they habituate. Other tables nearby seemed more comfortable with the general oddness of the place and, after a while, a knowing camaraderie overcame the diners as we all realized we were in this lifeboat together and might as well relax and try to make the best of it.
And while several other diners raved about the food to the owners and the rest of us, after eating my own plate, I chalked that up to politeness. I had the clam strip appetizer and the grilled snapper with vegetables, a baked potato, and a cup of their homemade chowder.
While edible and homey, nothing stood out or even mildly impressed me. The clam strips seemed to come out of a freezer bag - there was nothing homemade about them. The snapper, while cooked just fine, was far too under-seasoned (the menu claimed this to be a lemon buerre blanc, but salt, lemon, and butter were entirely absent) and rubbery (frozen not fresh). The vegetable medley was over-cooked and also under-seasoned. The baked potato had the skin and dried out complexion of being cooked in a microwave.
And the chowder...well, I had high hopes here. Annie announced to each guest that they made the chowder fresh every day when she brought it out. I hoped this would be the highlight of the meal. Instead, it was a potato and milk soup with hardly a clam in sight and it was - you guessed it - impressively bland.
But sometimes, food is a secondary consideration. Sometimes you eat at a place because there is no place like it on the planet. Sometimes you forgive the frozen fish and clam-less clam chowder and enjoy yourself anyway. Sometimes anything is better than eating pizza in your room.
For a little while longer, the Chart Room delivers that experience.
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