HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >


Open Air Fish Market (@ The Embarcadero) to Start August 2.

I hope this turns out well ...


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: foodiechick

      Wonder why my "+1" comment got booted...

          1. re: DoctorChow

            That's happened to me a few times too, Chow. Paranoia will destroy ya.

            One thing you can do is check all your posts by going to your profile - much easier to find things that way. :)

    2. I'm looking forward to reports on this. I'd have gone to the inaugural one, but I have to take the kids somewhere at 10am.

      1. I'm hoping there is some form of local bivalve representation from Carlsbad Aquafarm at this market. I realize oysters and mussels might not come off a boat, but these items might help to create a more one-stop shop experience at the new market.

        Totally off-topic (and speaking of markets), I was at the Barrio Logan Northgate last week and drove by the SD Public Market building. It looks pretty vacant - there is no signage and it looks likes a couple of the windows have been broken. Anyone have the skinny on that joint?

        1. Well, I did some asking around about this, and while everyone was very positive about the possibility, there are some interesting hurdles to overcome.

          They will (apparently) be selling whole fish only- guts and gills. Right there, I think that will limit the appeal in a big way, especially for larger species. Few consumers want whole fish- sure, some do, but most want fillets, portioned and packed.

          City laws prevent cleaning, gutting, gilling at that location, so the fish cannot be filleted or portioned. These are local boats, and don't have the time to process fish while at sea, like the long-range boats do.

          The prime local season is 120 days. Which means these folks will need to make their $ in a short time period. Typically, a boat will wholesale their catch and be back fishing the next day, allowing for a large volume (number of trips) during the season. But retailing (there's a pun in there somewhere) takes more time, reducing the number of trips a boat can make. Sure, they might get a higher price if they can sell retail, but there's a big risk there.

          The competition for the same species may be an issue. Imagine one boat shows up at the dock with 1000 lbs of tuna- they have to sell in great volume (for a retail environment) to empty their boat. Then imagine another boat shows up with 1000 lbs of tuna twenty minutes later? What will happen to prices? They will have to dive- fish is perishable and a limited market coupled with an over-supply. Ok, maybe the consumer will make out, but the boats will come up short in revenue.

          Then- the HUGE cost and hassles of creating a retail environment. The ice, the runoff, the sneezeguards, the food handlers requirements- all achieveable, but not typically within the wheelhouse (oh, how I crack myself up) of a typical commercial fisherman. It's simply a different business.

          Then- the location. Where would one park? $eaport Village? Is there enough walking traffic from downtown residents who'd like to carry a whole fish back to their apartments?

          BUT! As a photographer, I can see a lot of new business in photographing toque-clad chefs from local restaurants willing and able to break down the whole fish.

          I'm (like everyone with whom I spoke) hopeful these challenges can be met.

          But it was interesting for me to peek under the hood of an operation like this.

          27 Replies
          1. re: Fake Name

            Then- the location. Where would one park? $eaport Village? Is there enough walking traffic from downtown residents who'd like to carry a whole fish back to their apartments?

            I think this is the biggest hurdle.

            Even parking at Seaport Village means quite a trek back to the car with a bag full of whole fish (or fishes).

            Parking at the Midway lot maybe more practical (and expensive).

            But, yeah, parking is already a bitch. Having another commercial enterprise there is going to make it an uber-bitch.

            1. re: Fake Name

              An interesting and well thought-through discussion. All are valid points.

              Like ipse, the parking situation was the first issue that came to my mind, but you've brought up other difficulties that will have to be worked out somehow for this to succeed and last.

              1. re: Fake Name

                Someone needs to outfit a pedicab as a mobile hot-smoker for the fish...

                1. re: Fake Name

                  Additional thought: I don't know about "toque-clad chefs from local restaurants", but I do see an opportunity for a business located on-site (if that's possible) or very close by that does nothing but "break down the whole fish" that are sold at this market. It might also do a small side business selling such things as coolers and ice, and maybe spices and the like.

                  I'm personally unlikely to buy a whole fish anywhere. I've never figured out how to deal with one and I'm not interested in learning. So until there's a way to get boned and sliced fish at this market, I'm not likely to go. (Now that I know.)

                  1. re: DoctorChow

                    Around the time articles like this started appearing, http://www.scientificamerican.com/art... I began only purchasing whole fish in restaurants and at markets, so I could see what I was paying for. Our only wish for a wedding gift had been 'good knives' and we do know how to use them, so it hasn't been a problem.

                    [I do trust Tommy and Catalina Offshore to be giving me what I order, though and know what I get from there was alive at most 24 hours prior.]

                    1. re: DoctorChow

                      This was brought up in the discussion as well, and the answer was a "probably not".

                      Breaking down fish creates a lot of waste- guts, gills and heads- and the city won't allow that at the dock anymore. Used to happen all the time, but introducing that amount of bio into the bay right near the dock is a non-starter. Think about the seagulls, seals, etc. Long range boats do it all the time out at sea- no problem.

                      So, to break fish down one needs infrastructure- running water, hot and cold, drains, tables, floors with sumps, etc, all compliant with the very significant food handling regulations that accompany such an operation.

