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What is the freshest seafood shack in the San Diego area?

damejugo Aug 10, 2011 09:17 AM

I am taking my girlfriend out to dinner for her birthday in a few weeks, we are staying in the San Diego area and have a rental car to get around. I'm looking for a place right by the beach....probably someplace where we can wear shorts and sandals.

She's from the Caribbean, and she is most impressed by simple, authentic food. She has good taste and enjoys fine dining, but I think she will be most impressed by a seafood shack that can shuck her the freshest oysters and grill the freshest, biggest fish.

Any suggestions? :)

  1. Beach Chick Aug 11, 2011 09:38 AM

    El Norte Especial in Encinitas on the 101 is the perfect place!
    Block from Stone Steps for great surfing and then walk over and they have whole fried fish, oysters and their chicken soup is fab..
    Best dive bar up the road is the Leucadian...life don't get any better than that!


    1. scottca075 Aug 10, 2011 02:47 PM

      At the risk of blowing up the board.....

      The type of place you are describing doesn't exist in San Diego county the way they do in the Caribbean, but they do in Mexico.

      Check out Rosarito Beach.


      Some people are completely against going south of the border because of some of the violence in Mexico, but Rosarito and Ensenada have not been affected. You can take a bus down and cab back, bus both ways or cab both ways.


      Look into it thoroughly if it is something you would consider and weigh risk/reward, but you would find the kind of place you are looking for and every place in Baja takes (prefers) U.S. dollars so you don't have to worry about exchanging money. Even the Mexican toll road takes US dollars and gives change in US dollars.

      4 Replies
      1. re: scottca075
        DiningDiva Aug 10, 2011 02:58 PM

        "Some people are completely against going south of the border because of some of the violence in Mexico, but Rosarito and Ensenada have not been affected. You can take a bus down and cab back, bus both ways or cab both ways."

        Umm...not exactly. Both Rosarito and Ensenada were seriously and adversely affected by the narcoviolencia and it's not exactly over in Rosarito. That said, those on this board that know me, also know that I am a huge proponent of Mexico and travel there frequently. It is far safer now than it was 14-18 months ago and is perfectly safe for a day trip or evening of dining. The best dining in San Diego is actually in Tijuana these days.

        If the OP is seriously interested in crossing the border for his special meal then the question should be posted on the Mexico board and not here. The list mods frown on any discussion of Tijuana/Rosarito/Ensenada/Valle de Guadlupe/Baja on the SD board.

        1. re: DiningDiva
          scottca075 Aug 10, 2011 03:33 PM

          I doubt the OP considered Baja CA as an option, maybe now he will and I too make frequent trips south of the border on business and Rosarito and Ensenada haven't experienced anything close to what TJ, Juarez and other border areas have and the American ex-pat community has really been unaffected.

        2. re: scottca075
          Gypsy Jan Aug 11, 2011 11:58 AM

          Well, I specifically did not mention going south of the border (SOB) because the OP didn't mention an interest.

          The mods will probably search and destroy this post, but for those of you who get a chance to read this, you can literally drive to a fishing village (Popotla, adjacent to the Fox movie studios where Titanic, Master and Commander and Pearl Harbor was filmed,) in twenty minutes from the border and you can chose from the several varieties of freshly caught fish from the families that live there and your meal will be prepared in any manner that you wish.

          1. re: Gypsy Jan
            damejugo Aug 11, 2011 12:04 PM

            Thanks! That sounds like a really good idea, however, I think we are staying about 20 miles north of San Diego, so I'm not sure if we'll go south!

        3. f
          fizzy Aug 10, 2011 01:10 PM

          Mexican seafood places, definitely! They might be a little divey for a nice birthday dinner, but there's some really great places in SD. I don't think any are really near the water though.

          Karina's -- for awesome ceviches, whole fish, grilled prawns, tamarind margaritas... looks like they have multiple locations, but i've only been to the one in national city.

          I second the suggestion for the Marisco's German truck -- good fish/seafood tacos, a kickass seafood cocktail, ceviche served on tostadas, etc. Don't forget to ask for the soup with the shrimp they give out with each order. The only awkward bit you should be prepared for is that the truck is in a parking out where there isn't really anywhere to sit - we usually go to the one at 35th/University Ave. They used to have tables, but I think they had to take those down... so now we end up eating in the car or taking it home. They also close up kind of early -- usually around 6pm, I think.

          El Pescador is a solid choice for casual seafood, not Mexican -- a couple blocks from the beach in La Jolla, though it may be a little more tame than what you're looking for... I think they close a little earlier also, around 8pm.

          You should definitely check out the Little Italy Farmers market if you have a chance. There's a stand there that sells fresh live sea urchin harvested by a group of divers in San Diego -- really great stuff! They'll prepare it for your there at the market or you can take a whole one home to cut later. I've seen oysters there too, but haven't had a chance to try those out yet.

          2 Replies
          1. re: fizzy
            damejugo Aug 11, 2011 07:05 AM

            Yes, this seems more of what I'm looking for. We don't need fancy, just GOOD and AUTHENTIC food...something that is unique to Southern California. What about north of San Diego, 10-20 miles up the coast? We're out there surfing, so we actually won't be in downtown San Diego that much.


            1. re: damejugo
              cstr Aug 11, 2011 09:34 AM

              If you're looking for an excellent authentic place for barbacoa, sorry not seafood and not on the beach, but in Vista on E. Vista Way and very worth it, Vamos Es Texcoco is the place. Here's the website.


