The Fish Market on the border of Del Mar and Solana Beach has been a go-to spot for me since it opened in 1981. It’s more laid back than the coastal restaurants on the beach, giving off more of a local vibe. The dining room is large, with tiled floors, so it can be noisy, but not in a annoying way. Large photos of big fish and fishermen line the walls, and a case of fresh seafood is on sale at the front door.
640 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach
The Del Mar racetrack is across the street, and maybe that’s why it feels less fancy and less touristy than the Fish Market on the harbor. Whatever the reason, I’m glad my friend Ruth thought of treating me there for my birthday.
We grabbed a booth in the back so we could catch up on writing and life and not disturb the other customers. We made sure to tell our server we were going to camp out for a bit, and she seemed fine with it.
We were both starving and ordered quickly, but not before Ruth ordered a bottle of my favorite — and expensive — chardonnay, Rombauer. The only complaint I had about the wine is that it wasn’t placed in an ice bucket to stay cold. For $78 a bottle, was a little ice too much to ask?
Our food came quickly, and Ruth dug into her saffron black mussels. I’m not a fan, but she declared them delightful. They were served in a butter garlic sauce with wine. I watched her as she soaked up the juices with the toast that accompanied it. I was glad the mussels were fresh. Have you ever smelled a bad mussel? It’s not something you would forget.
I was not in a fish mood. I’ve had the teriyaki chicken breast with cheese potatoes before, and that’s what I ordered. The chicken was juicy and not overcooked. I love the potatoes and the small helping is just right. The coleslaw was okay ... I just happen to like mine sweeter.
We talked and enjoyed our meal while sipping the expensive wine. Once, when the server thought Ruth was finished and was about to take her plate, she grabbed it back.
“Nope, still enjoying this,” Ruth told her. And that’s what we did. For two hours we enjoyed a good meal and great conversation.