A few years ago, I was watching Bobby Flay do a show on clams. Did I mention I love clams? He spotlighted a number of places that boasted unusual preparations of this humble mollusk. The one that caught my attention?: BBQ’d Buffalo Clams cooked over an open flame in the half shell, sprinkled with Parmesan and breadcrumbs and given a healthy dose of buffalo hot wing sauce! Hot, spicy, smokey, chewy and calling my name.
Fast forward a year or so. Kande and I are on a motorcycle trip on the coast and we decide to overnight in Pismo Beach. This is a funky little surfer town on the central coast, a perfect motorcycle stopover because you can go anywhere in a t-shirt and jeans. It’s also happens to be home to the annual Pismo Clam Festival (did I mention I love clams?) and the BBQ Buffalo Clam. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember who served this vision from the sea on that Bobby Flay show, but as I was soaking the miles from my body in the Jacuzzi, I asked my tub mate and new best friend if he knew of the aforementioned jewel of my culinary quest. He smiled slowly and said, “Brad’s”.
Within moments, Kande and I were flying down the rode into town. What I found was a somewhat depressing little coffee shop that was straight out of the 60’s. I almost didn’t want to go in. But then I noticed the huge patio with a gigantic wood burning grill and things started to look up. As I said, this is Pismo, so forget about fancy. Before the waitress could get a word out, I ordered the clams and two cold beers (one for Kande). Then we looked at the menu. Lots of fresh fish, tri-tip and burgers cooked on those open flames served with a side of the usual suspects. They also had what they considered the best clam chowder in the universe. Hmm. Worth a try?
The beers came and I ordered the halibut and a side skewer of BBQ shrimp. I may have appeared calm and collected, but inside I was anxious and impatient: An overly salivating, clam-crazed eating machine waiting to feed. And then I spotted them from across the room. The waitress seemed to move in slow motion. Every step she took, every hip-swinging slide across the floor was pure torture. As she placed the plate in front of me, I inhaled deeply, taking in the aroma of these six steaming little heaps of bubbling madness. I barely remember what happened next, but Kande has reminded me repeatedly how delicious they were. It was one of those moments where the reality meets the expectation.
When the rest of our food came, my fish and shrimp were cooked just right. A side salad and corn on the cob rounded off my meal, along with another beer. As we stretched out, a cool summer breeze was blowing and the crowd was noisy. It was the perfect way to end a day of riding motorcycles.
Since my first visit to Brad’s – and there have been many – they’ve remodeled and enclosed the outdoor grilling area and this has taken a bit of the charm off the necklace. But it’s still a fun place, the food is still good, the beach is still there and the clams still call. Ah, Pismo.
Brad’s is located at 209 Pomeroy St., Pismo Beach. Phone number is (805) 773-6165.