Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto, Berkeley

Spengers: Taxidermy marlin in the dining room

A Berkeley institution, Spenger’s began as a clam stand in its current location in 1890. Legend has it that by the 1950s, Spenger’s served 3,500 pounds of fish daily, more than any other restaurant west of the Mississippi. Clark Gable, Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and many less famous California patrons made Spenger’s one of the East Bay’s most popular eateries.

It remained a family-owned restaurant for three generations. Buddy Spenger Jr., last of the dynasty, managed Spenger’s for 58 years until its purchase by an Oregon corporation in 1998. Buddy died of natural causes at age 87 in the apartment where he was raised, above the restaurant.

All that remains of the legend is the decoration: the restaurant is still a teak-walled museum of nautical paraphernalia, model ships and taxidermy fish and mammals. I drew the giant taxidermy marlin in the dining room and an old wooden sign in the bar.

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