PICTURED: Grilled shrimp with bell peppers, onions and carrots. Photo by Leslie Westbrook

As of press time, restaurants in California are allowed to remain open, but are reducing their occupancy by half. Updates related to COVID-19 are changing rapidly, however; please be sure to confirm status with establishments directly. 

H.C. Seafood
3920 W. Channel Islands Blvd, Oxnard

by Leslie Westbrook

With everyone on tender hooks about COVD-19, social distancing or hibernating at home, H.C. Seafood (which has no indoor seating but plenty of picnic benches for outdoor dining) with its robust to-go clientele may provide some seafood solace during these challenging times.

An old friend has been bugging me to try this seafood shack in the Channel Islands Harbor for some time. I thought I’d check it out at long last — but not before perusing some reviews on Yelp. They were a mixed bag, but everyone raved about the grilled shrimp.

It’s a popular spot with locals who enjoy picking out their own crab or lobster.

Tucked away in a far corner of Oxnard’s once-vibrant Fisherman’s Village, the plain entrance is fronted by aging wooden picnic tables with faded metal umbrellas. The bricks used in the patio were salvaged from the original sugar beet factory built by Henry T. Oxnard when it was torn down in 1963.

Naturally, we ordered the grilled shrimp (a dollar more if they are shelled!) and the Maine lobster (grilled, also a dollar more than if it’s steamed). The man behind the counter was kinda grumpy but the folks tending to the crabs, prawns and lobsters in the tanks were extremely nice.

The shrimp order included 20 shrimp piled high on a paper plate (grab your own napkins and plastic utensils) with a generous mix of grilled onions, bell peppers and carrots. All were nicely flavored with some proprietary spice; they stood up to the online reviews. The lobster, however, was very disappointing — small, tough and not the sweet Maine lobster one expects. The two lobster halves and claws were accompanied by a toasted and buttered white roll, French fries (the oil they were fried in may have been slightly rancid) and tasty coleslaw with pineapple.

Other choices include fried or grilled fish (I saw scallops in the case and other varieties are listed daily, including halibut, swordfish, mahi mahi, salmon and cod). Fish and chips are a good option if you are feeding kids. The crab is sold by the pound as are spot prawns. Sides include corn on the cob, eggrolls and hush puppies. Combo plates run $15-$17; the kids’ combo is $7.25 and there are chicken wings for non-fish lovers. Based on online reviews, I’d say avoid the clam chowder.

The Fisherman’s Village’s glory days seem to have come and gone, yet after lunch, my friend and I took a stroll and she showed me around the complex. We met Heidi Beal, a lovely artist who is holding encaustic wax art workshops in a big light-filled space with a view of the channel. We popped into the Oxnard College’s Marine Center Aquarium and classrooms with live sea creature tanks where marine biology, geography and math (!!) classes are held, and then went to see a gift shop/art gallery where we purchased a few cards and visited with the amiable owner. My friend pointed out the theater (The Elite), the once popular cupcake shop that is no longer there (Missy’s Cupcake Creations, now on Johnson Drive in Ventura) and I saw a sign for a psychic.

Apparently, the county has taken over the complex and is upgrading. While permits and such are being worked out, people are slowing moving back in and sprucing up the chipping and peeling paint. It’s a great complex for artist’s studios and perhaps another restaurant or food truck might find its way here.

In the meantime, H.C. Seafood remains popular for those wanting to pick their own live seafood before they eat it and die-hard locals who bring their own sides. There’s no alcohol served here —and a sign notes that none is allowed —so if you are thinking of bringing a nice, crisp sauvignon blanc to accompany your $50 lobster and shrimp meal for two, you may be happy about getting dinner to go!

Oh, by the way, it’s important to note that the crab tank closes at 4:30 p.m. and H.C. Seafood shutters at 5 p.m. So if you want your dinner to take home, be sure to get there early!