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Crayfish to chateaubriand ... dining in the Delta; 19 choices accessible by boat or car.

If Huckleberry Finn had "lit out" for California instead of the Mississippi, he'd have seen some surprisingly familiar territory in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Here, 700-odd miles of waterways snake through a maze of levee-banked islands. Twisty rivers and scores of sloughs and channels sustain the state's largest fresh-water flotilla--houseboats, salboats, cabin cruisers, and other craft. To serve this recreational fleet, a number of restaurants have anchored themselves along the water. Back in 1976 when Sunset surveyed the Delta dining scene, 11 restaurants served "mariner and motorist alike." Since then, dining options, have grown. Our eclectic update lists 19 restaurants, each no more than a minute's walk from dock or parking.

Architecture ranges from steamboat revival to neoclassical. Fare runs from down-home Delta to continental, food from crayfish to chateaubriand. We give summer hours only and average prices at our press time (they can change). Reservations may be needed for certain meals and days. Some places feature live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

If you plan to float in, most restaurants have their own dock space (we note where it's best to call to arrange guest docking). While informality reigns in the Delta, boaters might want to pack some dress-up duds for dinner or Sunday brunch.

Grand Island Mansion. Built between 1917 and 1920 for financier Louis Meyers, the opulent 58-room mansion on Grand Island Road is now open only for Sunday brunch from 10:30 to 2. Diners are free to see much of the lower floors, including the gilded ballroom.

Champagne brunch begins with croissants served with flavored butter, followed by a choice of entrees, including quiche, egg, and seafood dishes; $10 to $14. Reservations recommended; call (916) 775-1705.

Ryde Hotel. Built in 1926, this four-story hotel, with basement speakeasy, purveyed bootleg hooch during prohibition. With repeal in 1933, the Ryde became a legal watering hole.

On the first floor, the restaurant has art deco furnishings. This season, it will be open only on Sundays, May 26 through September 1, for breakfast and brunch from 8 to 3. For menu information and required reservations, call (916) 776-1318.

Giusti's is a rustic 1900 landmark where the North Fork Mokelumne River meets Snodgrass Slough. Family-style Italian food includes pasta, seafood, and veal dishes; $7.50 to $10.50. Open daily for lunch (11:30 to 1:30) and dinner (5 to 10); Sunday brunch (11 to 2) on deck. From 1-5, take Walnut Grove Road west 4 miles. Telephone is (916) 776-1808.

Wimpy's overlooks the South Fork Mokelumne. New owners have upgraded the menu. Specialties: 1/2-pound "Wimpy Burger," seafood and spinach dishes, Mexican food on Friday nights. Open daily 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. for breakfast, lunch, dinner; Sunday brunch 10 to 2. From 1-5, take Walnut Grove Road west 3 miles. Telephone is (209) 794-2544.

The Store, at Vieira's Resort off State Highway 160, on the Sacramento. Nine kinds of breakfast omelets ($4); seafood and veal dishes ($6 to $10) for lunch and dinner; Sunday brunch. Open 6:30 A.M. to 10 P.M.; closed Mondays; (916) 777-6562.

The Point, 120 Marina Drive, overhangs the Sacramento at Delta Marina Yacht Harbor, Rio Vista. It specializes in seafood and veal dishes, $9 to $14. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Sundays; Sunday brunch. Reservations advised on weekends; call (707) 374-5400.

Outrigger. California Delta chow: fried catfish, steamed crayfish; $5 to $12. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. weekdays, to 10:30 weekends. Deck seating available. From State 160 at the 3 mile Slough drawbridge, turn east on Sherman Island Road; (916) 777-6480.

Spindrift. At our press time, the owner and chef of this popular establishment were moving along the levee to a new floating restaurant: the Belle of the Delta (see below). The Spindrift will operate under new management; for information, call (916) 777-6654. From State Highway 12, turn south at the signed boat onto Jackson Slough Road, then turn left on Brannan Island Road.

