Doc’s of the Bay takes its name from the classic of California literature Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck, in which the protagonist “Doc” is the fictionalized form of Steinbeck’s real-life friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts. Steinbeck wrote the book partly as a eulogy for Ricketts after he died.
Of all the charming episodes in the book, I’ve always been most taken by Doc’s short idyll down the coast from Monterey to La Jolla, in search of specimens for his lab from the tide pools there. Doc is a fastidious soul: he has a mania for classical music, a phobia of getting his hair wet and, it’s clear, an insatiable appetite for counter fare. In those simpler days, every town from here to there had its wayside, and Doc stops at every one of them, ordering hamburgers, beers, the forgotten combination plate “pineapple pie and blue cheese” and, in a moment of compulsion, a beer milkshake.
It’s always been my opinion that Cannery Row is a book about values. Despite their low station and the forgotten corner of America in which they live, the assorted storeclerks, flag pole skaters, itinerant drunks, backsliders, madams and marine biologists of the row share a version of the good life. They have a strong mutual regard for the finer things in life, and for each other. “We should do something nice for Doc,” says Mack, the leader of the Palace Flophouse boys, expressing the idea that lends the book its narrative arch. Taking the same directive, we’ve named our business after him, and our aim is to provide a service that a man of Doc’s sensibilities would appreciate. My sense is that there are a lot of people with Doc’s sensibilities out there, who just know when they need a burger.