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Dining on LA’s only floating restaurant, The Chowder Barge

The Chowder Barge is a hidden dining gem, an actual floating cafe located in an industrial area of Wilmington. It’s pretty much halfway between the ports of San Pedro and Long Beach, very near the Henry Ford Bridge and thus the address on North Henry Ford Avenue. Trust your GPS to get you there, even if you wonder where the heck you’re going, but then be sure to look for the entrance sign directing you to pull into the marina’s parking lot. It’s known as the Leeward Marina and there are many boats docked there but plentiful parking.

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Thanks to a new friend Lynn, who is the creative mind behind Hidden Los Angeles, I discovered a super cool and unique place to enjoy a great bite to eat. I pride myself in knowing as much as I can about LA’s varied food scene but this place was new to me and everyone I’ve mentioned it to since first hearing about it. The barge itself was built in 1934 as a support vessel to house the film crew for the movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” starring Clark Gable. Since the late 1960’s it has been owned by the Panter family and moved around a few times before settling into its current home in the Leeward Bay Marina. Over the years The Chowder Barge has been a popular spot for TV filming including Dexter, Sons of Anarchy and Inherent Vice. According to one LA Times article, over the years, it’s been a floating brothel, a houseboat, a machine shop, an art studio and an abandoned hulk.

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Upon walking in, you are greeted by an assortment of funky nautical and tiki decor. Lots of little doo-dads hanging here and there. There’s a voo-doo looking skull hanging over the entrance to the washrooms, where the men’s room is called “outboards” and the ladies room is “inboards”. There are lots of windows looking out onto the boats in the marina which gives diners a nice view while they enjoy the cuisine. Obviously a place called The Chowder Barge must make a good cup of chowder, and reviews on Yelp confirmed so. However, the restaurant is also known for burgers and fried seafood specialties. I was very excited that the menu offerings allowed for 1 piece of fish and chips, which was really all I needed (and the price was just $6.95). You can get an order with up to 4 pieces of fish if you’re really hungry. I know my friends are saying, but Trish doesn’t eat fish! They are correct, but for some reason I do enjoy a good basket of fish & chips, and this was truly among the very best I’ve ever had. A nice amount of thick steak fries with a lightly breaded, not greasy at all, piece of white fish. Maybe cod? I didn’t ask. Served with tartar sauce and coleslaw, it was very filling. My friend loved her bowl of clam chowder and I had an approving spoonful. I’m already thinking I’m going to break my rule about not dining at the same place twice, I really was taken with the charm of this place and want to return to try the Chowder Burger!

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By Trish Procetto