We turned in early, which was lucky because the alarm clock in our room went off at 6:30am Friday morning. Note to self: always check the alarm clock when you check into a motel. But we were happy to beat the rush at the Pancake Cottage. With its pink formica tables and plastic chairs, it reminded me of an old-fashioned cafeteria, or a department-store lunchcounter. The ruffled curtains on the windows made it officially a “cottage”. They had all manner of pancakes, but in spite of the menu saying “mixed inside” for many of the selections, the waitress told me the only kind with the fruit mixed into the batter was blueberry. so I went with that. My mom got the peach pancakes since they were fresh and rarely in season. The pancakes were fluffy and perfect. The service was a little brusque until my mom declared to the waitress that these were the best pancakes she had ever eaten, which warmed the waitress up a bit. Strangely, there are no restrooms in the restaurant. My mom suggested maybe they had been around since the days of outhouses. But Avalon is a beacon, nay, a shining star of clean public bathrooms that all the world should emulate. So that was no problem at all.
When we tired of shopping, we decided to take the glass bottomed boat. There were not as many Garibaldi or Sheepshead as i expected. It was mostly Calico bass. And lots of giant kelp. Giant kelp everywhere. Kelp has always freaked me out a little bit. Ever since I read a Tales of the Unexpected where the kelp reaches out to entangle and drown a greedy treasure hunter.
We had lunch at Antonio’s Pizza, easily the most Roadfood-worthy restaurant of our trip. Established in the 1960s, Antonio’s has long been a fixture in Avalon. There is a second location, which also boasts a mysterious “cabaret”, but even the waitstaff admit it is not as good as the original.
We started off with Antonio’s Cheese Crisp, something my Jersey-born husband compares to a white pizza. It is described on the menu as:
A thin pizza crust brushed with garlic butter and
topped with five cheeses and chopped pepperoncini
The locals ask for Ranch dressing on the side for dipping, an inspired combination. Although my interest was piqued by the Grilled Prime Rib, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich, I was more intrigued by Mamma Mia’s Day-old Spaghetti:
Spaghetti & meatballs in sauce, blended and chilled for
aging, then freshly sauteed in olive oil, butter, garlic,
mushrooms, onions and Parmesan Cheese, baked and topped
with Mozzarella and Jack Cheese. M – m - m Mamma Mia!
You could not tell how much trouble had been gone to by sight or taste; it was just like regular spaghetti, but good regular spaghetti. Really good regular spaghetti. It was the closest thing to homemade I have ever had in a restaurant. Maybe even better than mine, and I don't say that easily.
We waited for our return helicopter at the Buffalo Nickel, conveniently located at the helipad. I ordered the mixed fried seafood platter, then headed to the outdoor restrooms. I passed by a family happily eating hamburgers on the patio. I asked how the food was. The mom asked, "Oh, do you work here?" I admitted, " No, Im just incredibly nosy." They raved about the hamburgers. The fried seafood platter was good, but I judge by New Orleans standards, which is tough competition. I wouldn’t return to Catalina anticipating a meal at the Buffalo Nickel, but it is the kind of place I would be extremely happy to stumble upon when drunk.
Over the years I had forgotten how idyllic Catalina is. I had forgotten how blue the water is. It truly is a paradise. I can’t wait to return for long days filled with boating and snorkeling. I can even imagine buying a little cottage on the island someday. I just have to remember not to go around touching people. On the flight back, I had gotten so comfortable being in the helicopter I jokingly dared the pilot to buzz the Catalina Cruiser. To my shock and delight, he suddenly swooped down over the boat. I turned around nervously to check on my mother, and she was laughing, laughing, laughing.