The shortest month of the year seemed a good time to take a peek at a couple tiny, tasty spots: Dockside 3 in Morro Bay and Beach Burger in Oceano.
1245 Embarcadero, Morro Bay | 772-8100
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. daily
Expect to spend: Tacos $3 to $4, wraps/salads $8 to $15, kabobs $4 to $7.
Seafood lovers who have visited Morro Bay probably already know the name “Dockside.” Mark and Bonnie Tognazzini (two familiar names in fishing industry circles) opened their first restaurant along the Embarcadero in April 2004 and an adjoining fish market/café called Dockside Too in May 2006.
In January 2013, the couple added another restaurant to their fleet, dubbed Dockside 3. Situated in a distinctive building that looks like the prow of a ship, the restaurant location adds another dimension to the Tognazzinis’ operation — a smokehouse.
“We always wanted to expand our operation into smoked product,” said Mark. “It’s been a nice addition to what we do.”
The custom-built smoker inside the building gets fired up for a wide range of seafood, from salmon to swordfish, oysters to albacore, and shrimp to scallops. All are available in wraps, tacos or even atop salads, and landlubbers can enjoy these options with smoked tri-tip and chicken.
If smoked fare doesn’t light a fire under you, there’s still a lot to explore on the Dockside 3 menu. You can tuck into oysters and clams served raw, barbecued or Rockefeller style. Clam chowder is available by the cup, bowl or bread bowl, or you can order up a shrimp kabob or a ceviche tostada to enjoy with a pitcher of premium draft beer or glass of wine.
Inside there’s seating for about 10, and the dog-friendly area outside can easily seat a dozen more.
However, you don’t necessarily have to visit this tiny spot to enjoy the food. Thanks to a portable smoker the Tognazzinis recently acquired, Dockside 3 has begun participating in several off-site events, including a new weekly presence at the Saturday farmers market in Morro Bay.
325 Pier Ave. (at the entrance to Pismo State Beach), Oceano | 473-2382
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Expect to spend: Burgers $6.25 to $6.75, other items about $6 to $8, sides $2 to $5.
Perched at the entrance of Pismo State Beach in Oceano, Beach Burger flipped open its doors in November 2012. It’s not a big place, but the fresh, never-frozen, hand-formed, half-pound, cheese-stuffed burgers are definitely hefty.
Ironically, it was the ample kitchen space at Beach Burger that drew Fernando Anguiano — also the manager of Laguna Grill in San Luis Obispo — to the location.
“We want to stay away from processed and premade at both places,” he explained. “This kitchen (at Beach Burger) was all setup for prepping, so we’re even doing things like dehydrating our own spices and making our own bread crumbs. If we can make it, we do it.” (The second kitchen also allowed him to introduce a revised menu at Laguna.)
Though you can order items such as fish and chips, Cobb salad or a chicken club sandwich, burgers are obviously the stars at Beach Burger, and rightfully so — especially paired with a bottle of local craft beer. Served on fresh Dutch crunch buns from Edna’s Bakery in San Luis Obispo, they require two hands and definitely more than one napkin.
Go for the Classic stuffed with cheddar, or the Jalapeño stuffed with pepper Jack cheese and topped with grilled jalapeños and chipotle honey mayonnaise, or the Red and Bleu stuffed with bleu cheese and topped with red onion jam.
“We did the stuffed burgers because we wanted to try something new and not just be another burger place,” said Anguiano, adding that “some people think we’ve forgotten the cheese on their order until they bite into it!”