                      Can't just happen with an EZ-up tent and a couple of plastic Roughneck trash cans.

                      1. re: Fake Name

                        This is just an opportunity for a local fish sauce manufacturer to step in:

                        North Park Nuoc Mam! La Jolla Garum Works! PB Patis!

                        1. re: Fake Name

                          I'm not as familiar with the layout of the area as you. Is there no room for a permanent structure that would have all of the necessary facilities?

                          It seems that if the City really wants this market to succeed, it might perhaps consider subsidizing a small shop for this purpose -- if there's room.

                          1. re: DoctorChow

                            Well, there's already sort of a fish market already there ... I think it's called, ah, um, hmm, The Fish Market maybe?

                            1. re: DoctorChow

                              I think Chesapeake Fish Co. is very close to the new market. And I think I read somewhere that these guys were trying to work out some kind of arrangement with Chesapeake for customers to take their whole fish over there for further processing. Or is that off the table now?

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Chesapeake would help fill the void if that arrangement were to work out. But a small shop tailored specifically for market customers and located right at the dock itself would be even better, I think.

                                As to The Fish Market (per ipse's comment), the question is whether they'd have any interest in providing this kind of service. Would they want people bringing whole fish into their restaurant/market?

                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                  Oh great, now I have to sling a whole fish over my shoulder, schlep it over to get gutted and filleted and all for what probably will be more costly than say going to a place like Catalina Fish Market. Do you think this concept is going to survive, really.

                                  1. re: cstr

                                    Nailed it sledge. .

                                    Maybe I should patent that 'fish sling' I've always wanted to design and bring to production.

                                    1. re: cstr

                                      The question is what happens if they can sell it perhaps 10% cheaper than Catalina which might actually be possible without rent etc. cost.

                                      1. re: honkman

                                        Or fresher?

                                        That was a topic as well, and Catalina has no dog in this hunt. Even maximum volume off the dock is not going to dent their business- largely wholesale.

                                        At this point all of this is speculation- perhaps they found a way around the hurdles already. But the parking is still making this a non-starter for me.

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          Trolley to the last stop and then hail a pedicab?

                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                            Buy a whole fish.

                                            Then hail another pedicab, then another trolley.

                                            Sounds like a whole lotta fun.

                                            1. re: Fake Name

                                              Consider it cardio and weight training all rolled into one.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                Well, if one looks at it in that manner...

                                                1. re: DiningDiva

                                                  Maybe they can get AmazonFresh to deliver.

                                                2. re: Fake Name

                                                  Bring a straw hat and shawl, drape artistically, then after you climb in, you make introductions, "Say hello to my leettle friend!"

                                                  That'll get you to your destination in record time.


                                            2. re: honkman

                                              The thing is, by the time you get done dealing with a whole fish, getting it prepped etc, is it worth it. Plus, I would rely of a place like Catalina to ensure that I'm getting the best quality product vs Joe the hobby fisher dealing his lucky catch of the day, or yesterday.

                                              1. re: cstr

                                                My understanding is that the fish comes from commercial fishermen not the hobby fisher. So most likely you will get the same fish directly from them which otherwise will go to Catalina

                                                1. re: honkman

                                                  This is my understanding as well, however painful it might be to agree with Honkminister.

                                                  Sportboats cannot, by law, sell their catch.

                                                  Yes, a place like Cataline should QC the catch, and at the dock it's let the buyer beware. I like places and opportunities like that.

                                                  Unless I eat a parasite or something.

                                                  But let's assume these are reasonable folks who can QC their own catch.

                                                  1. re: Fake Name

                                                    Without decent QC at the dock, this experiment will collapse rapidly. There'll be few return customers if the fish sold there stinks. To me, QC isn't the biggest concern.

                                                    1. re: DoctorChow

                                                      These guys have been selling off their boat for a while now. The market is the next step for them in growing their businesses and/or trying to create a market like this for San Diegans.

                                                      They post updates to the FB account if that is a better way for people to find out what they will be selling. On July 25, here is what "Addiction" was selling off the boat:

                                                      Live Local Stone Crab $2.50lb
                                                      Live Sea Urchin - $5.00 each
                                                      Top Snail $ $4.00 each
                                                      Halibut filet $16.50lb vacuum packed and frozen
                                                      Mako Shark $6.00lb vacuum packed and frozen
                                                      Sand Dabs $5.50lb


                                                    2. re: Fake Name

                                                      The only thing those guys will be QC'ing is their wallets. Hey, hope they succeed.

                                  2. Going out on a very thin limb here, can i post a insiders view and not get it deleted????

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. First off talked to a Chef and Catalina like said has no dog in this but supports this. I tried to look up where I read it but they did say they were working on a fish cleaning station. An other quote from a chef...stay on the sidelines and STFU
                                      or get in the game:)

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: chris2269

                                        "An other quote from a chef...stay on the sidelines and STFU or get in the game:)"

                                        Help me understand this- are we not supposed to talk about what might be happening?

                                        Just want to know the rules.

