A sourdough bread bowl filled with Pelly's clam chowder
San Diego saw a hint of autumn weather over the weekend, opening a short window to enjoy the sorts of things we haven’t been able to enjoy during this endless summer of heat waves. Like an afternoon hot tub session. Or wearing a sweater. Or, in my case, eating a large bowl of clam chowder.
7110 Avenida Encinas, Carlsbad
There are soups I might eat when it’s warm out, but it seems crazy to commit to a creamy helping of Boston clam chowder when the temperature tops 80. With sunshine taking a break, I took the opportunity to head toward Carlsbad, and some of the best clam chowder in Southern California, made at Pelly's Fish Market and Café.
It was my first time visiting since the more than thirty year old fish market since its 2018 remodel. It had remained closed for most of that year due to a fire, leaving the south end of Carlsbad without its usual source of local seafood.
A half dozen Phantom Creek oysters
The place looks good — clean and welcoming — though it’s lost some character, as its walls are no longer covered in fishing photos. But the cases out front still shine with fresh fish and shellfish — which on this day included delicious Phantom Creek oysters from the Pacific northwest. A half dozen on the half shell for $15 made a terrific start.
Pelly’s does the usual San Diego fish market thing, serving your choice of fish on sandwiches, in salads, or marinaded and grilled on plates. You’ll find fish tacos, fish and chips, occasional fried fish specials, and delectable sashimi.
Pelly's Fish Market & Cafe was remodeled after a 2018 fire.
But it’s also long been loved for its clam chowder, and that’s what my appetite had its eyes on. For 12 bucks, I got it served in a sourdough bread bowl. Technically, my carboard tub of soup was served beside an empty bread bowl, so I could constantly refill it. Meanwhile, the portion cut out of the sourdough loaf, in carving it into a bowl, had repurposed as buttered toast points, perfect for sopping up those first warming bites of chowder.
I could go for more or larger bits of clam in this mild chowder (which is often the case), but otherwise I offer no complaints. It’s thick, the potatoes are tender, and it tastes cleanly of the ocean, without having to rely on adding little bits of bacon for flavor (as some chowder makers do).
A shopping center fish market with courtyard dining
Though situated within a large shopping center, roughly between a Ralph’s and a Rite Aid, Pelly’s benefits from a fair amount of shaded outdoor space. Anyone passing through this courtyard on this afternoon bore witness to my dismantling of that bread bowl as I tore into its chewy crust to get at every last drop of chowder within. That’s a tiny bit embarrassing, but the only thing that could stop me from doing it again is another heat wave.