New Mucky Duck Readies for Flight (It Ain't Like the Old Mucky Duck)
July 13, 2011
Everybody once had a commentary on the Mucky Duck (655-4225) before its owners shuttered it several months back after a final-straw alcohol violation—too much grinding sausage on that dancefloor, too many sauced souls in the seats, etc.
So it should come as no surprise that its new owners have their own commentary: That they were burdened with a busted-up building, stinky bathroom, troubled rep and city hassle, but are stoked to overcome all that to rev in a new era at 479 Alvarado St. in downtown Monterey, which may arrive as early as next week, complete with The Mucky Truck (above) helping trumpet its opening and deliver its consciously sourced goods.
~~~ Maybe you’ve asked yourself: If it came down to it, what would I request for my last meal?
I’ve asked plenty of people. Answers have included everything from the classics (filet mignon and fresh cracked crab) to the personal and eclectic (“Mom's cold kimchee noodles—a mixing bowl full of it and a pair of chopsticks, with just a few drops of her tears in it”).
When I conducted an informal survey around the office, that kim chi idea was one of the answers that stood out. It wasn’t the only one (maybe you’ve never met these freaks I work with).
“A super fresh farmers market salad, French cheeses, salumi (not salami), fresh sourdough bread and dark chocolate,” wrote one.
“Cream of green chili soup from Duartes Tavern in Pescadero,” wrote another, “with a big hunk of freshly baked bread on the side.”
“Fresh caught wild uni,” was a surprise.
Then there was this: “The smartass in me would answer sausage...of a 25-year-old cabana boy.”
One less creative (albeit less crass) smart-ass response that didn’t come up: The all-you-can-eat buffet—so you can stretch your life a little longer.
(Check out a complete list of co-worker responses at the bottom of this post.)
As it finds some serious new life, the former Mucky Duck is feeling that theme: Perhaps the most prominent item on the completely revamped menu is the “hangtown fry” ($11.95), so named because back in the day the difficulty and delay in procuring its ingredients—bacon, eggs and oysters—in the place that made it famous, Placerville, made it a favorite ask for folks who were about to hit the gallows. Anthony Bourdain riffs on its potency in the video above.
“The oysters are breaded and fried and then marry them with eggs and bacon in the pan,” says Anthony Buich, new co-owner of the Old Monterey landmark. “The sweetness of egg combines with the sourness of the oysters, and everybody loves bacon. You could say it’s a ‘killer’ dish.”
Buich (above right, with brother-chef Alex) adds he’s only seen one other place offer it: Tadich Grill in San Francisco, which happens to be run by his family, as it has been since 1928.
For the uninitiated, Tadich is nothing less than an S.F. landmark that’s been there since 1849, thriving by way of mean Manhattans, incredible cioppino and old-world ambiance generated by scores of archival photos.
“It’s where the powerbrokers go for cocktails and seafood,” Weekly editor and former Bay Area resident Mary Duan says.
That experience bodes well for a spot with a longtime local presence but lingering drama born of alcohol violations and at-times seedy clientele.
“We know a formula that has lasted longer than state of California,” Buich says. He'll have help from two brothers and two cousins.
Due to Duck troubles, late night hours will be limited to start, but that fits with a more food-forward approach anyway. Buich says he’s leveraging his experience in doing his “due diligence” on meats and seafood, schooling himself on sources like Better Brands, Monterey Fish Company and Russo’s Produce, and adds that people can bank on superior sand dab ($12.95) and petrale sole ($15.95) dishes, ordered grilled or pan-seared with white wine, boned at the table by the staff, or left for customers to take on themselves.
There are other things on the menu that draw my eye, as did this "surf and turf" they were experimenting with when I stopped by last night: there's also a “steamer basket” ($8.95-$12.95) with clams and mussels steamed in beer, a grass-fed tavern burger with beef from SLO’s Kaney Foods ($12.95) and dalmatian fritters (round churro-like treats with fruit at their center, $4.95) inspired drawing my eye.
The crusted lamb chop ($15.95), says Buich, is a must for any self-respecting Croatian chef. It's also delicious thanks to good sourcing and the Dijon-accented coating.
I also love the look of this inventive dessert, the "S'mores" ($5.95), with a graham-cracker shell and gooey marshmallow and chocolate inside.
The new duck lifts off as early as next week, ideally in time for MotoGP. Though the back patio and bathrooms look they might need a few days, the Buiches insist they are on the cusp. Keep your webbed fingers crossed.
And now, other last meal deals from the staff at the Weekly, who names were redacted to protect the freaks:
1 • Foie gras
2 • teppanyaki
3 • Turkey and all the trimmings
4 • Fresh caught wild uni
5 • Fifth of Wild Turkey
6 • SUSHI
7 • Backyard organic green onions, oiled, sea-salted and cued on the grill with a squirt of lime
8 • super fresh farmer's market salad, french cheeses, salumi (not salami), fresh sourdough bread and dark chocolate
9 • Mom's cold kimchee noodles. A mixing bowl full of it and a pair of chopsticks. With just a few drops of her tears in it.
10 • Cream of Green Chili Soup from Duartes Tavern in Pescadero, hunk of freshly baked bread.
11 • The smartass in me would answer sausage...of a 25 year old cabana boy. Real answer would be my mom's Rouladen. I make it pretty well but nothing ever tastes as good as mom's.
12 • Cheeseburger, w/aged cheddar, dill pickle slices, lettuce, red onion, ketchup, mustard on a toasted bun. Cook it medium.
13 • Steamed Mussels and clams, sourdough bread and Bernardus chardonnay.
14 • Pork chops with apple sauce. Since reading Animal Farm I've had an irrational prejudice against pigs. If I'm going to die, I might as well take a scheming pig down with me. (Plus, I just really like pork).
15 • Glass of champagne to start, maybe steamed clams to kick it all off. Great salad, fresh beets and goat cheese. Then...some lamb chops, creamed spinach, baked potato, all accompanied with some fine Napa Cabernet. For desert, a fabulous chocolate cake, maybe flourless.
16 • Freshly baked bread with olive oil and almond baked brie. (or, fat on carbs...mmm...)
17 • Lamb-stuffed, hot lemony grape leaves and Arabic yogurt made by my late grandmother.
18 • Matzah ball soup. Comfort food all the way.
19 • Large combination Round Table pizza with jalapenos, no onions :)
20 • Probably my grandmother's Chinese noodle casserole; it's delicious, yet sentimental. Also, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for dessert. Peanut butter plus chocolate equals heaven.
21 • Honey muffin