The Fish Hopper

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Summary: A great view and killer fish & chips are worth the high prices

A few weeks ago we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I had never been there before and the place is truly amazing, even if you don't have any kids to use as an excuse (but the place is definitely kid friendly - even our baby was fascinated at some of the seafood., I mean, sea life). We were hungry after the two-hour drive and we decided on the Fish Hopper because of its killer view of the bay. The prices were higher than at other eateries close by, but we felt the extra cost was entirely justified when we saw a couple of otters swimming around and harbor seals sunning themselves on nearby rocks. The restaurant has been built to maximize its window space - and at around 11:30 AM on a Saturday in March, there were plenty of tables by the windows. The Fish Hopper also has a deck with tables outside under heat lamps, but they are more crowded than those in the restaurant itself.

Fish Hopper offers a breakfast buffet ($15) on weekends and, though I should have known better, I decided to go for it. This may have been a good choice for an omelette eater - they do offer an omelette station with plenty of choices - but otherwise the choices were limited, and most importantly, not particularly high quality. A freshly made waffle was enormous but not otherwise memorable, and there wasn't much in the choice of toppings. There was quite a bit of fresh food - including fresh berries - but it's not yet the prime time for berries here and they were quite tart. A couple of small bread-pudding style pastries were fine, though nothing much, and there weren't many breakfast pastries, other than slices of mediocre cold plain croissants. The sausages and the bacon were pretty good, however - but I would have appreciated some sour cream for the potatoes. In reality, the buffet was probably fine, what you can expect, and my grumbles really come from the fact that I'm not a big breakfast eater in the first place - plus Mike's fish & chips looked really good and I was kicking myself for not ordering them.

The fish and chips ($14) not only looked good, but they were excellent. They had a light, tasty beer breading, and they were fried in fresh (i.e. not old/overused, as is sometimes the problem) oil. The fries were more pedestrian but perfectly fine. The portion was quite generous - big enough that Mike could share some with me even though he had no interest in my food - and he'd definitely order it again.

We also got some spaghetti & meatballs ($6) for Mika - who then proceeded to not eat any of it. It was fine, but nothing special. The portion was huge, however, it would certainly be big enough to feed two or three toddlers and a couple of children. Still, if your children like fish, I'd order them the fish & chips instead.

Service was very good, friendly and somewhat informal - which I appreciate myself - though as we were located somewhat far from the other tables (so we could get a window and keep our potentially loud kids far away from the other guests - I always appreciate when a host knows where to seat us) we sometimes had to search for the waiter (not an issue when you are repeatedly going to the buffet).

In all, we had a pleasant dining experience and the view was really wonderful, so I would definitely go there again if I went to Monterey Bay Aquarium. On my next visit, however, I'm curious to try the gourmet offerings at the Aquarium's restaurant itself.

The Fish Hopper
700 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA