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Where is the best fishmonger in San Diego?

chezron Aug 21, 2013 09:59 AM

Where can I buy the freshest fish in San Diego? I want the best wild caught, fresh fish. Fish at grocery stores is usually frozen and thawed and it looks like its been frozen and thawed. Want to find a fishmonger that makes it a priority to sell a wide assortment of fresh, wild caught fish.

  1. c
    Cathy Aug 21, 2013 10:43 AM

    Catalina Offshore. To get directions, hours, sign up to be notified of weekend sales, go to www.catalinaop.com

    When you drive up, it looks like a business office. Just walk inside.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cathy
      globalevent Aug 24, 2013 05:05 PM

      I know it's probably sacrilege to say this, but Catalina doesn't always have the freshest fish. There have been at least three items that have not passed the smell test in past orders. I've been there on Saturday only so that might make a difference. My advice is to be very careful when ordering. If you get a whole fish be sure the eyes are clear and the gills nice and red.

    2. firecooked Aug 21, 2013 10:47 AM

      I have been happy with fish from Point Loma Seafoods. Just avoid going at lunchtime on a weekend!

      5 Replies
      1. re: firecooked
        globalevent Aug 24, 2013 05:06 PM

        Prices are absurd!

        1. re: globalevent
          firecooked Aug 24, 2013 09:03 PM

          You set your own priorities. You can get an awesome piece of fish for what 5 coffees cost at Starbucks.

          1. re: globalevent
            globocity Aug 31, 2013 04:11 PM

            Compared to where?

            1. re: globocity
              firecooked Aug 31, 2013 05:37 PM

              What I'm trying to say is that many people drop $3 a day for a cup of coffee, but won't pay $15 for a nice piece of fish.

              1. re: firecooked
                globocity Aug 31, 2013 08:24 PM

                Sorry--my "compared to where?" question was to globalenent. Your comment was quite clear and a good one.

        2. c
          cstr Aug 21, 2013 11:24 AM

          See Cathy's post, it's right on!

          1. chezron Aug 21, 2013 11:28 AM

            Where is Cathy's post?

            2 Replies
            1. re: chezron
              cstr Aug 21, 2013 11:51 AM

              Her post is just at the top of this thread.

              1. re: cstr
                chezron Aug 21, 2013 12:04 PM

                Duh! sorry

            2. SaltyRaisins Aug 21, 2013 11:54 AM

              Whole Foods Hillcrest. Ranch 99.

              Both have a wider selection than Catalina (smaller whole fish, whole raw baby squid, head-on shrimp, live clams and mussels etc), or any other local shop unless you pre-order. Catalina, Blue Water, Pt Loma are great if it's large fillet pieces you want, some of it local.

              12 Replies
              1. re: SaltyRaisins
                DiningDiva Aug 21, 2013 12:01 PM

                Salty, Ranch 99...really? Last time I was there, which admittedly was a while ago, the fish tanks were pretty dirty and they always seem to be overcrowded on the weekends. Has it changed?

                1. re: DiningDiva
                  SaltyRaisins Aug 21, 2013 12:14 PM

                  Yes, nothings really changed, but their live offerings (no pun) are worth it. I think there's a general notion that local family seafood sellers somehow have non-frozen fresher product than bigger retailers, and this is false. In fact, I'm totally fine with frozen seafood that has been handled properly since even a few minutes of improperly refrigerated "fresh off the boat" fish, especially larger species, can lead to wicked scromboid poisoning. Worse, there's no off smell or discoloration when this happens. I'm also pretty down on the tuna fishing scene these days, and the local markets seem to base their businesses around its sale.

                  Thuan Phat on Linda Vista has similar stuff as Ranch 99, and is much cleaner. I always forget to mention it.

                  1. re: SaltyRaisins
                    MrKrispy Aug 21, 2013 01:32 PM

                    will Thuan Phat kill and clean the fish to order? I haven't asked.

                    1. re: MrKrispy
                      SaltyRaisins Aug 21, 2013 01:35 PM


                    2. re: SaltyRaisins
                      FishGuy23 Aug 24, 2013 08:25 AM

                      Thuan Phat is not cleaner than Ranch 99. It stinks of rot from the parking lot. Great selection of "non-perishables" there though. H Mart is much cleaner than both of them with better selection but still not even in the same league as Catalina. If you are heading down to Thuan Phat though, there is an incredible exotic fruit nursery hidden in a neighborhood right near by - Ong's.

                    3. re: DiningDiva
                      Fake Name Aug 23, 2013 07:21 AM

                      Every time I see the fish in the tank at 99 and the like, I think of the toilet scene from Trainspotting.

                      If they are willing to set that as a standard for cleanliness, I'm not going to buy the other fish either.

                      1. re: Fake Name
                        cstr Aug 23, 2013 07:45 AM

                        maybe they were marinating.

                        1. re: cstr
                          Fake Name Aug 23, 2013 08:35 AM

                          Yum. Fecal-marinated Tilapia!

                    4. re: SaltyRaisins
                      chezron Aug 21, 2013 12:07 PM

                      Whole Foods Hillcrest usually thaws their frozen fish. They also have some fresh fish but sometimes they have been sitting there quite awhile. They also sell WAY too much farmed fish. I want good fresh fish. I want to go where they care that the fish is wild caught and abhor farmed fish.

                      1. re: chezron
                        SaltyRaisins Aug 21, 2013 12:18 PM

                        Honestly, you'll need a boat and a license to do well with good seafood in SD. Kinda sad.

                        Or a speargun and flippers. And there's no more freezing going on at Whole Foods than Catalina OP.

                        I know it's a,sensitive topic, and I get your "abhorrence" of farmed fish. But I don't understand why sustainably farmed chickens are no prob but the same for fish is somehow not acceptable. The sea simply cannot handle the type of fishing we imagine is the best for our dinner tables. Too bad it's become a political assay.

                        1. re: SaltyRaisins
                          honkman Aug 21, 2013 12:38 PM

                          I don't think farmed fish in general is a problem but a lot of it is not sustainably farmed and creates therefore problems. For example Monterey seafood watch recommends not buying farmed salmon because of these reasons.

                      2. re: SaltyRaisins
                        ipsedixit Aug 21, 2013 01:43 PM

                        If we're talking Whole Foods, I think the one in La Jolla is better than the Hillcrest location for seafood.

                        As to Ranch 99, yes, it's a bit grungy, but the selection and quality is good, and the prices are hard to beat.

                      3. DiningDiva Aug 21, 2013 12:00 PM

                        Catalina Offshore...see Cathy's post.

                        Talk to Tommy, he won't steer you wrong.

                        1. chezron Aug 21, 2013 12:22 PM

                          I don't mind frozen fish IF it stays frozen until I prepare it, But freezing and thawing, and left to sit behind a glass is not good.

                          1. Fake Name Aug 21, 2013 03:20 PM

                            I'm not saying anything.

                            Well, ok.

                            Over the years, and on several occasions, Tommy has tried to place me in a headlock, has slobbered, and has made repeated unwanted advances on my person.

                            I've kept quiet about it until this time because I was afraid I'd lose my access to high quality fish products.

                            I wish to remain anonymous, and will continue to use a Fake Name.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Fake Name
                              cstr Aug 22, 2013 07:21 AM

                              So if I see an elderly man, at Catalina, in a headlock screaming UNCLE!!!, I'll look for that famous CH 'left eye wearing glasses' to see if it resembles the famous FN's.

                              1. re: cstr
                                Fake Name Aug 22, 2013 07:51 PM


                                Let's not get carried away.

                                Mature in appearance is ok. Perhaps scholarly. Strikingly mature.

                                1. re: Fake Name
                                  cstr Aug 23, 2013 06:29 AM

                                  OK, refined and distinguished statesman but, I still like BC's 'avatar eye' description.

                                  1. re: cstr
                                    Beach Chick Aug 23, 2013 08:11 AM

                                    You need a avatar..
                                    Fakey is left eye..you could be right eye.

