A popular spot for locals and visitors since 1983, the Sea Shanty could probably rest on its laurels.
But owners Bill Shea and Carol Kramer certainly aren’t the resting type, and they’ve proven themselves willing and able to adapt over the years.
The first modification came when Shea and Kramer moved to Cayucos in 1983. As Shea remembers, “I told Carol we’d just have a little dinner house, just Tuesday through Saturday — that changed before we even opened!” They took over the existing Sea Shanty restaurant on South Ocean Avenue, shed the pirate theme and opened seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
From the start, the Sea Shanty established itself as a comfortable place where all were welcomed and no one went hungry, especially if you saved room for one of “Carolini’s” homemade fruit pies, cobblers, ice cream pies and family-sized sundaes. If you think pie is a food group, this is the place for you.
Breakfast features everything from homemade cinnamon rolls to omelettes to the Pancake Sandwich with an egg and your choice of bacon or sausage. Over the years, scrambles and a breakfast burrito have been added, as well as Kramer’s Krazy Eggs with poached eggs, ham, cheese sauce and English muffin.
For lunch and dinner, the longtime mainstays of fish and chips, “Best in the West” clam chowder, and “Billy’s Burgers” with skin-on fries are still favorites, as are starters such as “Teriyaki Stix.” Lunch sandwiches range from grilled roast beef to grilled vegetable, tuna to turkey, crab melt to fried chicken. The grilled fish tacos are also popular, as is the increasing list of salads.
“We’re hoping to add even more salads and other heart-healthy dishes,” said Kramer, noting that patrons have already embraced recent additions such as the fragrant Chinese Chicken Salad, and the Peasant Salad with roasted pecans, fresh fruit and bleu cheese.
The hearty dinner entrées come with soup, salad, garlic toast and either baked potato, teriyaki rice or fresh fruit. Signature steaks and fish — Shea hand-cuts both — include top sirloin and New York, charbroiled snapper and scampi, Alaskan halibut and Idaho trout. Other choices include a teriyaki chicken breast, veggie plates and a relatively new favorite: barbecued baby back ribs.
Another major change to the original Sea Shanty business plan emerged due to the realities of slow winter months in Cayucos. Shea and Kramer realized they needed to shore up the bottom line a bit, and at the time they were also preparing to cater one of their daughters’ wedding.
“We’d started gathering up catering equipment and thought we’d like to get some practice beforehand,” remembers Kramer. One successful event led to another, and another, and today, Sea Shanty catering is a thriving business in its own right. While Kramer spearheads the catering, Shea holds down the fort at the restaurant, and “we’re both very hands-on.”
One drawback of the successful catering business was competition for limited kitchen space, so a couple of years ago Kramer and Shea expanded the original scope of a planned remodel. They doubled the kitchen size, but also constructed an inviting, covered and heated patio area adjacent to the restaurant.
“We’re hoping to really ramp up the patio and the garden area next to it,” said Kramer. “Cayucos doesn’t have many venues,” added Shea, “so we’d like it to be a place for gathering and special events.”
In one sense, the dynamic, community-oriented couple sees it as a way to give back to the close-knit beach town “that’s been very good to us over the years.”