The beach shack is a special kind of eatery. The smell of harbor funk and salt water hangs in the air. The décor is humble. Maybe fat boat lines, nets or oars hang on the wall. Service is casual and quick. Seafood is on the menu, of course, and it's usually fried along with the fries. Clam chowder, New England and Manhattan, are menu staples. You know the kind of place.
Bodega Bay has several of these fish joints, but the Birds Cafe is a standout. The restaurant occupies what was a garage, the owners of which live next door and were extras in The Birds, hence the name. Located right off Highway 1 on a hill overlooking Bodega Harbor, the two-year-old restaurant has an appealing outdoor patio up the steps. Grab a seat, and wait for them to call your name.
The menu is beach-front classic: fish and chips, clam chowder and shrimp Louie. What makes the cafe special are its tacos—fish, shrimp and artichoke.
Fish tacos are simple enough—fried fish, cabbage and white sauce in a corn tortilla—but hard to get right. The Birds Cafe gets them right. Alaskan cod is lightly fried in a tempura-like batter and mounded into soft tortillas with shredded Napa cabbage, pico de gallo and a creamy lime-cilantro dressing. Delicious. At $9.95 for two they aren't cheap, but the higher quality ingredients and ample portions make them worth it. So are the plump shrimp tacos (two for $12.95).
Artichoke tacos are a new one for me. While I like fish tacos better, the lightly battered bits of fried artichoke hearts are great mixed in with the cabbage, salsa and cilantro-lime sauce. Pair with a draft beer ($5 and up) and a harbor view, and you've got a great beach-shack dining experience. 1407 Hwy. 1, Bodega Bay. 707.875.2900.