Andrea's Cove, on Brannan Island Road, faces the San Joaquin River. Home-style chicken noodle soup, salads, and Mexican food for lunch; steak ($10) for dinner; also serves breakfast and Sunday brunch. Patio dining. Open 8 to 8, to 10 Fridays and Saturdays; closed Wednesdays. Six first-come dock spaces. Reservations advised on weekends; call (916) 777-6409.

Belle of the Delta, at Sunset Harbor (formerly Happy Harbor), on Brannan Island Road. Built steamboat-style on a barge, it's expected to open in June. Dinner specialties will include steamed clams, veal Oscar, chicken and dumplings; $9 to $14.50. To confirm opening date and hours, call (916) 777-6575.

Moore's Riverboat floats just off Brannan Island Road. Refitted as a lively restaurant, the former 156-foot river freighter Fort Sutter (launched 1931) is permanently moored on the Mokelumne. Jumbo crayfish platter, seafood, steaks; $9 to $14. Open daily 7 A.M. to 11 P.M. for breakfast, lunch, dinner; (916) 777-6545.

Terminous Tavern, at Tower Park Marina off State 12. Quartered in a former produce-packing shed, it overlooks Little Potato Slough. Serves breakfast, lunch (sandwiches and salads, $4.50 to $6), and dinner (seafood and steaks, $9.50 to $14). Friday and Saturday night specialty is prime rib, $13.50. Open 7 A.M. to 10 P.M. Sundays through Thursdays, to 11 Fridays and Saturdays; (209) 369-1041.

Stuelke's Artist Table, 2140 Dutch Slough Road, Bethel Island. Small country home ambience, continental cuisine: seafood and steaks, $11 to $14; chateaubriand for two, $23. Dinner only Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30, staying open most nights to 10. For required reservations and dock space, call (415) 684-3414.

Hatch Cover, 6629 Embarcadero Drive, at Village West Marina on Fourteen Mile Slough in Stockton. Steaks and seafood, $9 to $13; vegetable casserole, $7. Dinner daily: 5:30 to 10 Mondays through Thursdays, to 11 Fridays and Saturdays (no reservations); 4:30 to 10 Sundays; (209) 478-4341. From 1-5, exit west on Benjamin Holt Drive to Embarcadero. To arrange guest docking, call the marina at 951-1551.

The castaway, 321 W. Weber Avenue, Stockton. Waterfront dining: well-stocked salad bar; seafood, filet mignon, hickory-smoked pork ribs; $10 to $13. Open Mondays through Saturdays for lunch (11 to 3) and dinner (5 to 10, to 11 Fridays and Saturdays); Sunday brunch (10 to 3) and dinner (4:30 to 10). Guest dock space at Waterfront Yacht Harbor. Reservations recommended for Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday brunch; call (209) 466-2866.

Grocer's Warehouse, at 445 W. Weber Avenue, in Stockton. This renovated 1870s-1897 warehouse quarters shops and the following four restaurants. There's guest dock space at the adjacent Waterfront Yacht Harbor on the Stockton Deep Water Channel. From 1-5, take the downtown exit; turn left on W. Weber.

--Antonio's. Typical Mexican fare with fresh handmade tortillas; $5 to $9. Open daily 10 A.M. to 10:30 P.M.; (209) 946-5792.

--Chez Zabeth. French bistro decor, cafe fare: crepes, sandwiches on baguettes, salade Lyonnaise, steak a la moutarde; $4.50 to $9. Open daily from 7 A.M. (from 9 Sundays for brunch) for breakfast and lunch; dinner Thursdays through Saturdays until 9; (209) 941-2204.

--The Fish Market. Seafood of all sorts; specialties include clam chowder, charcoal-broiled fish; $9 to $13. Open for breakfast (weekdays 7 to 10:30), lunch (11 to 4), dinner (4 to 9, to 10 weekends), Sunday brunch. Reserve for lunch; call (209) 946-0991.

--Peta's Gasthaus. German decor and cuisine such as sauerbraten and schnitzel; $7 to $14. Open daily for lunch and dinner from 11 A.M. to midnight; (209) 941-8605.
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Date:Jun 1, 1985
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