              Vista Way Cafe
              868 E Vista Way, Vista, CA 92084

          2. Gypsy Jan Aug 10, 2011 12:29 PM

            Pescado Zarandeado at Mariscos Godoy


            Mariscos Godoy
            651 Palomar St 25A, Chula Vista, CA

            2 Replies
            1. re: Gypsy Jan
              zmirzlina Aug 10, 2011 02:57 PM

              +1. Festive, cheap, and they have murals of the sea on the wall IIRC, so it kinda fits the bill. But by far one of our favorite dishes in the city. Shoes and sandals are OK just aobut everywhere. Heck, you can wear them to the opera...

              1. re: Gypsy Jan
                lyn Aug 11, 2011 08:16 AM

                I think Gypsy Jan might be on the right track with Mexican seafood joints. I just have not been to any yet. I know they have great things like whole fried fish, pulpo, ceviches etc. I think they are mostly in Chula Vista. The other thought it to get some Ceviches from Marisco German seafood truck, put them in a cooler and picnic at Sunset Cliffs-probably 20-30 minutes from the truck.

              2. foodiechick Aug 10, 2011 12:08 PM

                Tried to attach photo of whole fried fish but doesn't seem to be working. ;(

                1. foodiechick Aug 10, 2011 12:05 PM

                  Just had fantastic whole fried fish at Bay Park Fish Company. Fresh oysters too. Not on the beach, but very casual and laid back, fresh and tasty.


                  1. Beach Chick Aug 10, 2011 11:32 AM

                    Nothing like a seafood shack in the Carib..
                    It's her birthday and you can do oysters and fish right by the ocean/bay..
                    Top of the Market at the Fish Market Downtown SD location would be my choice..
                    Kumamoto oysters and they can prepare any type of whole fish..call ahead.
                    1500 Ocean at the Hotel Del Coronado is another great spot..
                    Might have to gussy up those slaps and shorts..
                    Super casual, I would do Bahia Don Bravo's for fish tacos, ceviche cocktails, Pacifico's in La Jolla or Bull Taco in Cardiff..


                    1. jmtreg Aug 10, 2011 11:11 AM

                      Dude, this is San Diego, you can wear shorts and sandals almost anywhere.

                      Try the Sea Rocket Bistro - it has always had fresh seafood, but was inconsistent. With the new chef, it looks like they're moving in the right direction.

                      Sea Rocket Bistro
                      3382 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jmtreg
                        stevewag23 Aug 10, 2011 02:36 PM

                        You can also say "Dude" almost anywhere also.

                        Does Sea Rocket have whole fish?

                      2. j
                        JRSD Aug 10, 2011 11:10 AM

                        You will not be able to find your whole package in SD - a shack right by the beach with oysters and whole fish, so you will need to decide which of those points is the most important. As far as the "dress code" in SD, there are many, many more places that are OK with sandals and shorts than in NYC.

                        It is a sit-down, non-shack restaurant but The Fishery may be your best bet. While they do not have whole fish on the menu, they are a fish market as well. Perhaps they would be willing to prepare something off-menu if you contacted them? They are not in view of the beach, but are close to the water.

                        1. d
                          damejugo Aug 10, 2011 10:19 AM

                          Oh, I should mention, I'm looking for a place that will serve a whole fish....eyeballs and all :)

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: damejugo
                            Cathy Aug 10, 2011 10:37 AM

                            One of the many Vietnamese or Chinese restaurants will have whole fish you can select from a tank and it will be prepared for you, none are seafood shacks, and none are on the beach. We don't have shacks out here.

                            Blue Water , El Pescador and Point Loma Seafoods are the non-chains located here; none are fancy and they mostly serve local items. Many Mexican mariscos/seafood restaurants have oysters. San Diego more or less known for fish tacos...

                            Despite being located on the ocean, San Diego is not seafood centric as Seattle or Boston are.

                            Point Loma Seafoods
                            2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106

                            1. re: Cathy
                              damejugo Aug 10, 2011 10:42 AM

                              Haha thanks, I am obviously not from San Diego. We are visiting from NYC! Thank you for the suggestions...I am willing to drive up to 20 miles out of town for the dinner too. I'm just looking for something really authentic, and oysters are a must!

                              1. re: damejugo
                                chezwhitey Aug 10, 2011 10:49 AM

                                Since oysters are typically flown into san diego, I'm not sure how authentic you can get around here for those, I may be wrong though. Carlsbad mussels on the other hand are more "authentic" to this area.

                                1. re: chezwhitey
                                  damejugo Aug 10, 2011 10:52 AM

                                  Good to know! I guess, if not oysters, then some good fish will do. :)

                                  1. re: damejugo
                                    chezwhitey Aug 10, 2011 11:01 AM

                                    If you want to get a taste of the local scene, I'd do fish tacos, everyone has their favorites, I think south beach or brigantine is a good choice. As far as good and whole fish go, if you really want to knock her socks off, hop on a short flight to vegas and go to estiatorio milos in las vegas. then again, you are from nyc and you have one of your own out there.

                                2. re: damejugo
                                  Cathy Aug 10, 2011 10:52 AM

                                  The County is 4200 square miles. 70 miles are ocean coastline...

                                  If you want 'local' and 'shack-like', there are several Mariscos German trucks in parking lots. (Mariscos means seafood, German is the first name of the 'owner') The one at University at 35th seems to be most popular. However there are quite a few mariscos restaurants that others can recommend.

                                  There are oysters at El Pescador, Point Loma Seafoods and Blue Water. But not whole prepared fish.

                                  Point Loma Seafoods
                                  2805 Emerson St, San Diego, CA 92106

                                  Mariscos German truck
                                  Cable St and Santa Monica Ave, San Diego, CA

                            2. s
                              stevewag23 Aug 10, 2011 10:05 AM

                              Try Blue Water.

                              Or the farmers market in Little Italy.

                              Not sure about this part: "bring her where we can see the ocean".

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