OK, I’ll admit, as someone hyper aware and probably a little overly sensitive to the local dining scene, I was bit skeptical when a new seafood place came to Encinitas. After all, we already had the fabulous Fish 101 in Leucadia and Lobster West in downtown Encinitas plus Off The Hook on El Camino Real. That said, I decided to give the newcomer some time, let it get its legs so to speak, then dive in and give it a try.
The Fish Shop opened last August and every time I’ve been by they have been consistently busy, that’s always a good sign for a fish joint. They did a nice job with the interior and it has a beachy/nautical feel without being over-the-top about it. Its indoor-outdoor seating with a small outdoor bar is perfect for it’s Coast Highway location.
There is no table service so you wait in line to order your meal and it’s pretty much a custom, made-to-order menu. You start by picking the fish, the marinade the fish is cooked in, and then the style it’s served. They do have other hot and cold options, but I’ve gone mainly with the custom fish plates when I’ve eaten there along with a couple of hot sides. They claim over 2,000 combinations to choose from so there is definitely something for everyone.
Let’s start with the fish options as they have a nice selection. Ahi is seared rare, local halibut, albacore, jumbo shrimp, diver scallops, mahi-mahi, red snapper, salmon, sea bass, swordfish, yellowtail and lobster for the taco option only. Next up you pick your marinade/seasoning and those options include blackened, chipotle glaze, fish shop seasoning, garlic butter, lemon butter, salt and pepper, teriyaki sauce or plain if you want to keep it simple.
Once you have your fish and your seasoning, you have four options to create your meal. The salad with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, pickled red onions and capers and avocado optional. I had a nice piece of local halibut served up this way and it made for a perfect lunch. Very satisfying and flavorful but did not weigh me down. A fish sandwich is also an option and I tried that with a piece of red snapper on their very nice bun with house cut fries. Snapper is the perfect fish for a sandwich and this one was really good. You can also create a fish plate with your fish grilled with a choice of two sides including seaweed salad, six grain rice, jasmine rice, house cut fries or onion rings, cole slaw, seasonal veggies or macaroni salad. You can also create a taco with the same side options.
If you don’t feel like creating your own entrée you can order plenty of hot or cold stuff off the menu. The offer lobster lumpia, jumbo lump crab cake, sautéed shrimp, fried calamari, fish ‘n chips, shrimp ‘n chips, New England clam chowder, Fish Shop chowder and Fish Shop soup. I tried the New England chowder with my fish sandwich and while it was not terrible, there was nothing defining about it. It was really thick, more like a gravy with no chunks of potatoes and minimal clams. The flavor was fine and who knows, it could have been from the bottom of the pot. I finished it regardless.
The “Cold Stuff” part of the menu looks very tempting with a mahi-mahi salad and ceviche, sashimi of the day, smoked salmon sandwich, bay shrimp cocktail and regular shrimp cocktail, shrimp ceviche and a nice selection of oysters that they feature during a daily happy hour. Sides include all the ones that I mentioned above that can be ordered individually as well. A full kids menu is available with half size fish and chips, popcorn shrimp, quesadilla, chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwich and a kind of random corndog as an option.
As far as beverages go, you can enjoy one of the many local and California microbrew beers they offer along with a nice selection of moderately priced wines. If you’ve never had a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with oysters it’s one of those food and wine combinations that work perfectly together. Another cool feature is their $5 corkage fee so you can bring in your own bottle of wine. So luckily, all of our seafood options in Encinitas have their own distinct personality and strong points. Encinitas Fish Shop is a welcome addition to the mix. Check it out at 1010 S. Coast Highway 101, Encinitas. Open Sunday-Thursday 11am-9pm and Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm. Carryout available at 760.436.4665 or www.thefishshopencinitas.com.