Waterbar in Pacific Beach is making its mark along the boardwalk at the foot of Grand Avenue. Replacing the long-shuttered Joe’s Crab Shack, the much-anticipated restaurant opened the day after Christmas following two-and-a-half years of construction, and customers have been steady from day one.
“Business has been great, it’s been nonstop,” said general manager Brent Noll (formerly of Roppongi and Whisknladle restaurants in La Jolla). “It’s been really, really busy, right from the get go. It’s been awesome.”
Located at 4325 Ocean Blvd., not far from Crystal Pier, the Waterbar couldn’t be any closer to the beach. Climb the stairs to the second floor and you’re met with a breathtaking view of the ocean and 7,000 square feet of restaurant with two bars. To give you an idea of the size, the Waterbar seats 225 diners and more than 500 standing customers. There are 32 parking spaces downstairs, or you can use the valet from 5 p.m. on.
“What sets us apart is we’re right on the water,” Noll smiled, “with a 180-degree view of the ocean. We have windows across the whole wall that open up wide, so you feel like you’re dining outside while still inside.” He added that some patrons come straight from the beach into the restaurant. Employees sweep the steps twice a day to clear away the beach sand.
The restaurant is nestled in a busy area with some well-established favorites nearby including PB Ale House, PB Shore Club, and the Firehouse American Eatery and Lounge. But GM Noll points out the restaurant’s mission is to stand out from the crowd with more high-end, quality options.
“Pacific Beach has a fraternity, college-kid reputation with a lot of places selling more bar-centric food,” according to Noll. “We’re offering more elevated dishes, a lot of seafood dishes. We’re trying to do a different menu from all the other restaurants and bars in the area.”
The restaurant’s trio of owners are seasoned restaurateurs. Todd Brown also owns Bub’s at the Beach and Blind Burro, Eric Leitstein owns Union Kitchen + Tap and PB Alehouse, and Joe Vaught owns Barleymash and Sandbar. Executive Chef Steven Lona heads up the kitchen and brings a discriminating palate to the restaurant with his experience as a chef at Tasting Room Del Mar. Chef Lona has a passionate penchant for fresh seafood dishes.
The Waterbar serves up some raw fish options, including oysters on the half shell and whitefish ceviche. The tuna poke is a great starter with macadamia nuts, sesame, green onions, and nori chips. The grilled crab louie platter includes a healthy serving of crab salad along with romaine, egg, cucumber, radish, tomato, and Russian dressing.
Another favorite is the smoked salmon plate which is attractively displayed with deviled eggs, capers, and red onion with herb cream and toast. And the sea bass is a signature item served with smoked tomato broth, ancho chile, onion marmalade, and corn dumplings. The menu also offers steaks and burgers for those less inclined toward seafood.
The restaurant’s daily happy hour is a late one, 8-10 p.m. Noll says they moved it to keep patrons lingering after watching the sunsets. It features $2 oysters, $5 house wine, and $7 craft cocktails. Starting at 10:30 p.m., the restaurant takes on a more “lounge” atmosphere, ending food service and offering up a DJ spinning lively tunes.
—Waterbar is open 365 days a year and the kitchen closes at 10 p.m. For reservations, visit waterbarsd.com or call (858) 888-4343.