Anytime people ask where to get fresh fish and seafood, the knee jerk reaction (mine included) has been to say Catalina Offshore. However, the last 2 times I’ve been in to Catalina, with the exception of the whole fish, the selection has been surprisingly limited and the appearance okay, but not as fresh looking as in the past. Now, granted my last 2 visits to Catalina have come during the week when they are less busy, I don’t know if that makes a difference or not. The trade is probably getting weekday priority over retail but there seems to be a decline in the varieties on offer and the overall presentation. Am I the only one who has noticed this?
I ask because I had lunch last week with a friend at the semi-new Blue Water Grill in Ocean Beach. Their fresh fish and seafood cases were over-flowing with selections, was well lit and the fish looked stunningly pristine. I know that Blue Water used to get their fish from Catalina, but there are now signs saying the are contracting directly with fishermen they know to provide their products. Until tourist season starts again and there will be even less parking in OB, I know where I’m going to go to get my fresh fish. And, actually, I’m going back next week to pick up some spectacular U-10 shrimp for New Year’s Eve. (The lunch, btw, at Blue Water OB was delicious, would go back for it in a heartbeat)
Over the years I’ve also had good luck with the fish at Whole Foods in Hillcrest and more recently Lazy Acres in Mission Hills. Lani, the fish person at Lazy Acres, can talk to you about the fish, where it’s from, when it was caught, when it was delivered and so forth. And there is always Tuna Harbor Dockside on Saturday where you can buy directly from the fisher people, right off the boat (procesing into usable pieces also available)
Catalina may still be the top dog in fresh fish and seafood, but where else in San Diego do you go for good quality, fresh seafood? Talk amongst yourselves, this is a conversation starter question…
Thought I read Catalina’s main guy Tommy Gomez had left a while back, maybe September 2019. Not sure how accurate this information is or if indeed true what if any change it cause to the quality.
Tommy (Gomes) did leave Catalina. On good terms as I understand it. But I thought he was mostly the upfront PR-style guy interacting with the customers. There is no doubt Tommy knows all aspects of the fishing industry. I don’t think his leaving would have a huge impact on the retail side of Catalina. My comments should not be misconstrued as a “downhill alert” as I really don’t think that is the case. It could be that since business is generally slower during the week, that they just trim things back a bit. The quality of their fish is still top notch.
I brought home some frozen sashimi-grade salmon roe (Ikuru) from Catalina a couple of days ago, for New Year’s Eve. I’ve never heard of Ikuru, a brand I guess, but hopefully the packaged retail stock that Catalina sells is still top of the line, as it’s always been. I guess the Ikuru roe quality will beTBD (for us), but I’m not really terribly fussy on NYE while sipping down (our traditional) Dom Perignon anyway**!
Also, we were at Oceana last night with another couple, and I had Artic Char. That sounds like some kind of grilled fish, but it’s actually a type of fish. One I’d never heard of and had to look up. In a light lobster sauce. It was different – for me, anyway – and very good! I asked the server if they got it from Catalina and got a cryptic answer back from the chef. (“Direct from Washington”, was all he said.) Well, no harm in concealing sources, but maybe it didn’t come from Catalina, maybe it came via another distributor. Well, whatever. I suppose some restaurants do get fish shipped same day air from various places. I’m not familiar with the business side.
Added 12/27: BTW, the dinner at Oceana this time was very good except for the “stuff” under my DH’s scallops. There was a lot of the “stuff”, and it was bitter and salty to the point of being completely inedible. The scallops themselves were quite good. So was my fish; the short rib; and the filet mignon (ordered by others in our group). This was the second (but, alas, last) time my DH companion will have had the scallop dish. Just saying…
Added 1/1/20: Well, I guess that Ikura (Ikuru?) means salmon roe – it’s not a brand. Duh. Shows what I know about caviar. Well, that except that years ago, for many years, we used to regularly order Beluga from Petrossian just in time for New Years. Wonderful caviar. Wonderful source. The salmon roe we got from Catalina this year was terrific, though. Thawed for 16 hrs in the fridge, it was perfect. Such a delicate, sublime flavor that we ate it almost plain, simply piled on top of tiny French toasts. From France. With nothing else. Catalina is most definitely maintaining their long-standing reputation for selling only the finest-quality seafood to be had in SD.
We used to go to Point Loma Seafood, when we wanted to cook at home. Always got our lobsters there, in season. What has your experience been?
The seafood at Point Loma looks very fresh, but I’ve never bought there. I’ve heard it’s of excellent quality. But it’s much further from where I live than Catalina Offshore, harder to park, and packed with people every time I’ve gone (at least for prepared food). It would be hard to surpass the quality at Catalina, IMO, but maybe someone else can compare the two.
Yes, it can be a zoo at lunch especially on weekends. We lived in Ocean Beach for several years, so the location wasn’t bad.
I’m really a fan of El Pescador in La Jolla, and their option to grill anything from the market to eat.
Is there anything similar around? I’ve heard the name Blue Water Grill, but I don’t know the city too well.
Catalina offshore, blue water seafood market, Point Loma seafood, South Bay fishery, tuna harbor dockside, the fish market, mission seafood, the fishery, PB fish shop, top choice fish. This is not an exhaustive list and these are not all similar to El Pescador but a starting point for your search. No idea what’s open these days.
Thank you @RedDevil
Saved me potentially hours it would have taken me, to filter all the photos on Google images etc… I feel like this category never gets tiring, seafood straight from the sea and grilled to order.
Is there one that’s your favorite?
Catalina Offshore doesn’t do in-house cooking but it is one of the best places to go for fresh off the boat fish.
I like Blue Water. The brothers that own it, grew up in a fishing family and worked the boats for a while. They were frustrated that they couldn’t find fresh fish they liked to eat so they opened their own restaurant. It was popular and then became WILDLY popular after it was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives 5 or 6 years ago. Their episode still runs on the Food Network every now and then. The menu is short…taco, sandwich, salad or plate. You choose the fish and the sauce, and then tell them which preparation you want. I love their tacos and sandwiches. I have also purchased fresh fish from them and have never had a bad piece. 2 locations, the original next to El Indio on India St and the new one in Ocean Beach. I’ve been to both and prefer Ocean Beach, it’s a little bigger and the parking is a little (but not much) easier.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve been to Point Loma Seafood but it’s always been very good and worth checking out.
One place RD didn’t mention and I think it does need a shout out is Mitch’s Seafood in the same general vicinity as PLS.
@Dropkicku, I have been to El Pescador the most. Not because it’s the best but because it’s good and most convenient for me. The others that @DiningDiva mentioned are also good but not particularly convenient. I usually buy my seafood from Catalina offshore or more commonly from one of the asian grocery stores and cook it at home. If I go out for seafood it is usually Mariscos (lots of choices) or Cajun asian. If you’ve just moved to SD, spend some time researching Baja California (for visiting after or if the smoke clears from what’s going on now). My best and freshest and least expensive seafood meals have been in Popotla, Ensenada and Rosarito. And they are only 1 to 1.5 hours away. If you’re interested in Baja or Mexico @DiningDiva and @DoctorChow Are great resources.
Thank you two both @RedDevil and @DiningDiva for your experienced advice.
In recent years, I’ve been considering doing a trip down to Mexico, have never been. My friend who’s a fishing enthusiast makes yearly trips down there. I am not living in San Diego, but make frequent trips from LA, and try to do at least a day or two whenever I can. You’re so lucky you have all these fresh seafood grill places. I’ve lived in a few towns with a rich dockside port culture, but nothing in terms of this many options to choose from, at this level of quality.