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The Cannery (yes, it actually used to be a real fish cannery!)

September 7, 2011

I’d first heard about the Cannery from reading the Anaheim Ducks website.  Who are the Anaheim Ducks?  It’s the professional hockey team in Anaheim.  What do they have to do with a place called The Cannery?  Well, it turns out that quite a few of the players on the team have said that they like to go to The Cannery.  Naturally, that meant I had to at least look into it.  I checked out their website, it looked interesting, had a great history, is situated in a part of Orange County that I hardly find myself at, and looked like it had good food.  So, I convinced my husband that we should check this place out.  Luckily, he agreed.  And yes, I secretly hoped that perhaps while I dined there I might run into an Anaheim Ducks player (or two).

(By the way, I was just reading a chat transcript the other day from a chat the Anaheim Ducks sponsored between their fans and a brand new member of the team who just got traded to Anaheim in the offseason.  One of the fans had asked him what his favorite restaurant in Orange County is.  Mind you, he’s still in his offseason home in Canada and hasn’t even moved to Orange County yet.  But, he responded that on a road trip here with his previous team they had eaten at The Cannery and he would certainly have to list that as his favorite.)

Anyhow, back to the restaurant itself.  The history of the restaurant dates back to 1921 when the original commercial fish cannery was opened in Newport Beach at the hub for commercial fishing boat activity.  Back in those days, they actually used to can fish by hand, none of this modern-day automated stuff.  In 1934, the Western Canners company took over the original space of the first cannery and continued to operate as a commercial cannery until August 1, 1966.  After sitting vacant for over 10 years, in 1973 a developer purchased the property and it into a waterfront restaurant and harbor cruise boat center.  In 1999 the property was sold to the current owner of The Cannery, who promptly hired a prominent restaurateur (whose family opened one of Los Angeles’ olds and most prominent restaurants, El Cholo) to revamp the restaurant and turn it into what it is today.  Officially named The Cannery Seafood of the Pacific, the restaurant is known for serving the freshest seafood available with a waterfront location in beautiful Newport Beach, close to Pacific Coast Highway.  I’m also told that the restaurant has a gorgeous sushi bar upstairs (which I’ve never been to).  The outside of the restaurant is maintained to look like an old fishing cannery, and the inside is designed to look like the nautical waterfront restaurant it is, with a sprinkling of some amazing baseball memorabilia (the owner is apparently a huge baseball fan).

Of course, the first time I took my husband to this restaurant, I had no idea of the history of the place.  I figured we’d check this place out, have a nice Sunday brunch at a waterfront restaurant with some good food; what more could you ask for?  As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we both knew that this was going to be good.  One look at the menu and you’d be blown away by their culinary creations and seafood offerings.  We opted to take a table out on their waterfront patio, even though it was a bit chilly outside.  Luckily, they had their patio enclosed with clear plastic so you could still see the boats out on the waterfront, but it would keep the chill away.  They also had heat lamps out on their patio and provided each guest with a nice warm blanket you could put on your lap to help keep you warm too.  You know it’s an upscale restaurant when they provide these little touches for their guests!

That day, we ended up ordering this absolutely fabulous Maryland blue crab cake.  It was hearty and full of chunky crab meat and low on the breading which some restaurants use to beef up their crab cakes.  It was served with a tropical mango sauce.  Super crispy on the outside, flavorful and tender on the inside, and yummy and perfect with their slightly sweet mango sauce.  The perfect start to the meal, in our opinion.  My entrée was an organic Scottish salmon served over a celery root puree and a sage butter sauce.  So flaky and delicious and creamy.  My husband ordered the Ty-Cobb salad (minus avocados as he’s not a fan), which he said was quite good.

We enjoyed our meal and the setting and the atmosphere so much that when my husband and I got married, and we were looking for a nice place to take our parents to eat at, we chose The Cannery.  My husband and I knew right away that we’d be ordering the Maryland blue crab cakes again!  That was a must.  The table also ordered fried calamari as an appetizer, served with cilantro-lime aioli (pretty good!) and habanero cocktail sauce (not nearly as spicy as it sounds).  Of the meals ordered that day, my mother-in-law and I got the New England lobster roll (chunky pieces of lobster meat!), my dad and father-in-law got the Cannery lunch box (a three-course specialty that changes daily), and my mom got the Cannery seafood salad (that was served so many huge chunks of seafood, from crab, to scallops, to lobster, to shrimp that it was almost unbelievable!).  Everyone certainly enjoyed their meal that day, and we’d definitely chosen the right restaurant to take everyone to!

In fact, my parents enjoyed The Cannery so much that they invited my husband and I to go and have Christmas Eve lunch with them there last year!  Since my mom liked the Cannery Seafood salad so much, she decided to order it again.  My dad went with the New England Lobster roll, and I went with the “Old Man & the Seafood” brochette (which is an assortment of shrimp, scallop, the daily catch, and mashed potatoes [my substitution], served with a garlic lime sauce).

If you’re wondering why I didn’t post what my husband got either during our wedding day lunch or the Christmas Eve lunch, it’s because I honestly don’t remember?!?!  I know, that’s awful to say.  My guess is that during the Christmas Even lunch he got the Organic Scottish salmon, which since I’d had before I never bothered to take a picture of.  But I’m racking my brain and I can’t seem to put my finger on what he ordered during our wedding day lunch!  Oops!  Hopefully, I’ll be forgiven for not remembering.

Bottom line: if you’re ever in the Newport area, or really just looking for a nice romantic waterfront restaurant for a meal, The Cannery is a real winner, hook, line and sinker!  (all pun intended!)

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