Tom Ham’s heirs remodel his ‘lighthouse’ on the bay
By Kelley Carlson
After a recent $3.5 million renovation, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse is back in the spotlight. While it retains its classic Early California design, the restaurant has a new interior, bayfront bar, outdoor dining deck and wedding site, along with an updated menu.
“My father, Tom Ham, built Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in 1971,” said Susie Baumann, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Larry. “This was his dream, to build a restaurant that highlighted the history of San Diego. I think he would be pleased with the outcome of this remodel. The genius of our architect, Graham Downes, was that he could see what an older building could be.”
The history is apparent from the moment you walk into the lobby of this functioning lighthouse, known as Beacon No. 9 on U.S. Coast Guard nautical maps. There are antique model ships behind glass, and a shiny USCG 1893 Fog Bell stationed near the stairway.
Patrons can peek through windows into the new keg-room full of local brews before ascending to the dining room on the second floor. Along the walls of the grand stairway are multicolored panes of stained glass, and illustrations of maps and nautical charts from the 1900s to the present.
The upstairs landing opens into a spacious room that displays artifacts like shipwheels and oars, and has large panes of glass that provide unobstructed views of San Diego Bay, the Coronado Bridge and downtown San Diego’s skyline.
To the right is the dining room with tables next to the windows and “elevated” booths in the back, including a private “Sweetheart Table” for two. “You get a view no matter where you sit,” said Andy Baumann, who manages the restaurant with his brother Grant.
On the left side of the space is the bar, which faces the bay and contains a collection of ship heads. Guests can slurp on $1 oysters during happy hour, gaze at the city as it lights up after sunset, root for their favorite sports teams on two TVs, and relax with mellow melodies while quaffing a craft beer.
There are 32 brews on tap — 27 of them local — including “Beacon No. 9,” a light beer exclusively created for Tom Ham’s by Ballast Point. There’s also an extensive wine list, offered by the glass and bottle, and specialty cocktails such as the signature Saucy Sally, a citrus-flavored libation with light rum, Chambord and lemon verbena.
Outside is a heated dining deck that extends over the ocean, bordered by infinity glass. On Wednesdays during the summer, through Aug. 7, it’s a hot spot to watch sailboats fill the bay for the annual Beer Can Races, while sitting in the cool shade. Most of the menu consists of seafood, delivered fresh daily. One of the lunch crowd favorites is the Crab BLT, with heirloom tomato, butter lettuce and peppered bacon on brioche toast. “The minute you bite into it, the bread condenses, it’s so soft,” Andy Baumann said.
At dinner, many people start off their courses with an appetizer such as Calamari with honey lime chili or the smoky Grilled Octopus with olive, confit tomato and sauce vierge.
For the main dish, there is pan-roasted Wild Salmon in an English pea puree with beluga lentils and pork belly; Linguini and Clams with green onion and tomato, covered in a white wine sauce; Lobster Bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, scallops, fish and pieces of toasted baguette soaking in a saffron broth; and Executive Chef Lance Repp’s personal favorite, House Made Linguini noodles with uni butter, paddlefish roe, chive and pecorino cheese. A non-seafood entrée to note is the tender Jidori Half Brick Chicken and wild mushroom risotto in pan jus.
Among the desserts offered are Mango Cheesecake and Almond Brown Butter Cake with goat cheese Chantilly and cherry ginger compote.
Reservations are recommended at Tom Ham’s, and almost required for the popular Sunday brunch, which includes lobster claws, crab legs, an omelet station, pasta station and prime rib. Furthermore, the establishment hosts special events in its three banquet spaces — the California Room, Harbor View Room and Private Dining Room. And it has a new wedding ceremony site with an arch created by local artist Christopher Puzio, which contains 2,000 individual aluminum rings and frames the downtown San Diego skyline.
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
Address: 2150 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego
The Vibe: Romantic, Classic, Casual
Signature Dishes: Lobster Bouillabaisse, Paella
Open Since: 1971
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Phone: (619) 291-9110
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
On The Menu Recipe
Each week you’ll find a recipe from the featured restaurant online at lajollalight.com. Just click Get The Recipe at the bottom of the story.
This week: Tom Ham’s Pan Roasted Wild King Salmon with Beluga Lentils
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