411 Broadway, Downtown San Diego
You ever spend a few days with people who are showing you their city and all the hot spots in the tourist guide?
By the time the fourth day rolls around, if you’re lucky and they haven’t thrown you out like Benjamin Franklin once recommended, they may want to take you to seafood.
“There’s this place we go to," they'll say. "It’s not fancy, but we really like the food.”
And you end up having the best meal of the trip.
Spike Africa’s Fresh Fish Grill and Bar is like that.
Named after a 20th century sea captain-adventurer, Spike Africa’s is a nice-looking but unpretentious restaurant in the Gaslamp that serves high-quality seafood with a minimum amount of fuss.
Here’s the thing about seafood: the simpler the preparation, the more likely it is to be fresh.
Yeah, you can get battered fish, seafood pasta, salads and all that, but where Spike’s shines is the fresh fish. Served simply with a choice of sauces on the side.
When I was there, I tried the fresh yellowtail. It was a big piece for $24.75, including my choice of side (roasted artichokes and tomatoes) and a broccoli slaw with cranberries that was nicely zesty.
The yellowtail is seared on the outside, but a little rare on the inside — nice! My waitress suggested the red pepper remoulade (which was the right choice), but let me try the balsamic brown butter and citrus butter sauces as well.
I went there with my son, and while they didn’t have grilled shrimp officially on the menu, they did accommodate him with a plate of five nicely-sized, nicely-grilled shrimp served on a bed of rice with the broccoli slaw.
He was happy about the shrimp and the rice, but a little skeptical about the slaw.
“Hey, just try one bite,” I said.
“Hey, this is really good. I like the cranberries,” he said, before sucking down more of the Roy Rogers (Coke and grenadine) that I inexplicably let him order.
We were both fans of the Brussels sprouts appetizers as well. They were grilled with bacon and golden raisins and some of the citrus butter. I was also happy with the Sand Dancer margarita I ordered. It was made with El Jimador Blanco tequila, apricot, lime juice, and chipotle syrup, and had the right mix of sweet, salty and spicy.
I was pretty full and so was my son, which is a shame because there are a lot of other items I’d like to try in the future.
But summer’s coming and I’m sure we’ll have out-of-town guests so I can already predict the conversation around the fourth night.
“There’s this place we go to. It’s not fancy, but we really like the food.”