Top Spots for the Best Fresh Fish San Diego Has to Offer
San Diego’s proximity to the water makes it an excellent beach town. It also makes it the perfect spot for some of the freshest seafood around. Read on to learn more about the top spots for the best fresh fish San Diego has to offer.
Tuna Harbor Dockside Market
The Tuna Harbor Dockside Market in Seaport Village is a tourist destination all on its own, especially if you’re already up early on a Saturday morning. Even if you’re not angling to buy anything for dinner that night, you can see how some of the best local fishermen in San Diego operate, showing off the freshest catch from the days prior.
If you are looking to buy, you’ll find all kinds of unique seafood varieties, like sheepshead, California spiny lobster and live sea urchin if you’re lucky. Come to the market as soon as it’s open for the best options. There are usually a few workers offering fish cleaning services on the cheap, too, if you don’t want to do the dirty work yourself.
Photo Credit: Tuna Harbor Dockside Market / Facebook
Blue Water Seafood
Blue Water Seafood is one part market and one part cafe. The market portion is where you’ll come to pick up fresh catch of the day. Fish fillets on hand range from Hawaiian varieties to more local options, so just choose what looks good and fits your menu planning and go on your merry way. If you’d like to dine in, get in line with the others and think about how you’d like that fresh fish prepared.
The tacos are jumbo-sized, and some of the best fish tacos in town. For something lighter, choose a salad topped with fresh catch, or their fish stew, packed to the gills with the day’s freshest seafood. You truly can’t go wrong with any of their menu items, but they do run out of their more popular fish options if you’re there later in the day or into the evening.
The market has two locations now, one in Mission Hills and another in Ocean Beach. The Ocean Beach location offers easy beach access if you’re looking for an oceanfront stroll after, but the Mission Hills spot is the original. Come early or during off times on weekdays to avoid long lines of people clamoring for some of the best seafood in San Diego.
El Pescador Fish Market
La Jolla’s El Pescador Fish Market is a classic when it comes to high-quality fish, and often tops lists of the best seafood restaurants in San Diego. If you’re looking for the full experience, have a seat to taste test a jam-packed menu of seafood cocktails, oyster shooters and sushi bites. For something more hearty, try the chowder. They sell it by the quart here if you’re feeling ambitious.\
The market side is also impressive. This is a great place to buy whole fish if you’re looking to prepare a show-stopper for a special occasion. If you’re looking to test your skills in sushi-making, they also sell several varieties of sushi-grade tuna, on top of a number of options that’d be perfect in a ceviche.
If you’re just not sure what to pick up, talk to the fishmonger on hand. They’ll certainly help you decide, cleaning up your fish to suit your purposes and make your meal-planning even easier.
Photo Credit: El Pescador Fish Market / Facebook
Point Loma Seafoods
Point Loma Seafoods was once a straight seafood market, offering a variety of fresh seafood options for San Diegans seeking something locally-sourced. It’s still a popular stop for that, especially if you’re a fan of shellfish. In fact, many consider it the best fresh fish market San Diego has to offer. The cafe has become its own draw, though, with prepared seafood plates from the same fish options you’ll see behind the counter.
They’re known for their clam chowder and crab cakes, so you should start there. The rest of the menu can vary somewhat depending on the season and what local fishermen have caught that day. You can rest assured that what you’re getting here is just about as fresh as it gets, and the views from here are pretty fantastic, too. If you’re hosting a special occasion, they also have sushi platters for sale that you can order ahead, all prepped using fish available that day.
Photo Credit: Point Loma Seafood / Facebook
Pelly’s Fish Market and Cafe
If you find yourself in North County, Pelly’s Fish Market and Cafe in Carlsbad is open daily for your fresh fish pick up or prepared seafood platters. If you’re hitting the market, choose from fillets portioned out and cleaned that day. Common varieties include Pacific rock cod, local halibut and white sea bass, on top of fresh clams, mussels and Mexican shrimp depending on the season.
The cafe is known for its hot and cold seafood sandwiches. It sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the freshest ingredients piled up high on a few slices of sourdough bread. Their smoked fish sandwich is a popular option. If you want something more substantial, their char-grilled seafood plates come with a rice and salad and your choice of sauce or marinade. Try their house marinade if you really want those seafood flavors coming through.
Photo Credit: Pelly's Fish Market and Cafe / Facebook
The Fish Market
The Fish Market is both a bustling seafood market and destination dining with a view. The ambiance and energy make it a popular San Diego seafood restaurant for tourists, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great for everyone else. While the market is great for locally-sourced ingredients, you’ll want to have a seat at this one.
There are two different locations in San Diego to choose from if you’d like to visit The Fish Market, one in Del Mar and another at Seaport Village. You can’t beat the views at the one in San Diego proper, and it’s the market’s flagship eatery. It’s right off of Harbor Drive with sightlines of the bay and the USS Midway.
Once you’re there, choose from their popular fish and chips, crispy fish tacos or a generous helping of black mussels, swimming in white wine and fresh garlic. If the cioppino is on the menu, you may want to take the plunge and taste it. The seafood combination they include varies based on what’s available that day, but it’s always served with their house marinara. The recipe’s their secret, and it’s always got a little kick. Reservations are recommended at this one, as it is a popular seafood restaurant, especially on weekend evenings.
Photo Credit: The Fish Market / Facebook
It can't get much better than the setting at The Fishery, three blocks from the ocean at the northern end of Pacific Beach. This seafood mecca also comes with a storied history. Back in the 1980s, The Fishery was still just a dream project of current owner and local fisherman Judd Brown. He was running the Pacific Shellfish Seafood Company at the time, a fish enterprise for San Diegans seeking locally-sourced fish and shellfish.
By 1996, Brown and his wife found the perfect spot for what they hoped would be an expansion of that business, a mid-century warehouse close to the beach, and The Fishery became a reality. Brown’s distribution side of the business remains, but it’s now one of the most popular seafood restaurants in San Diego, as well.
Whatever they have on special among their wild-caught seafood options is likely what you should order while you’re there. Their whole fish specials are rubbed in a delicious blend of mango, cilantro, basil and mint. If you’re celebrating something, their seafood towers are quite impressive.
Photo Credit: The Fishery / Facebook
The only difficult part about fresh fish in San Diego is deciding where to go. San Diego is spoiled for choice when it comes to fresh seafood, whether you’re looking for a market to cook your own or prepared bites to save some time. No matter where you are in the city, you’re likely to find a delicious option for fresh fish in San Diego.
Written by Agnes Groonwald for Knockaround.