The fish taco may be front and center, but the clam chowder and black beans were the stars.
  • The fish taco may be front and center, but the clam chowder and black beans were the stars.
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Solana Beach Fish House

124 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Marlin isn't on the menu, it's on the wall.

Marlin isn't on the menu, it's on the wall.

The Solana Beach Fish House is located just across the street from the train station in an unassuming strip mall. Not exactly the prime piece of beachfront real estate you might imagine visiting when you’re craving seafood in coastal San Diego. But plentiful parking, affordable prices, good food, and a relaxed setting just might convince you to sacrifice the ocean view.

I visited the Fish House on a weekday, and was excited to find lunchtime specials served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. The deals aren’t skimpy, either. There are over 15 options including tacos, burritos, sandwiches, and fish and chips, all ranging from $6 to $9.95.

I settled on a combo plate with a bowl of New England clam chowder, grilled fish taco, side of black beans, and tortilla chips. The meal included a soda too, but I always prefer to drink sugar in the form of alcohol, so I opted to upgrade to a crisp Ballast Point Pale Ale.

I placed my order at the counter, and contemplated posting up in the whimsical dining room — think fishing nets, buoys, shells, twinkle lights, and a stuffed blue marlin — or grabbing a seat outside on the casual patio. Fresh air and sunshine won over the cliché interior design.

The clam chowder was smooth and creamy, packed with clams, and well seasoned. There was no need to add hot sauce because the broth was perfectly peppery, which was complemented by the brightness of fresh dill. It was an unexpected herbal touch, and I was all about it.

Our proximity to Baja California makes legit fish tacos easy to find. The Fish House featured an unconventional prep on the grilled version, which included a generous portion of chopped and blackened white fish, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and a grated blend of jack and cheddar cheeses. I had high hopes for the seasoned fish, but was ultimately disappointed in the lack of a spice kick. I also longed to replace the tasteless cheese with the acidic bite of a traditional sour cream or mayonnaise-based citrus sauce.

The tortilla chips proved to be a good delivery device for the cumin-heavy black beans, and the varying textures complemented the meal nicely. I liked the beans so much that I have since attempted to duplicate the preparation at home. Cumin is an obvious and common addition, but I’ve never had a version that’s so in-your-face. I honestly feel like I’ve been missing out for far too long.

Next time I’m in the area, I’ll stop by for another bowl of chowder — which I’m already craving — and give their fish and chips a try while I’m at it.

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