The sun sets over the harbor, viewed from the Brigantine at Portside Pier dining room.
We were told that happy hour specials would only be available at the bar. Fair enough: the bar area is large and stylish, and still within view of the boats and harbor. However, I was less concerned about eating $5 wagyu sliders than I was enjoying the real million-dollar view in the dining room.
1360 N Harbor Dr, San Diego
Make that $25 million. That’s how much reported went into the Portside Pier, which debuted this summer, replacing the 70-year-old institution, Anthony’s Fish Grotto, along downtown’s waterfront. And Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar has the plum spot, practically in the shadows of the Star of India’s sails. You can see the sailing vessel from the bar. But from the dining room you can see so much more: boats cruising the bay, Coronado across the way, and the sun setting over Point Loma.
No offense to Anthony’s die-hards, but the entire, stylish Portside complex feels like a step up, lookswise at least. With a half-century of San Diego seafood history of its own to draw upon, Brigantine moves in with its eighth county location, and at the south end of the development, adds a domed bar and grill for its Ketch Brewing beer spinoff.
The $25 million Portside Pier
Several Ketch beers are served on the Brigantine side, and I enjoyed a tasty West Coast IPA while appreciating the golden light leading up to sundown. I ordered Brigantine’s best-selling classic, grilled swordfish, and served with avocado butter and broccolini over risotto. Honestly, this was the best version of the dish I’ve tried all my years in this town. Quite satisfying.
The dining room at the Brigantine
But that’s not to say I didn’t want to follow up with a fish taco or two. Sparkling lights were coming alive around the harbor, and besides, I still had room (always have room) for tacos. The same could be said about beer. I waved over our server, and asked to see a taco menu.
That’s when I learned that happy hour wasn’t the only thing restricted to the bar. At this new Brigantine, tacos are available in the bar area only.
The domed bar and grill of Ketch Brewing, at Portside Pier
There are two exceptions: the lobster taco plate offered on the dining room menu, and all-day Taco Tuesday specials offered throughout the restaurant. But my taco-as-dessert ambition would be vanquished.
I suppose I could have crossed over to the bar, ordered tacos and beer, then returned to our table with a view. But should I have to?
Grilled swordfish with broccolini, avocado butter, and risotto
I can appreciate, in a new, multi-million dollar restaurant, that Brigantine might want to reserve its best tables for someone more spendy than a casual taco diner. But considering I’d already ordered and eaten an entrée, and tacos were being served elsewhere in the restaurant, I found this taco blocking activity an odd stance. So, rather than order more food and drinks, we went elsewhere. With room for taco to spare.