A Pasadenan Seafood Cornerstone: Cameron’s Seafood
By Brianna Chu
Owner Pete Gallanis, as you might guess, is not the first owner of Cameron’s Seafood. The eponymous John Cameron was an attorney who, when inspired by his friend Fred Duckett – owner of The Fish Market – opened his own restaurant in 1984. However, Cameron quickly realized that he liked eating at the restaurant more than running it. Meanwhile, current owner Gallanis grew up in the restaurant business: his father owned several restaurants, and he worked at most of them! Eventually, with the help of a loan from his dad, Gallanis bought Cameron’s from Cameron himself, whom he knew, in 1986 and has been running it ever since.
Quality is of paramount importance at Cameron’s: they don’t buy processed fish; instead, they’ve been buying whole, fresh fish from the same company for 30 years. They cut and prepare the fish themselves in-house. The prices and availability of menu items even fluctuate based on current fish industry prices and availability, which is why their menus aren’t laminated. As a a fish restaurant, they get inspected more than most, and are keenly conscientious about following guidelines and training, going to a lot of extra lengths to make sure that the food is safe and clean. Gallanis even invested in special machines that wash salad with ozone, to kill any bacteria that may linger on their produce: for him, the expense for the machinery is worth being able to ensure the highest quality in all of Cameron’s offerings.
The original menu was smaller and strictly included seafood; Gallanis slowly introduced changes so the menu included meat items as to not exclude customers. Cameron’s now even smokes their own salmon and meats – pork, tri-tip, prime rib, etc. – slow-cooked in their own smoker. They sell a lot of meat for a seafood restaurant, and their pulled pork sandwich became such a hit that they are now a staple in one of Gallanis’ newer, more meat-based, restaurants, The Original Slyder House in Glendale.
The interior has been recently renovated, and it shows – the white marble tables and warm leather booths are chic and welcoming. The back is still original, as many of the customers wanted to keep some of the original look. They’re open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.
The consistent quality of food and the care, love, and heart that Gallanis and all his staff, many of which have been with the restaurant since 1986, pour into Cameron’s are what have brought customers back time and time again. Gallanis notes that it’s much harder to survive as a restaurant these days: the majority of Cameron’s’ customers are regular and repeat patrons, largely due to the restaurant’s location on the east end of Colorado. People don’t often venture out so far unless they’re heading somewhere specific, so Cameron’s isn’t the kind of place people will just stumble across in their own time. The care and appreciation they have for their customers is clearly evident from the friendly service and the recognition Gallanis has for his regulars. During our interview, Gallanis paused to greet and talk to a patron and their family. Gallanis spends most of his time at Cameron’s and can make everything on the menu himself, too.
We were treated to a wide variety of appetizers and entrees. Before I even get started, however, their fresh San Francisco sourdough bread deserves a mention – I would go back just so I can indulge in a couple of well-buttered slices of that bread! But I digress. We started off with a three-soup sampler, which is a great choice for a little variety or if you’re struggling to decide on soups. The Manhattan soup clam chowder was a classic, tomato-based chowder with gently chewy but not tough or gritty clam. The cream of mushroom reminded me of my childhood favorite soup, smooth and packed with mushroom flavor. However, their New England clam chowder is a bestseller for a reason. It’s amazing, creamy, packed with tender clam and pieces of fresh potato that still held their shape. A big bowl of their New England clam chowder and a couple slices of that fresh sourdough would be a great lunch any day!
Next, some appetizer staples! The calamari was perfectly crisp on the outside, just enough bite on the inside, wonderfully complemented by the acid and zing of cocktail sauce and the slices of pickled yellow peppers. The popcorn shrimp was encased by fluffy tempura and served with a creamy side sauce, and the chilled shrimp cocktail was exactly the appetizer classic that I expected it to be!
We also got to try their shrimp sampler, which featured shrimp done three ways: bacon wrapped, tempura, and garlic buttered. The bacon wrapped shrimp was a super succulent bite with a pop of salt and satisfying crunch. I knew from the popcorn shrimp that the tempura was going to be perfectly executed, and the accompanying chili sauce was a sweet and warming addition to the palate. The perfectly cooked garlic butter shrimp dripped with butter and was served with extra garlic butter on the side – what is not to love about this classic?
They added some sushi on their menu, and the lobster crunch roll is an elevated California roll with crab salad and tempura lobster, avocado, sweet teriyaki sauce and extra bits of tempura batter on top for added texture.
We tried three main courses: the grilled Alaskan wild salmon, the pulled pork sliders, and the cioppino. The salmon flaked under my fork, and was cooked simply so its natural flavor could shine through. I could tell its quality by how bright the reddish-orange color was! It’s a big plate served with au gratin, garlic mashed potatoes, and rice pilaf, and a great choice for salmon enthusiasts. The sliders were piled with pork that had been cooked for 12 hours, and I could taste every single hour. The pork was tangy, tender, smoky; apparently, they’re also usually served with lot of french fries, but Gallanis took pity on me and excluded them so I could save room in my stomach (genuinely, thank you!). The sliders are absolutely a must-try for barbecue lovers! The cioppino is a house favorite – every piece of seafood in it was cooked perfectly, and that’s an impressive feat given its contents: crab, scallops, shrimp, salmon, mussels, clams, and fresh fish in a marinara sauce (and two slices of soft, buttery sourdough garlic bread). I asked for linguine pasta, which was possibly a mistake given the amount of food, but I wholeheartedly recommend the linguine if you come for dinner and are hungry!
I seriously need to go back to Cameron’s just so I can take my time trying out their extensive menu; and knowing the quality and care put into every dish, I know I can’t go wrong!
1978 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107
Sun -Thurs 11:30am till 9:30pm
Fri & Sat 11:30am till 10pm