In Good Taste
Thirty years of loyalty and great fish
By JR Grant 05/17/2012
1449 Spinnaker Dr.
May 13, 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of Andria’s Seafood, Restaurant and Market in Ventura Harbor Village. In fact, 35 years ago owner Michael Wagner, a top fish processor in Santa Barbara, opened a small restaurant on Haley Street and named it after his young daughter, Andria. I vividly remember the spectacular abalone chowder served at that restaurant. Wagner campaigned then for sensible abalone fishing regulations and, sadly, overfishing and other factors led to a major decline in abalone availability.
Due to Wagner’s expertise in seafood processing, however, the developers of what is now Ventura Harbor Village approached him to join the organization, design the Ventura Fisheries Commerce building, and open what has become an anchor restaurant in that commercial district. At a recent pre-birthday breakfast honoring Wagner’s 30 years in business, much emphasis was placed on not just Andria’s still-great food, but also the loyalty of his vendors and employees. Some very heartwarming and well-deserved accolades came to Wagner that morning.
Fortunately, I had eaten dinner there recently, and can attest that the infamously long lines on Friday and Saturday nights are not just random harbor visitors but many, many very satisfied loyal customers. If abalone chowder was the specialty 30 years ago, today the most ordered dish is fish and chips. This is not just any fish and chips but freshly caught angel shark, the commercial development of which Wagner has been instrumental in influencing and protecting from nonregulated commercial fishing.
One reason the very generous (more than half a pound) serving of fish is never over-greasy or soggy is the restaurant’s use of peanut oil for all frying. Peanut oil is a little more expensive, but can be heated to 300 degrees, which instantly fries and seals in the great flavor of the fish. Interestingly, the same principle holds true for the french fries, so until the fresher potatoes start arriving from Idaho in late May or early June, the frozen potato taste reflects the length of time since they were pulled from the ground.
For those who do not partake of fried foods, Andria’s also offers phenomenally tasty charbroiled halibut, swordfish, mahi mahi, snapper, chicken and, of course, salmon fillet. Seasoning options include Cajun, teriyaki, Parmesan or, my preference, just plainly broiled with butter and lemon juice. This fish is so fresh that disguising its natural flavors with any excessive taste seems unfair to the delicious seafood essence.
I know many of my friends opt for the lighter fare from the “healthy choice” menu: charbroiled fish with a lettuce salad. (The mahi is particularly flavorful and great value at $12.49, as is the seafood salad at $9.49.) Andria’s is noted for its clam chowder. (Wagner once told me they make 100 gallons a day.) It is delicious, but I much prefer the cioppino, a tomato-based cornucopia of fish, shellfish, garlic and just the right amount of spiciness (although I have to admit to often adding a few drops of Tabasco just because).
Salads are good, not spectacular (with the possible exception of the seafood salad, which really is top-notch). I would like to return to Andria’s some time and order the scallop stir fry. The menu is not vast, and never disappointing. I am very impressed with the quality of service in this very busy restaurant. It runs like a well-oiled machine; and across the board, servers, bus people and staff in general are efficient and friendly. The loyalty I previously mentioned shows that the people who work here like coming here just as much as do the many customers.
Many readers are often interested in the dessert menu; I have to admit I have never left room for dessert at Andria’s. The servings are so generous I haven’t been able to justify one. The cakes do look great, however: tartuffo cake, carrot cake, lemon cake, various flavors of cheesecake, ecstasy cake.
Thirty years is a long time for a consistently good and enjoyable restaurant experience. Now that owner Michael has turned the reins over to daughter Andria, may she have at least another 30 years of consistent customer loyalty and great food. Happy 30th birthday, Andria’s Seafood!