I’d been to enough buffet dinners sponsored by the San Diego Press Club to know better than to spotlight this old place on Harbor Island. Tom Ham’s Lighthouse (2150 Harbor Island Dr.) first opened for business in 1971. It has history, but through the decades it definitely got dated. I was out on an extended bike ride earlier this year, and had ventured past the airport and onto Harbor Island’s main drag. I’d pedaled to the end, and got off the bike for a pit stop. The multi-million-dollar remodel—which closed it for five months—is now nearly two years old. Not that I’m an advocate of plastic surgery, but Tom Ham’s is now a MILF.
The redesign was the vision of late, great architect Graham Downes. He kept the original nautical memorabilia, and the floor-to-ceiling maps surrounding the interior stairway are subtle, yet astounding. Downes added modern furniture while airing it out and extending the patio so you can drink up views of the San Diego Bay while drinking up a craft beer (32 taps) or mimosa. Those Press Club banquets always featured cold cuts and potato salad; now a revamped menu focuses on, natch, seafood, including a big raw bar selection.
The new private dining rooms showcase pristine views of the bay. A wedding party was underway during my pit stop, and if it hadn’t been for the need for a long return bike ride, we might have played out our version of Wedding Crashers .