On the Menu in Pacific Beach: The Fishery
In a quaint coastal neighborhood where Pacific Beach merges with Bird Rock, locavores hang loose nursing seasonal margaritas and enjoying classic seafood dishes with a modern oomph.
The Fishery has been a fixture on Cass Street for a quarter of a century after Mary Anne and Judd Brown, a pair of sea-loving restaurateurs, converted a mid-century warehouse into an eatery and seafood market. In a subsequent round of renovations, the owner’s daughter, Annemarie Brown-Lorenz, took the helm as general manager and sommelier, and, along with executive chef Mike Reidy, navigated The Fishery into the shoals of a welcoming and elegantly kitschy pescavore’s paradise.
Brown-Lorenz learned the ropes at Marché, a fine French restaurant in Eugene, Ore. She also garnered knowledge of the most coveted wines around the world and their compatibility with seafood of all kinds.
Reidy, who started working at The Fishery the first day of the pandemic lockdown, received his tutelage under Chef Josiah Citrin at Los Angeles’ Mélisse. He has crafted a diverse menu blending fresh, seasonal flavors from the East and West with a Baja twist, along with a big side of sustainability and locally-sourced, organic ingredients.
The amiable chef, who has fostered relationships with local fishermen over the years, many from the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in Seaport Village, said he buys only the best quality, wild-caught and sustainable species directly from these purveyors. Produce is also sourced directly from local organic farmers, such as, JR Organics, and Schaner Farms.
Brown-Lorenz takes great pride in The Fishery’s ocean- and farm-to-table concept, reflected in the seasonal menu that changes daily. While it still offers some traditional staples like clam chowder and Alaskan cod or halibut and chips to honor the past, the newbs win the popularity contest — especially the communal seafood tower, a tantalizing two-tier construction of oysters, shrimp, ahi poke, local ceviche, and bluefin carpaccio (paper-thin sliced raw fish drizzled with olive oil, and dotted with capers).
Other top picks include a whole local blackgill rockfish dressed with fresh mint, mango, fresno chile, and basil, a bone-in swordfish chop, and spot prawns, a San Diego delicacy scampering in the eatery’s live tank. For your just desserts, pucker up with a lemon tart enlivened with a fresh scoop of passion fruit pulp and dollop of Chantilly cream, or try a silky chocolate pot de crème paired with hazelnut biscotti.
Weekend brunch items give a sophisticated change-up with such dishes as shrimp and Dungeness crab Benedict with Maciel Farms garden greens, nicely washed down with an aperol spritz, a sassy Venetian libation that rocks the cocktail world.
When entering the eatery, visitors will notice a fresh, briny aroma from the glass retail display of prime fish and seafood, which Brown-Lorenz jokingly calls “the jewelry case.” Patrons can choose from a selection of wild-caught, sustainable, and local sea treasures to take home and grill, including Pacific and local halibut, king salmon, baquetta, and East Coast day boat scallops. There is also a prepared food section featuring shrimp cocktail, and tuna salad from fresh roasted albacore.
The décor — nautical meets industrial — imparts a friendly, fun mood that pulls in a combination of loyal, multi-generational local patrons and seasonal tourists. Metallic, life-size molds of yellowfin tuna, white sea bass, and other cartoonish catches hang below high-beamed ceilings, while repurposed wood, copper, and bronze are utilized for furnishings and fixtures that Mary Anne Brown scouted out years ago from old barns and other salvaged sources.
The recently revamped bar with a touch of glitz and warm woods now dispenses an array of creative drinks after The Fishery received an expanded liquor license that includes a full craft cocktail program. This is just part of the huge transformation of The Fishery, along with a new staff comprising “a group of like-minded, passionate people, who beautifully bond over ingredients, food, and stewardship of the ocean. It’s magical,” said Brown-Lorenz.
The Fishery is open Wednesday through Sunday, weekends from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and opening an hour later on weekdays.
Chef Reidy’s Rockfish Ceviche
6 whole Roma tomatoes, ¼-inch dice
1 red onion, ¼-inch dice
3 Serrano chilis, brunoise
2 stems green onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1-pound rockfish, ½-inch dice
3 ounces fresh lemon juice
3 ounces fresh lime juice
3 ounces fresh orange juice
3 turns black pepper
Salt to taste
Favorite hot sauce. If you like it spicy add
a couple extra dashes
2 large avocados, diced
Extra virgin olive oil, drizzle to finish
French sea salt, to finish
1 bag freshly fried tortilla chips
Blend all ingredients in a large nonreactive mixing bowl, and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Transfer to the desired serving bowl. Add the garnishments right before you serve. Enjoy with tortilla chips, or fill ceviche in tostadas.