Santa Monica Mainstay, The Albright Celebrates 40th Year on the SM Pier!
Yunnie & Greg Morena, modernized while preserving restaurant's original atmosphere, character
January 9, 2017
Santa Monica has seen a lot of changes in the last forty years; from the founding of the Santa Monica Farmer's Market in 1981 to Silicon Beach being created with tech industries such as Yahoo (2005) and Google (2006) moving here to the opening of our new Subway to the Sea in 2016. But one thing that has stayed perennial during all of this is the Santa Monica Pier restaurant mainstay The Albright, who will be celebrating its 40th anniversary beginning January (and solidifying its title as the longest running restaurant on the SM Pier).
To kick off the celebration, The Albright will be offering fantastically fishy $19.77 specials throughout the month, paying homage to the year of the original opening. From their famous Spicy Seafood Soup to Fish n' Chips, each dish is a unique take on the original recipes featured on the menu from 1977.
Originally named SM Pier Seafood, Yunnie Kim Morena took the helm of the family-owned and operated restaurant in 2013, which her parents had opened in 1977, upon emigrating to the U.S. Yunnie and her husband, Greg Morena, have since modernized and streamlined the look while preserving the restaurant's original atmosphere and character. The duo named their revamped vision of the original SM Pier Seafood "The Albright", in reference to the nautical Albright Knot, which symbolizes tying together two generations of a local, family-run business.
The Albright's low-key atmosphere, high concept design and quality food has achieved the ultimate balance of upscale yet approachable, creating a promising outlook for many years to come. Family friend Bobby Hundreds, co-founder of The Hundreds, re-designed the logo and collateral to further reflect the reimagined identity of The Albright.
During the revamp the restaurant discovered that the Santa Monica Pier happens to be the birthplace of the beloved American icon, Popeye the sailor-man. Popeye was created in 1929 by cartoonist Elzie C. Segar and was inspired by a retired Navy sailor named Olaf Olsen who worked on the Pier. The Albright acquired the rights to this iconic character, thus you'll see hints of him everywhere from the Popeye cartoons playing on the televisions to the life-size cut outs of Popeye, Olive Oyl and their baby, Swee'Pea outside the restaurant.
One of the only non-chain restaurants on the pier, the Albright is a relaxed quality restaurant experience. From wine is served in plastic cups to sushi grade tuna served on paper plates, this place does not take itself too seriously. For those looking to partake in alcohol libations, the Albright's wine and beer selection offers a craft beer program, select taps and features more than 50 varieties and an extensive wine list that showcases Californian vintages.
When dining there recently, we started our meal out with some Fanny Bay raw oysters as an appetizer. People say you never get a bad Fanny Bay, and according to my dining companion that night did not disappoint. The oysters had an unshakable smooth taste with a cucumber like finish. The house made Mignonette Sauce was the perfect level of sherry bite to balance out the creamy brininess of the oysters.
My dining companion and I balanced out these luxurious oysters with some fantastic onion rings (for moi the Veg!). The better the batter, the better the onion rings, and this thicker than an encyclopedia beer batter did not disappoint. This favorite comfort food dish was "classed up" with some delightfully tangy Barbecue Aioli. Next up was Ahi Poke, composed of Ahi Tuna, Avocado, Sesame Oil, Red Onion, Scallions, Chili Garlic Sauce, and Soy Sauce. My dining companion noted, "This is so fresh it doesn't even taste like fish." The secret was sushi grade tuna resulting in a finish that "melted in your mouth." Another seafood favorite my dining companion sampled was the Albright's white Clam Chowder. The dish was full of hearty creaminess that harkened to winter nights on Cape Cod.
As a Veg I partook in the Veggie Tacos as a dinner entrée. This was your classic SoCal tacos with lots of different fresh veggies such as squash, green beans, cauliflower, and tomatoes. As a Vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised that for a seafood restaurant the Albright offered more than one Veg entrée (they also had a Veggie Burger on the menu!). This is very impressive from a business standpoint as non-meat/non-seafood eaters are more often than not the decision makers on dining choices. My dinner guest finished with one of the Albright most popular dishes: Fish n' Chips. Made with hand-battered Icelandic cod the taste was buttery meat enrobed by a crispy flake battery. Paired with Old Bay French Fries, a rich tartar sauce, and a fresh and clean tasting coleslaw this is the perfect dish for those looking to embrace their inner Popeye.
So if you're looking for the classic seafood meal with forty years of history behind it, the Albright might be the port you call home!
Kat Thomas is a creative consultant who does many many many things including write about food. You can learn more about her at: thiswayadventures.com