Not your usual rack of pamphlets and maps here, though you can book tours and such. Instead, the rustic/industrial-chic oyster bar showcases local products. You could dip into a single Kumamoto or Bucksport oyster ($2 raw, $3 broiled), or go all in with a platter of a dozen. The sweet, briny beauties straight from the bay are, of course, lovely on their own, but experiment and order a few with Humboldt Hotsauce. The Island Style (with guava, pineapple and banana and the kick of habañero pepper) and the Emerald sauce (tempered with cilantro, ginger and lime) are spirited additions to raw or cooked oysters, as well as a million other things. Grab a bottle for $6. Feeling the burn? No worries — a pint of a local microbrew should cool you off.
This North Coast bohemian restaurant tucked away in Trinidad is a local legend with its generous plates and farm-to-table menu. The wild salmon is a favorite (market price), but the appetizer board that arrives first with a selection of cheese, seasonal fruit, local Cypress Grove chevre, house-cured lox and Larrupin sauce is what diners can't wait to sample. The sauce, a dilly, sweet mustard, is the preferred accompaniment to smoked salmon among Humboltians, so much so that it shows up on other menus around town. But you'll have to hit a local grocery store to pick it up, as it's not sold at the restaurant ($6).
Pace yourself in case the special bacon-wrapped scallop with limoncello beurre blanc is available ($14), and dig into a hearty plate of grilled local salmon brushed with lemon-dill butter and served with a wild and generous salad and grilled beets ($32).
That woman in the purple chef's coat chatting with every customer like an old friend is known as Marie, or Sweet Mama Janisse, and that familiarity might be due to how many regulars the place has or the sudden intimacy that forms over truly good fried chicken ($13.95). Hers is not the usual — boneless and skinless, it's meant to be dipped in her Soul Q Sauce, a tangy, just-spicy-enough, onion-sweet barbecue sauce that will establish a regular place on your table at home ($5 bottle).
Somebody at the table needs to order the seared Caribbean Ahi tuna with gala apples and caramelized onions ($20.95). And don't skip the Voodoo Pudding (no matter how stuffed you are), a layered parfait of bread pudding and homemade chocolate pudding ($4.75). It's velvety, chocolate bliss right up to the last tinklings of the spoon in the glass.
Call ahead and see if you can get table five, a primo corner window with a view of the Carter House Inn's Victorian architecture and the dining room. But whatever table you're at, the steamed Manila clams in buerre monté, with pancetta, garlic and preserved lemon balances the rich with the lightly tart ($15). It brings out the best of these sweet clams harvested just a shell's throw away.
The fish special changes nightly, but with any luck you'll catch the pan-roasted steelhead with succotash, fresh corn, dragon's tongue beans and arugula pesto (market price). Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grow in the kitchen garden, so expect great things, even from your garnish. Vegetarians can enjoy the jealous glances of carnivores over the creamy masa-stuffed pepper with chipotle adobo, pepita-cilantro pesto and crème fraiche ($23). The pepper is satisfyingly sweet against the bite of smoky chili, and you may have to defend the creamy filling against the forks of fellow diners.
The wine list is epic, but try the hotel's own label Table 5 White, a sauvignon blanc and semillion blend ($40 bottle), and Table 5 Red, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot blend ($50 bottle), and see if you can decide on just one to bring back with you.