Hawgs Seafood Bar, Campbell, CA
Not to be confused with Hog Island Oyster Company in San Francisco, Hawgs Seafood Bar claimed to be the "Best Seafood Restaurant in the Silicon Valley." Given my love of simple local seafood, I wanted to give this place a try to see how it stood up to that (1700 West Campbell Avenue, 379-9555).
Of course, being in the 'burbs meant that it was located in that ever-classy and heritage-rich institution known as a strip mall (ugh!). But I was somewhat encouraged by what I saw from the outside: it was an open kitchen with countertop seating and specials listed on a chalkboard, complete with happy hour items. Plus, they had what appeared to be a brew of their own, so we plopped ourselves on down and grabbed pints of their Boars Blonde Ale...exactly what I wanted to kick off a session at a raw seafood bar.
Without even bothering with any main courses, we pretty much spent our entire time bouncing around the appetizers: raw oysters on the half shell, steamed clams, clam chowder, and so on. They were all fresh and exactly what I was looking for, particularly the savory steamed clam broth as well as a rather unique clam chowder that they called Newhattan-style, or a cross of New England and Manhattan styles that tasted much better than it sounded. Unfortunately, the Hawgs Salad was nothing too special, and the ahi sashimi was a yawner, especially when you live in Asia and have been spoiled by what's available in Japan.
Maybe I'd rather hit up places like the Swan Oyster Depot instead, especially how Hawgs' strip mall locale lended it some unattractively plasticky elements rather than any form of character. But I liked the bar service, and the food did the job in the end. More importantly, it certainly saved us the long trek of heading all the way up into the city. With fuel prices the way they are these days, this was a very welcome fallback.