By Kelley Carlson
Patrons of The Fish Market restaurant in Solana Beach seem to be hooked on the fresh catch offered daily. Whether it’s in the retail market or in the dining area, there’s something for everyone — from species in season to locally caught varieties like swordfish.
Customers can get a jumpstart on their day with a stop at the retail market, which opens at 10 a.m., an hour before the restaurant. Located just inside the front entrance, the seafood — much of it glistening in varying shades of pink — is on display under glass. A shopper may find Pacific opah (moonfish), Mexican yellowtail, Pacific mahi mahi, Alaskan halibut, black mussels or Sea of Cortez prawns, and much more.
“It’s (the market) essentially the showpiece of what’s on the menu; it’s a purposeful place for people to buy fresh fish,” said Jim Wendler, president of The Fish Market. “People know us for having an extremely high-quality product.”
There’s also smoked fish, produced out of The Fish Market’s facility in South San Francisco, and prepared foods, such as chowders, that are made from scratch on the premises. However, customers won’t find unsustainable species, such as Chilean sea bass or orange roughy, Wendler said.
For guests who dine in the restaurant, there’s so many options that they can try something new each time they come in and never repeat, according to Wendler. The menu changes a couple of times daily, and is driven by the types of fresh fish that are available.
The fresh fish entrees are mesquite grilled, and any of them can be made Cajun or blackened. Among the house specialties offered is Our Famous Dungeness Crab Cioppino, consisting of prawns, finfish, scallops, calamari, clams, mussels and cockles with house-made marinara sauce and garlic bread. A group of three or four people may want to try the Smoked Fish Sampler, with trout, salmon, nova lox and albacore. There’s Fish Tacos, served with ranchero-style black beans; panko-style fish and chips; and seafood sandwiches and pastas.
Not a fan of underwater species? Try one of a handful of salads, or order the Boneless All-Natural Jidori Chicken Breast or Omaha Natural New York Steak.
Children can stay occupied with an activity booklet while enjoying food from their own special menu. There’s pizza, pasta, shrimp, fish and chicken from which to choose.
To add to a patron’s unique dining experience, the nautically themed restaurant has seven seating areas, featuring seafaring characters etched in glass, and murals by Wyoming artist Jocelyn Slack, along with artwork of boats and other marine scenes. Kick back at the oyster bar – where oysters are served on the half shell with Asian-style Mignonette or cocktail sauce — and drink a glass of wine. Perch on a stool in the dimly lit full-service lounge/bar, or anchor yourself in the bar patio that is reminiscent of a greenhouse.
There’s plenty of room to maneuver in the spacious main dining room, but when it’s busy, the back dining room with its removable partitions becomes another destination. The deck has a plank-type of wood on the floor, with small lamps on the tables and multiple-paned windows. And for a little privacy, there’s Fred’s Room, named for Fish Market Restaurants Inc. founder Fred Duckett, which can accommodate parties of up to 17.
As expected, weekends are busiest at The Fish Market, with the business peak occurring between Fourth of July and Labor Day, Wendler said. Other times that are popular include Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Good Friday, Del Mar racetrack’s opening day, and the duration of Cirque du Soleil. Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be less crowded, Wendler added. “We’ve been in the business for 35 years. Seafood is a complicated product to deal with, but we have earned trust from our customers over the years, and we have the quality that they appreciate.”
The Fish Market
640 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach
Our Famous Dungeness Crab Cioppino, Calamari Fritte
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
Reservations: Recommended for parties of 8 or more
Patio Seating: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Happy Hour: 3:30 p.m. to close Monday, 3:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 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 Fish Market’s Garlic Prawns.