Smack dab in the middle of a quiet Pacific Beach neighborhood, you’ll find one of the best seafood restaurants — and wholesale and retail seafood markets — in San Diego. The Fishery Restaurant has been operating at 5040 Cass St. for 23 years, owned by Judd and Mary Anne Brown.
For Judd, opening the restaurant was a way to continue feeding his passion for the sea as a former commercial fisherman. It was his idea to house all three businesses under one roof — a concept that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the country. Mary Anne brought her talent for design to the table, finding the best farm-fresh produce and keeping the flavors clean and simple.
The Fishery used to be a mid-century warehouse until the Browns bought it and restored it to what it is today. The wholesale operation, called Pacific Shellfish, was forced to leave its original location in Barrio Logan 24 years ago, when the City condemned the building for reuse of the land. That’s when the wholesale operation moved to Cass Street. Mary Anne got the idea to open the restaurant a year later. To this day, the Browns haven’t changed their motto for success: “Quality Always Wins.”
How did the couple chance upon Pacific Beach? As Nicholas Lorenz, who started as a busboy and is now general manager, told PB Monthly: “When Mary Anne and Judd were looking for a location to relocate their business, they happened to drive past our current spot, which was a moving and storage facility, and saw a ‘For Sale’ sign. The stars just aligned at that point!”
Combining the wholesale market, the retail market and the restaurant enables the Browns to serve the freshest fish available every day. Lorenz pointed out: “Since we move a high volume of fish, this enables us to serve the freshest seafood in town. Another detail that truly sets us apart is, not only do we only serve seafood, but we only serve wild-caught seafood, which in the industry is incredibly unique.”
The restaurant’s chef, Paul Arias, changes the menu seasonally. By using ingredients at their peak of freshness, the kitchen demonstrates the best-tasting food is always what’s exactly in season. Cold plates feature Ahi Tuna Poke, King Salmon Crudo and Oysters on the Half Shell. Entrees include Pacific Albacore Belly, California King Salmon, Caramelized Maine Scallops, and Macadamia Crusted Alaskan Halibut, to name a few.
The Fishery caters to seafood lovers looking for simple, well-executed fresh seafood and wine lovers looking for an exciting new glass or bottle to complement their meal. Since the restaurant is located in North Pacific Beach — off the beaten path of PB revelers — the restaurant caters to those who appreciate a more high-end ambiance.
“The Fishery strives to be a top San Diego dining destination, which pushes us to serve top-quality food and wine, while providing professional steps of service. We leave the partying to other PB establishments.”
The restaurant has outdoor patio seating and inside, the dining area has a rustic, homey feel. Chef Paul offers a special called “Tuesday Tastings,” in which once a week, he matches fish straight out of the sea with local, organically grown fruit and vegetables in creative combinations. The cost is $50 per person for three courses, plus dessert, and $68 with optional wine pairings. Reservations are recommended.
— The Fishery Retail Market is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (lunch) and 4 p.m. to close (dinner) at 5040 Cass St. (858) 272-9985. thefishery.com