Old Fisherman’s Grotto

A 50-Year Legacy

The tiny family eatery founded in the 1950s by Sabu Shake, Sr. has endured and grown into one of the most beloved restaurants on the Monterey Peninsula. Like Fisherman’s Wharf, the flagship Shake restaurant has kept up with changing times and tastes and has outlasted almost all of its contemporaries.

Sabu was a hands-on restaurateur of the first order. In addition to his daily negotiations with local fishermen, frequent trips to the Salinas Valley to purchase produce from farmers and procuring beef directly from cattlemen, Sabu was master of the kitchen and the dining room. He was as enthusiastic in tending to his guests as he was to his gardens where he grew vegetables, herbs and “a lot of zucchini” according to son Chris.

Given the number of meals served today at the family’s restaurants, Chris and Sabu, Jr. have to forego hand selecting every ingredient, but they do insist that their suppliers bring them only the best. Because the Monterey area is blessed with proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and the incredibly fertile Salinas Valley, the chefs of the Old Fisherman’s Grotto are able to choose from the finest seafood and produce available anywhere.

They continue in their father’s footsteps, serving innovative, internationally-inspired cuisine in an atmosphere of superb, genuinely warm hospitality.

“The Valley of the World,” as the Salinas Valley is known, supplies a staggering array of vegetables to discerning consumers in literally every corner of the globe. Indeed, Monterey County is the third largest producer of agricultural products in California. From lettuce to lemons, broccoli to bok choy, celery to Swiss chard, artichokes to asparagus, if a vegetable can be commercially grown, chances are it is being farmed somewhere in the Valley. And let’s not forget wine—the wines made in Monterey County’s nine distinctive American Viticultural Areas are now taking their rightful place among the best the world has to offer.

And thanks to ongoing conservation efforts like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, the harvest of delectable seafood from the Bay and beyond remains at its highest quality. When diners are seated at any of the Shake family restaurants, they are presented with The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch West Coast Seafood Guide. A colored-coded brochure designed to enlighten diners about which types of sea life are at risk, it is a helpful tool for consumers to use when shopping for seafood. The wait staffs are well-informed about the program and are happy to answer guests’ questions. This attention to detail is a strong symbol of the Shake’s deep commitment to preserving the sustainability of the ocean harvest.

The Shakes have long made their living from bounty of the sea: as restaurateurs, operators of a fleet of sport fishing charter boats and as owners of wholesale and retail fish markets. “The ocean has provided a great life for our family,” say Chris and Sabu, Jr. “And we have a responsibility to protect it for future generations.” Chris and “The Shake Family Restaurants” were honored with the Aquarium’s Cooking for Solutions award in 2004. But their dedication to this cause is probably best summed up by Julie Packard, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

“At play and at work, life in Monterey has always been tightly linked to our community’s amazing ocean environment. But our oceans are changing, and the bounty we’ve enjoyed will only endure with the help of people who care. For this reason, I’m pleased to salute the Shake family for their remarkable commitment to promoting the cause of sustainable seafood.

During more than half a century as restaurateurs on the Monterey Peninsula, they’ve witnessed the decline of once-abundant local fisheries that supply their popular restaurants. And, as operators of a sport fishing fleet, they’ve seen firsthand the decline in the abundance and size of the fish their clients are landing.
As leaders, they’ve done more than watch this transformation. They’ve stepped forward and done something to make a difference. Today, they’re partners with the Seafood Watch Program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Through Seafood Watch, the Aquarium has become a national leader in the movement to transform our relationship with seafood to promote sustainable fisheries now and for generations to come.

Since 1999, we’ve worked with the public, organizations and business partners like the Shake family to promote sustainable seafood. Today, their restaurants serve only seafood caught or farmed in ways that do not deplete ocean wildlife or damage important habitats. Every diner takes home a copy of the Seafood Watch West Coast Seafood Guide—researched and created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and used by millions of people nationwide to make better seafood choices. Their restaurants also take advantage of a comprehensive Seafood Watch training program to help front-line employees answer questions and spread the word.

We’re proud to work with the Shake family. As leading Monterey Peninsula restaurant owners, their actions send a strong message to their colleagues: You can be sustainable, and you can succeed.
With the help of leaders like the Shake family, I believe our shared vision of a future with thriving oceans is within our reach. I applaud their commitment and urge you to join us in making a commitment to sustainable seafood now, and in turn, healthy oceans for our future.”

The Old Fisherman’s Grotto and The Fish Hopper have earned numerous awards, including the coveted “Five Diamond” Best of the Best ranking from the American Academy of Restaurants and Hospitality, “Best Clam Chowder,” from the readers of Monterey County Weekly and “2004 Business Excellence Award” from the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. Upon Chris’ 2004 induction to the Monterey County Restaurateur Hall of Fame, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote: “As proprietor of the family-owned Old Fisherman’s Grotto and The Fish Hopper, you are one of California’s most esteemed restaurateurs. Your leadership in the culinary industry has earned you the respect and admiration of your community, colleagues and friends. I commend you for your many philanthropic and civic contributions, and I thank you for your contribution to our state.”

The Shake brothers had a great teacher in Sabu and learned their lessons well. That’s why, today at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto, the emphasis in the kitchen is on freshness; at the front door and at your table, it’s on friendliness.