1360 N. Harbor Drive, Downtown San Diego
9530 Murray Drive, La Mesa
I usually think of Anthony's Fish Grotto as a touristy spot — a nice harbor view restaurant dishing out seafood near the Star of India. But it turns out there's also a La Mesa location, and how many tourists spend any time in La Mesa?
Whatever the clientele, this East County branch of the 60-year-old Anthony's family actually has a lot going for it. For one thing, it takes the "grotto" concept literally, with the restaurant's storefront designed to resemble the entrance to a cave in the wild. Weirdly cool.
More engaging is the view. This Anthony's has no harbor to bank on, so instead it offers a lovely little duck pond about a half-acre in size. A fountain springing from the surface keeps it from being entirely serene, but I'd say the place definitely has a calming effect. On humans at least. Dogs might think otherwise.
Ducks made this my dog's favorite of all the restaurants I've taken her to.
I walked Loki through a side gate to access terrific patio seating, some of which runs alongside a low fence overlooking the water. The hostess led us to a table right beside the pond, and furnished her with a water dish. I perused the menu while my pup barked through the fence to rouse some ducks paddling lazily near shore.
Typically, my dog prefers to lie down and rest while I eat a meal. This day, she kept vigilant watch over the waterfowl, so close yet so out of reach. She did quiet down after the first flurry of barks, but if your dog can't stand to see birds without sounding a long and loud alarm, this could prove a frustrating dining experience.
Anthony's is generous enough to offer a small-gated dog run to the rear of the patio seating — really more of a square patch of grass equipped with a poop bag dispenser. I took Loki in for a look, but she just wanted to be closer to the ducks.
While she sniffed after the birds, I grabbed some fish'n'chips, with a side of steamed vegetables, which happened to be asparagus that day. The boneless beer-battered cod strips succeeded as finger food, though they really leaned heavily on tartar sauce for flavor. With lunches running anywhere from $10 to $15, I'd say it's worth the price of admission for fresh seafood in a lovely environment, and the chance to live like a tourist in your own backyard.