May 19, 2011 6:46 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

No Place Like Home: Sea Chest Restaurant

There's one spot that's sure to be busy this weekend as people tour Paso Robles wine country then head for the coast. That is, if they're in the know. Because anyone who is, knows there's a sea chest of treasures to be found along Moonstone Beach come dinnertime. And it serves up all kinds of proof, there's No Place Like Home.

It's probably one of the few restaurants in America where the waiting area is in the parking lot. Scott Nelson comes regularly from Templeton to the Sea Chest and doesn't mind waiting at all. "We've stood out here anywhere from 4:30 to 5 sometimes even in the rain just to get in and get a seat at the oyster bar."

And the wait starts long before the restaurant even opens. Kathleen Jibson was first in line on Wednesday after eating here on Monday. "They're closed on Tuesday!"

The view from the parking lot waiting area makes the wait less painful for sure. "You can watch the sunset, watch the birds, and it's just a beautiful atmosphere." says Jibson.

And there's a commeraderie to the ritual. Lori Worsham comes a couple of times a year from Eldorado County. "They told us about this place, and said we can bring chairs, and we can bring wine, and I went, alright! Let's go!"

But ultimately, it's what's inside that brings 'em here. There's quite a menu at the Sea Chest on Cambria's Moonstone Beach. You'll find four to five fresh catches of the day. Scallops. Crab. Cioppino. "Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Casino. Clams Casino, Clams Italiano, Calamari."

The name is appropriate because they serve up all kinds of treasures from the sea. What they don't serve is anything but seafood. "What if I want a burger?" I ask Stephen Kniffin, manager of the Sea Chest. "Well, you might want to try the Main Street Grill, they do great burgers downtown so...yeah. There's enough people who like fish that we do OK."

Kniffin says the secret is really good, really fresh fare. "And that can be hard in the seafood business where it's basically still hunting. Those guys are still going out hunting the product."

It's a 36-year business that has been booming since the start largely because of repeat traffic. People may stumble in for the location, but return for the food. Or maybe a combination of both.

The view makes window seats prime real estate but a lot of regulars wouldn't sit anywhere else but right here at the oyster bar. That's where they say is where the action is.

It's where there is plenty of banter back and forth between cooks and customers. Special orders and split dishes happen here.

The sea chest offers a homey atmosphere, from the line for the first seating, to the card games in the bar for those who arrive after the doors open. There always a pretty decent crowd, and that's kind of part of program, explains Kniffin. "And sometimes people who will show up and they won't have to wait, they'll just come right in and sit down at the table and they'll actually say, you know we really didn't like that."

Even if the wait is in the parking lot, those in the know, know sea it's well worth it. "It's that good. IIt's that much fun." says Scott Nelson.

And it's right in our own backyard.

If you'd like more information on the Sea Chest, click here.



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