By Dr. Ink
Don’t assume that San Diego’s seafood houses are all perched along the coast. Beerfish on Adams Avenue near 30th Street is an inland iconoclast, appearing as though it sits on some beach-side dock amid surfers and tourists.
But only tourists who delve into San Diego’s Uptown neighborhoods will find Beerfish. And that’s a good thing for territorial residents belonging to this trendy swatch of North Park.
Drinking craft beers and sprightly sangria is no less commonplace here than slurping down oysters and clam chowder amid a whimsical nautical theme that feels part New England and part Southern California.
The front patio embraces the majority of seating options amid colorful buoys and red table lanterns. Inside you’ll find a few tables and a bar. But most customers are drawn to the fresh air after placing their orders at the counter, which sits just beyond the entrance.
Happy hour heralds discounts on a core selection of craft beers on tap, plus wines and sangria by the glass, and sake shots infused with a rotating selection of fresh fruit. On this visit, it was passionfruit, which played well to the musky flavor of the sake.
Beer prices drop to $5 for 16-ounce pours and $8 for 25 ounces. They’re normally about $7 and $10, respectively. Wines are only $6, and the sake shots are $2.
Noshes range between $3 (per oyster slider) and $6 for “disco fries.” The oysters are usually Minterbrooks from Washington. They used to sell for $1 apiece during happy hour. But that deal is now reserved for Mondays, when you can also score a foursome of oysters Rockefeller for $10.
On this quiet Monday afternoon, I arrived at the 2:30 p.m. start of happy hour and sat on the patio with a shot of the passionfruit sake and a glass of creamy Harlot Belgian Ale by San Diego’s Societe Brewing Company. Combined with the rustic, oceanic décor and a warm late-summer breeze, I imagined vacationing on the coast of Maine in mid-July.
But Beerfish’s New England concept is only skin-deep. There are too many West Coast spins on the food, particularly items on the regular menu such as ceviche made with Mexican white shrimp; a fish-and-chips burrito; and various fish tacos. Also, most of the suds hail from local breweries.
Complementing my beer and shot was an order of the disco fries, which are not of the East Coast ilk topped with gravy and cheese curds (poutine). These spuds are instead crammed into a cup of thin clam chowder and sprinkled generously with crumbled bacon.
It’s a tasty, comforting creation, although I craved differing textures. The chunky potatoes in the chowder were pleasantly soft and tender. So were the french fries, which should have been cooked to an extreme crisp to avoid wilting further in the soup.
Needless to say, they paired ideally to my beer, and the moderate measure of clams in the chowder sated my taste for seafood in an area of San Diego that doesn’t venture too far beyond fish tacos.