                                    Get on that..whatever you chose, it will be interesting, since I'm one of your biggest fans!

                              2. re: Fake Name
                                KirkK Aug 22, 2013 07:25 AM

                                A small price to pay for some of the best seafood in San Diego......

                              3. z
                                zmirzlina Aug 22, 2013 10:28 AM

                                Catalina Offshore but we're also a fan of Poppa's Fish who can be found at Farmer's Markets around town...

                                1. f
                                  FishGuy23 Aug 24, 2013 07:39 AM

                                  Do not go to Catalina Offshore Products! I repeat DO NOT GO THERE! I don't want to share any of the awesome fish Tommy has and too many people know about it already. Also, I like having San Diego's best chefs to myself whenever I go in there. I highly recommend the funky stink tanks at Ranch 99.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: FishGuy23
                                    SaltyRaisins Aug 24, 2013 05:56 PM

                                    These comments from fish sellers re: Asian markets and cleanliness are starting to put me off Catalina, a place I like. Frankly, I sense a bit of negative culture bias which is pretty uncool.

                                    Not to mention the strident tone of the ad copy I'm seeing here. Aren't there rules about this on CH?

                                    1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                      Cathy Aug 24, 2013 07:33 PM

                                      I buy whole fish at Asian markets; HMart has best quality and choice of those, but none of the people working would I consider 'fish mongers', which was the OP's request. I see the source of the fish at all the markets and at Catalina. Catalina has more fish caught in local waters.

                                      I shop at 99Ranch, Thuan Phat and Lucky, where I touch and pick out the fish, they clean it, and 50% of the time, I also get it fried, so it's ready to eat. I also buy the already fried tilapia from steam trays in Mexican Markets as well as the masgoof prepared tilapia from steam trays in Mediterranean/Chaldean run Markets.

                                      I'm not averse to the ethnic markets in the least and the prices there are good. I've never had any 'muddy' nor 'fecal infested' items from any of the markets where I shop.

                                      It was more that I was answering the OPs request of a 'fish monger who makes it a priority to sell a variety of fresh, wild caught fish'. Catalina is the only place I could think of that fits that description; Tommy does know his fish.

                                      1. re: Cathy
                                        SaltyRaisins Aug 24, 2013 08:30 PM

                                        A great response to a good question. I guess I missed that point. My comment was directed more at some other posts.


                                      2. re: SaltyRaisins
                                        Fake Name Aug 24, 2013 08:57 PM

                                        Not sure what you want here, salty. The place is good, I like it, and it's the only place I buy fish. Except for salmon at Costco, which is crap, but easy when I'm buying Pelligrino and seaweed snacks for lunch boxes. Good product, nice folks not sure what else to tell you.

                                        Trying not to resent your suggestion it's ad copy. That's pretty uncool.

                                        1. re: Fake Name
                                          SaltyRaisins Aug 24, 2013 09:59 PM


                                          1. re: SaltyRaisins
                                            FishGuy23 Aug 25, 2013 09:18 AM

                                            Sorry if I offended you.
                                            I shop at the Asian superstores all the time. In my opinion, Thuan Phat still has a decent amount of the leftover smell from Viet Dong III. Every time I walk in the front I smell it (even from the parking lot). I still shop there, I just don't buy meat or produce or fish there. I sometimes get the ducks at Yum Cha too since even though the dim sum isn't very good, their ducks are often quite good. I also get sushi accoutrements at Mitsuwa (even though their prices are often high).
                                            I usually buy produce, meat, and even seafood regularly at H Mart. Can't beat the 6.99/lb cold water lobsters or the crazy selection. I also don't think any of those places have the same kind of "talk to your fish guy and find out what's caught around here" feel that the original poster asked for.
                                            I can't imagine relying on one of those places for my regular fish purchases (as per the moniker, we make fish 4 or 5 times a week).
                                            I think you misread a difference of opinion as some slight against Asian stores.

                                            1. re: FishGuy23
                                              SaltyRaisins Aug 25, 2013 11:08 AM

                                              Misread? Fine, whatever.

