Tidewater Tavern in Solana Beach: Where everybody knows your name!
By Kelley Carlson
In a region filled with modern restaurants, Solana Beach’s Tidewater Tavern is an old-school standout.
Popular with the locals – and tourists during the Del Mar racing season – the nearly 20-year-old establishment embraces the laid-back California culture with no pretenses.
“We’re the real deal,” owner Sam Lunde said.
Despite a recent remodel that included new wood floors and an emerald green wall with ivory waves, Lunde ensured that he stuck to his original concept.
The dining room features a “garage door” that is open to the outside when the weather is pleasant. Classic-style surfboards are suspended from the ceiling and a mosaic board created by artist Cherrie LaPorte pays tribute to the late local football legend Junior Seau.
The ocean theme continues throughout the tavern, from shark jaws in the dining room and a swordfish over the bar, to jellyfish dangling in the lounge and the portholes near the front.
Another “old school” aspect of the Tidewater is its menu, as there have been few changes over the years, according to Lunde.
Many of the appetizers are bar-food standards, such as homemade potato chips and hot wings. Crispy calamari (a favorite ingredient here) is served in sandwiches, tacos and as strips that are much like chicken, but with tartar and cocktail sauces for dipping.
One of the tavern’s signatures are the fish tacos. Inside the tortillas are slices of mahi mahi (sometimes substituted with yellowtail), cabbage, cheese, white garlic sauce and a “Solana Beach classic” salsa based on a recipe from the now-defunct Blue Bird Café.
Among other popular selections are the half-pound Tavern Burger, which is cooked over an open flame and simply dressed with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo; and the Table Top Sandwich, a stack of pastrami and turkey breast covered with melted Swiss, coleslaw and Thousand Island dressing between slices of a toasted French roll.
Those who prefer lighter meals have options such as the Oriental Chicken Salad, consisting of greens topped with grilled chicken, crispy wontons, carrots, red cabbage and a spicy ginger dressing.
To accompany the fare, there are plenty of brews (including chilled Guinness that’s creamy and smooth and served in a pint glass) and about a half-dozen wines. Cocktails are available as well, and those whose tastes lean toward strong and fruity will be rewarded for ordering a Mai Tai. The 30-year-old Mai Tai recipe (which Lunde said he helped create when he worked at the former Kona Grill & Bar) incorporates five types of rum and assorted juices. “It’s like drinking a double,” Lunde said.
Breakfast is also on the menu from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the weekends, when Mexican dishes such as Chorizo & Eggs and Huevos Rancheros, are accompanied by sides of rice, beans and tortillas.
Seating at the restaurant is usually on a first-come, first-served basis, although reservations are recommended for 10 or more people. Lunde said the tavern often hosts parties that are “free form,” where people meet, drink, play pool at the four tables, put quarters into the jukebox and reminisce over’ 80s classic-rock tunes.
Patrons also drop in to catch sporting events with its 18 high-def, flat-screen TVs with subscriptions to football, basketball and baseball packages, and access to horse racing channels.
Address: 221 N. Highway 101, Solana Beach
Phone: (858) 755-4115
The Vibe: Casual, relaxed, social
Signature Dishes: Fish Tacos, Calamari Tacos, Calamari Strips, Table Top Sandwich
Patio Seating: No
Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday and Sunday
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: The Tidewater’s Table Top Sandwich
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