                                        1. re: Fake Name

                                          You can make your own rules and the questions raised are totally valid... it just seems we scream a lot about what this town does not have and could do better, then when someone tries the negatives start before the fail. I really did look for the article that did address the cleaning fish issue..just could not find it but they did address it.

                                          1. re: chris2269

                                            You're not crazy, I saw it too. There have been a number of articles in various publications regarding this concept. There was one about a month or so ago that was really good as it explored a number of the issues including things like Health Dept. compliance, the role of the Port Authority, the Working Fisherman's Group, why the Driscoll's Wharf thing petered out and so on.

                                            I'm old, so I have no recollection as to where I read that, or I'd find it and repost. It was a good, if not lengthy, article.

                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                              Hey, DD, you have experience and history. That does not translate to old.

                                              Cheers, GJ

                                                1. re: phee

                                                  Phee, I believe it was! Thank you very much

                                              1. re: chris2269

                                                "You can make your own rules and the questions raised are totally valid... "

                                                Oh, thank goodness. I was so worried.

                                                I failed to be clear about my support for this enterprise, and I'll try to be clearer in the future. I raise the discussion because I'm personally interested in the way markets work- not just food, but many other things. In fact, I'm so damn fascinated with it, I got me a colleaguit degrie init.

                                                I'm fascinated about the lack of direct connection between food producers and consumers, and this is a textbook case. I really cannot blame the port or the health department for wanting to avoid TONS of waste fishguts tossed about our recovering harbor. But I'd love to buy still-flippin fish right from the person who flippin pulled it from the briney deep. I'd enjoy seeing that fishcatcher get the full retail value straight to his/her pocket.

                                                But am further fascinated by the hurdles to get there.

                                                And wait- there's more.

                                                This enterprise will demand cooperation between competitors- this is not a situation where one boat is catching fish, the other catching lamb. Both (or more) are bringing similar perishable commodities to the same location, possibly at the same time. To achieve an appropriate market price, they will, in some way, need to cooperate on pricing (ding!) or compete- a pretty clear Christians v. Lions.

                                                Should be great, and I applaud the effort.

                                                1. re: Fake Name

                                                  "I'm fascinated about the lack of direct connection between food producers and consumers" - Why ? Isn't that the obvious way big corporations would set up the system to have the most influence so that they can sell their "food"

                                                  1. re: honkman

                                                    Nah, I'm not typically the "tinfoil hat" type of person. I believe most of the distance is the nature of our lives. We simply cannot harvest our own meats, fish for our own fish, grow our own fruit and produce anymore.

                                                    Of course we can anecdotally (you should see the Name Family Tomato Farm) but it's mostly for fun and hobby-type reward.

                                                    For example, I just scored a pound of Monchong- a delicious variety of fish from a place far away. Have I sinned by doing this? I think not. But my lust for this product means I'm making a hole in the ozone layer about the size of a needle. That's not good. Venial sin, perhaps. I will nevertheless enjoy not only the fish, but the efforts and resources of the giant fishing industry that brings it to the local fishcase.

                                                    Obviously, agribusiness exists, and it's pretty nasty stuff. But it's nasty stuff people embrace and enjoy with every revolution of the drive-thru merry-go-round.

                                                    1. re: Fake Name

                                                      Damn I thought this was about fresh fish

                                            1. re: bizzwriter

                                              I think "fine" is understating it.

                                              If the Dockside Market has a Saturday turnout like the one today, the city might have to build a new pier.

                                              By the way, shame on the parking attendants at Seaport Village. Just chintzy.

                                                1. re: bizzwriter

                                                  Great start!

                                                  I hope it grows.

                                                  To the fishermen at the market: Go for it, guys!

                                                2. Went by at 8:30 this morning. Big line. Good for them.

                                                  10 Replies
                                                  1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                    Also glad to see this project going so well so far.

                                                      1. re: DoctorChow

                                                        I'd be interested in knowing how the Fish Market (as in the restaurant) fits into the picture at a local fisherman's market. My guess is they have some form of exclusivity for the retail market side in their lease w/ the Port/Seaport Village.

                                                        1. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                          Some food truck should park at Seaport Village lot on Saturday mornings and offer to grill/cook up the fish.

                                                          I mean, like, why not ...

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            That's a really interesting idea, ipse.

                                                            1. re: DoctorChow

                                                              There are probably city regulations against it, as it just makes too much sense for both the vendors, and the city.

                                                      2. re: Stiflers_Mom

                                                        Friends tell me they were out of fish/seafood by a bit before noon.

                                                        Lets hope this level of enthusiasm holds up.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          One of the things that's emerged recently is that they not only in fact do plan to have an on-site processing booth to break down fish purchases for customers, but they also plan to have "cooking booths" where prepared and cooked seafood dishes can be obtained.

                                                          I hope the prepared seafood place stays open all day, well after the market itself closes; it could be a progenitor of the market's evolution.

                                                          1. re: DoctorChow

                                                            This sounds very encouraging. Thanks for the update!

                                                      3. Another solid turnout.

                                                        Carp, cod (black and rock), yellow fin, and a few others. Good selection.

                                                        Mackerel was sold out by 8:30!