For a city whose name reportedly translates to “whale's vagina,” you'd think San Diego would have casual and fresh-off-the-boat seafood places on every corner. But, until recently, your tastiest options were Point Loma Seafoods (where you can watch the boats dock and unload your lunch) and far pricier joints worthy of date night, not a quick sandwich. (Don't even get me started on Anthony's Fishette—blech.) Bo's Seafood Market and Grill in Hillcrest has thrown its fisherman's cap into the ring and joined the bevy of casual locales.
Bo's occupies a wide corner of the Uptown District Shopping Center in Hillcrest (home of Trader Joe's and Ralphs)—you know, the one with the horrible parking lot that makes you feel stressed out and stabby. If you manage to squeeze into a space, take a deep breath and head into Bo's cheerful and sun-filled interior, although they also make nice use of the bright patio just outside the doors.
Bo's has been serving fish friends since 2010 but might not be on your radar yet. It should be.
The casual eatery's also a market, selling fresh cuts at market-fresh prices. This isn't the cheapest lunch you'll ever enjoy; my sandwich, tacos and fish and chips, plus drinks, cost around 40 bucks. And there's no table service (you order at the counter). But aren't we all supposed to be eating more fish? Consider it an investment in your health and double down on those Omega-3s. Plus, you'll enjoy your pescado far more than something of questionable origins and days old at your local chain market.
I rarely order fish and chips in a restaurant because I'm usually disappointed—the coating's too thick or the fish is too dry. Bo's, however, serves some of the best fish and chips I've had outside of the land of Shakespeare. The outer coating was wafer-thin and as crisp as the thinnest potato chip, fried to the dark brown of an Englishman's teeth and leaving a delicious telltale film of oil on your fingertips. Perfect. The fish inside was piping-hot and soft as a cloud—tender, moist and mild.
What would a San Diego fish joint be without fish tacos? (Long John Silver's, I suppose.) Bo's version is solid, but nothing flashy or award-winning in a town where the taco game is highly competitive. My fish pieces were grilled to a crisp (almost too much) and then joined by fresh avocado, cabbage, tomato and a blush-colored cream sauce with a slight kick. My first-world complaint developed when the bottom of the corn tortilla couldn't hold the ingredients—I had a taco-blowout situation. If the tortilla fails and you have to eat the whole concoction with a fork, is it still a taco? Discuss.
There's something timeless and humble about a fish sandwich, and with the recent uptick in fast-and-fresh fish houses in San Diego, there's no shortage of variations to try. The hot filets from Bo's are hugged by soft slices of tangy sourdough. Black char marks stripe the bread from where each slice rested on the grill, but the sourdough remains soft and pleasant. I realize this is a personal preference—some would rather have the crunch along with the char, but I liked the contrast of soft and smoky.
If you're looking for a bit more than your average sub, save a few extra pennies and visit Bo's, but to avoid the parking mess, maybe take the bus.