I am so pleased because there is finally a great place for tiki drinks (and seafood) in San Diego (and I am no talking about my house!). Ironside Fish & Oyster opened in April in Little Italy, and it checks all the boxes for me.
First there is the décor, a mix of classic bistro with Jules Verne / Captain Nemo touches, giant squid included. It’s quirky, but it’s also functional and welcoming. Designed by Paul Basile, the interior design was nominated for an architectural Orchid award last month, which it lost to another Consortium Holdings project, Polite Provisions.
The food menu is focused on fresh seafood with many oyster selections and something you don’t see very often in San Diego, seafood platters. Personal favorites include the spot prawns a la plancha, the fried oyster po’ boy, and the lobster rolls.
Conceived by Leigh Lacap (who used to work at Craft & Commerce), the cocktail menu is extremely ambitious which, I have to admit, made me a bit nervous. It’s a large booklet with what looks like about 50 cocktails: sparkling and non-sparkling apéritifs, sherry cobblers, plays on classics, digestifs, and a solid tiki selection. Here are a few pages to give you an idea.
There are many lightweight apéritifs options to complement the oyster selections. But the real draw for me are the tiki drinks, which, I am very happy to report, are wonderfully executed. They recipes are spot-on and you can tell that they use excellent ingredients. I imagine that they must pre-batch to some extent because, even when the restaurant is busy, drinks arrive quickly.
Here is their signature Mai Tai (which relies on a combination of Clement VSOP rhum agricole with Hamilton black rum) in an adorable monkey see mug, and another tiki classic, the Three Dots and a Dash.
The Crosswind on the left which is not really tiki per se – more like a Last Word with Smith & Cross and falernum – is another flavorful option, as is the Fog Cutter in the skull mug.
Sadly, on subsequent visits I noticed that the tiki mugs had disappeared (apparently some guests find them so adorable that they cannot help but leave with them).
In any case, between the top shelf ingredients and fancy garnishes, it’s the complete package as far as tiki cocktails are concerned. The restaurant tends to be quite busy, but a good option is to sit at the bar where the same food and drink menu is offered.
- Restaurant Review: Ironside Fish & Oyster, San Diego Magazine, September 2014
- A Sip of: The Thunder Child by Leigh Lacap, Rabbit Hole Magazine, May 2014
- First Look: Ironside Fish & Oyster, San Diego Magazine, April 2014