After whiling away a recent Sunday afternoon at a German wine shop on Morena Boulevard, some friends and I thought we'd head down the street for a seafood dinner that would go perfectly with the bottles of dry Rieslings we'd just bought.
Although located on a mostly residential block and separated from the water by Interstate 5, Bay Park Fish Co. somehow has a oceanfront seafood-shack feel with its tin roof and breezy coat of bright blue paint. The absense of a view is no matter-the abundance of fresh fish is more than enough to compensate. The eye candy provided by the cute waiters also doesn't hurt. Local seafood arrives at the restaurant each day, so the menu selection varies according to the daily catch. It doesn't get much fresher, or better.
Bay Park Fish Co. is also a seafood market, with a pristine front counter displaying the day's bounty. Because of this, the restaurant is able to keep its selections affordable. Many of the menu items cost less than $10, a steal considering the quality of the fish and the gourmet treatments of some of the dishes. Portions are pretty large, almost double-take huge.
We were starving, having been tasting wine all afternoon, so we settled into our sidewalk patio table and ordered bowls of not-too-thick clam chowder and a delicious dip made from the house-smoked fish, served with a basket of tortilla chips for scooping up the salty, smoky mix spiked with scallions and garnished with lime wedges and avocado slices.
Next up was what seemed like a bushel full of steamed mussels lounging in lemongrass-scented, coconut-milk-enriched broth. The toasted bread wedges that came alongside were the perfect vehicle for sopping up the flavorful brew. If I'd been at home, I probably would have drunk the broth straight from the bowl. I'm always a sucker for crispy fried calamari, and we all liked Bay Park Fish Co.'s version, with its creamy mint and lime sauce for dipping. Modest eaters could make a meal of just the sashimi salad, a mound of sesame-dressed greens topped with a generous fan of ahi sashimi, unanimously declared by us a winner of a dish.
At this point in the meal, after two bottles of wine and all that food, we'd all pretty much hit the wall, so when our swordfish club sandwiches came, we could only manage a few bites, though somehow we found room for a good handful of the delectable shoestring fries that came on the side. Less gluttonous eaters could make a meal out of Bay Park's ceviche of the day and one of the fish sandwiches, like the juicy burger patty made from ground fresh fish or a grilled-fish torta. They both come with those heavenly fries and coleslaw. Two tacos, filled with crunchy panko-crusted or grilled fish, plus rice and beans are only $8, and a heap of clams steamed in white wine, tomatoes and garlic will set you back a mere 10 spot. Sweet cravings are satisfied with the flawless classic, a rootbeer float. During our dinner, we drank the crisp Riesling that we'd toted over, but if you don't bring your own, the restaurant offers five beers on tap and a list of reasonably priced wines.
One of my friends was visiting from out of town so I'm glad she got to experience the relaxed sort of restaurant that makes San Diego special. Bay Park Fish Co. feels like the best kind of neighborhood eatery, a casual spot that doesn't take reservations and serves food that's simple, local and good. In addition to being one of the few spots in the area that's open daily for lunch and dinner, it's a worthwhile destination to get a pretty fine meal any day or night of the week.
Bay Park Fish Co is open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.