Walter Mencken 9 a.m., May 23
Bo's Seafood Market and Grill: Worth the Cost of Entry
Tucked away in the Hillcrest Uptown plaza, Bo's is partially hidden in plain sight. Despite being a few yards away from a busy stretch of University Avenue, it lacks frontage on that street and isn't noticeable to passersby because Pick Up Stix dominates the front of the building. The obvious advantage to being in the mall is the enormous parking lot.
Inside, Bo's is charming: plenty of potted plants, fish-themed artworks, big windows, and bright paint.
The restaurant's menu is built on serving fresh fish. The menu itself isn't long, but most of the items can be made with any of the numerous fish that are in the cooler at any given time; fish that is all available by the pound to cook at home as well.
Right away, it must be said that the fish is exceptional. It's fresh and of high quality. No fault can be found with Bo's inventory. They even stock cool things from far-off, such as Scottish salmon and Blue Pointe oysters from New York. Shipping this stuff is pricey, especially if you want to get it fresh, and a portion of that is unavoidably passed off to the consumer.
That's the rub. Bo's is pricey. It's on the high side of fair, however, considering the quality of the fish.
Sandwiches with the different fish offerings can cost $11-$13, salads run for $12 to $16, and the dinner plate will go for $14-$18. Bo's doesn't look like the kind of place that could charge this much. The prices are commensurate with a larger restaurant with more of an upscale appearance rather than with a place like Bo's with its counter service and self-serve soda fountain.
Still, there's no denying that Bo's makes a mean sandwich. Served on sourdough bread with avocado, tomato, fresh greens, and whichever fish seems most delightful, it's a an exceptional fish sandwich. Grilled Ono ($13) proved a perfect fish for the space between the bread. The hot, judiciously seasoned fries that are served with each sandwich are great, too.
The most expensive option — the fish plate — isn't as standout as the sandwich, since the vegetables and rice are somewhat underwhelming, though no doubt extremely nutritious. The fish is, of course, excellent, and perhaps the plate suffers some due to comparison with the excellent sandwich.
There are some good things on the menu that aren't tied to the fresh-fish options. Fried clams and clam chowder (very New England chic), Crab Louie (old-school cool), and a few chicken dishes (for the rare diners who don't want fish), to name a few.
Bo's has six taps and keeps a rotation of local beers. Pints are $6 and the choices are all winners from San Diego's numerous top-shelf brewers.
The overall verdict is that Bo's is worth it, just don't walk in expecting a 99-cent fish taco.
Bo's Seafood Market and Grille
1040 University Avenue