                                              Original poster asked for "fresh wild caught fish." This information is listed in Asian markets per USDA requirements. You're right that there may not be someone with the knowledge there to help you pick, and for that Catalina has most places beat (I don't dislike Catalina, if you read above). If you know a little about fishing practices and sustainable/unsustainable aquaculture in some of these countries, you'll do pretty well, and won't inadvertently eat farmed tilapia or whatever. Thuan Phat and Catalina are entirely different ballgames. I probably shouldn't have even mentioned the Asian markets here.

                                              I get trollish about fish markets because I have yet to see a market in the area that comes close to average, neighborhood markets in many of the countries I've been to recently. Even in poor Tunisia, where no foodie culture exists, the fish markets open early, have only whatever was caught hours ago and feature smaller, tastier near-shore fish and shellfish. There is nothing like getting fresh seafood at these places, and I tire of seeing the refrigerator cases filled with huge slabs of tunny species here in SD all the time.

                                              I promise to shut up now.


                                    2. l
                                      LisaSD Aug 30, 2013 02:18 AM

                                      After reading about Catalina Offshore in Caron Golden's blog "San Diego Foodstuff", it was definitely on my "to-do" list to go. I finally decided yesterday to make a trip down there after hearing the recommendations here on Chowhound. The place was bustling and almost everyone said Hi or Welcome when I entered. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful Sashimi Grade Ahi where they had perfectly cut sizes for me to pick from. Ate it nigiri style and it was outstanding!

                                      Also picked up some little-neck clams and am looking forward to cooking those up tomorrow.

                                      While I was waiting for the clams, I was greeted by Tommy Gomes who educated me on some different fish that I was unfamiliar with. What a friendly guy! He also greeted the various chefs who were coming in for their daily pickups and his friendliness really came across as genuine and caring. I'll definitely be back!

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: LisaSD
                                        Fake Name Aug 30, 2013 06:58 AM

                                        "What a friendly guy! "

                                        Are you SURE you were in the right place?

                                        1. re: Fake Name
                                          bluefin2na Aug 31, 2013 08:32 AM

                                          I think not

                                          1. re: bluefin2na
                                            Fake Name Aug 31, 2013 02:39 PM

                                            I believe that.

                                        2. re: LisaSD
                                          MrKrispy Aug 30, 2013 12:27 PM

                                          I just wish the hours were better since i have a day job and can't get there during the week. At least they are open on Saturday now. I get the feeling they don't like it when someone comes in just to buy a single piece of fish.

                                          1. re: MrKrispy
                                            Fake Name Aug 30, 2013 02:27 PM

                                            I used to feel the same way when they were an office- but with the new retail counter I thought it was much better.

                                        3. l
                                          LisaSD Aug 30, 2013 02:25 AM

                                          Oh, I found the actual article that covers Catalina Offshore in depth...I think this will help you in your search chezron.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: LisaSD
                                            chezron Aug 31, 2013 03:57 PM

                                            Thanks Lisa!

                                          2. SuperFineSugar Aug 30, 2013 02:46 PM

                                            How come no one has mentioned The Fishery (which has a market in the front, and you can order what you want if it's not there); or El Pescador in La Jolla. Their fish counter is gorgeous, with lots of locally caught species.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: SuperFineSugar
                                              foodiechick Aug 30, 2013 03:24 PM

                                              Yep. El Pescador is my fishmonger/market. Great selection. Moving to a bigger location across the street soon. I do like The Fishery, but I'm a little leery because the last time we bought from them our swordfish was a little past primetime if you know what I mean.

                                              1. re: foodiechick
                                                cstr Aug 31, 2013 05:41 AM

                                                Really like El Pescador, they probably are overlooked 'cus of their size. BTW - the move across the street appears to be really lagging. Not a fan of Fishery.

                                              2. re: SuperFineSugar
                                                bluefin2na Aug 31, 2013 08:33 AM

                                                Both of these places ROCK and are great to buy fresh seafood from.

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