Did you ever dream about shrimp?  Did you know there are at least 32 kinds of shrimp in the shrimp family?  There are probably even more ways than that to cook shrimp.

Looking back on a recent Sunday afternoon, it seems like a dream.  Looking for some shrimp for lunch, I landed at Bubba Shrimp on the Santa Monica pier.  I wasn’t the only one.  There were dozens of people waiting to get into the very large, very packed beach restaurant.  There was at least a 30-minute wait for a table, but there was seating at the bar.  In fact, part of the bar seating was a cozy counter looking out at the beach, just above the stairs going down to the beach, where everyone was parading.  And what a parade it was: some overdressed for the hot, bright sunny day, and some embarrassingly underdressed.

And so I ordered every kind of shrimp on the menu.  The assorted shrimp platter consisted of four kinds of fried shrimp, and the combo plate had garlic shrimp and Cajun shrimp, not fried.  My wife ordered a hamburger and fries.  We do not share the same dreams.

The best of the whole order was the coconut shrimp.  Partly it was the coating, and partly the shrimp were more plump.  The other fried shrimp were about equal, and pretty good.  The garlic and Cajun shrimp seemed small and less flavorful.  I saved most of these for a pasta dinner at home.

With the mixed shrimp platter came French fries (average) and three sauces: one sweet, one sweeter, and a ketchup-like red sauce, to which I added some of the house hot sauce to bring it into my taste. Also available on request was a tasty thousands islands dip.

I let the waitress select my beer, and she brought me a draft beer made in Santa Monica, which I thought was good thinking on her part.

Then I walked around the restaurant (two levels!) to see what other dishes looked good.  I saw macaroni and shrimp, pasta with shrimp, and a fish platter with shrimp. There is a large menu with lots of different selections, but most diners seemed to order something with shrimp.

The service was really good.  Maybe that’s because unlike most corporate restaurants, they don’t pool all of the tips.  They take 40% off the top for the non-wait staff, and the individual waiter gets 60%.  They get a fair base salary, so together, in such a busy restaurant, they make a nice living.  At least in the Summer.

The Santa Monica Pier is a lot of fun, and there are several restaurants with good quality seafood.  And don’t miss the soda fountain in the carousel.  The ice cream there is creamy and delicious, and they have all the good flavors and good toppings.

And so my dream came to an end over a cup of coffee ice cream.  I was reminded of the great Daoist literature entitled “the dream of the butterfly.”  But Shrimp are a lot tastier than butterflies.

I love Santa Monica.

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Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law.  In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books.  His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur, 3d edition” and it is available on Amazon.  He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally.  Please send your comments to: mervynhecht@yahoo.com.