Up Scale

By David Nelson
Photo by John Mireles

Business has been going swimmingly for Pacific Beach’s Fish Shop, which is about to have another sibling. The popular Garnet Avenue market and grill, whose sister restaurant in Hermosa Beach opened in April, will soon serve North County clientele from a prime location along South Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas.

“The new restaurant will be very similar to the one in PB,” says co-owner Doug Sondomowicz. “We’ll have a fish case so people can buy for takeout, and the expanded wine selection will offer good pairings with our dishes.”

Sondomowicz’s partners in the three Fish Shops are Billy Ramirez and Eric Leitstein, and all three are behind other popular San Diego restaurants and bars. Ramirez and Sondomowicz co-own PB’s The Duck Dive and Pacific Beach Shore Club; Leitstein’s local venues include Pacific Beach AleHouse, the new Union Kitchen & Tap in the Gaslamp and the original Union Kitchen & Tap location in Encinitas, located a few doors south on Coast Highway from the new Fish Shop.

“Both Doug and I live in the area,” says Leitstein of the new restaurant’s neighborhood. “When St. Germain’s became available, we jumped on it.”

St. Germain’s had been a popular eatery for decades. Amping up its former site and the coastal city’s lively downtown at large, Encinitas Fish Shop will feature an outdoor beer and wine garden with local craft brews on tap and blue skies overhead. Leitstein promises the freshness of Fish Shop’s fare will match that of its décor.

“Like at our other restaurants, we’ll do everything from scratch - salad dressings, sauces, fries, onion rings,” he says. “And we get fish delivered six days a week.” Oyster fans are invited to come out of their shells on Thursdays, when staffers shuck 1,500 oysters, which are then sold at a buck each to a standing-room-only crowd. (Same deal goes for the Pacific Beach Fish Shop.)

“We’re a family-oriented restaurant,” says Ramirez, “and a family-friendly, dog-friendly part of the neighborhood.”

Pacific Beach Fish Shop
1775 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach

Hermosa Beach Fish Shop
719 pier ave., Hermosa Beach
310.372. 3480,

Encinitas Fish Shop - coming soon
1010 S. Coast Hwy. 101, #103, Encinitas

To Beach His Own

Fish Shop partners Billy Ramirez and Doug Sondomowicz also own two top Pacific Beach hangouts, PB Shore Club and The Duck Dive. The former is the famed beachfront bar and grill at the southern end of Grand Avenue, offering frozen Red Bull drinks, a bikini-clad crowd by day and (as the venue’s slogan goes) “sunsets served daily.”

“We wanted to build a true Southern California beach bar,” says Ramirez. They got what they wanted.

The Duck Dive, whose name represents a surfing maneuver (for dodging incoming breakers), that distinguishes real wave-riders from hodads, is a few blocks north on Mission Boulevard. Sondomowicz describes the place as part gastropub, part surf lounge.

“It’s casual, there’s a nice little patio, and dogs are welcome,” he says.

The décor sends the atmosphere sailing over the waves with a backlit artwork composed of hundreds of slices of surfboards and murals that make you feel your dining under the boardwalk and amongst the waves.

“It’s a little higher-end than most places in PB,” Ramirez says. “It’s a little more upscale.”

Pacific Beach Shore Club
4343 Ocean Blvd., Pacific Beach

The Duck Dive
4650 mission Blvd., Pacific Beach
858.273.DUCK (3825),

What Ales You

Eric Leitstein’s Pacific Beach AleHouse opened in 2008 and wasted no time becoming one of the most popular addresses at the beach. The ocean-view spot with a heated patio and rooftop deck (across from Firehouse and adjacent to PB Shore Club) serves craft beers brewed on-site.

“It’s what San Diego’s all about,” Leitstein says. “We have an amazing location, an amazing brewer, great food, great beer and an awesome view.”

Leitstein’s Union Kitchen & Tap, located at the Swami’s end of downtown Encinitas, recently opened an even larger branch in Gaslamp, where it took over the vast Fifth Avenue space vacated by Donovan’s Prime Seafood.

“I think this is one of the best locations in downtown San Diego,” Leitstein says. “We have a huge patio, live music for weekend brunch and a great vibe.”

On-tap for lunch and dinner is high-end fare from the former sous chef at Oceanaire, chef Sean Langlois, who created a seafood-rich menu of New American cuisine. A whiskey wall and DJs spinning on weekend nights seem poised to keep the evenings as lively as they’ve been since the place opened in early May.

Pacific Beach AleHouse
721 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach
858.581.Beer (2337),

Union Kitchen & Tap
1108 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas
760.230.BEER (2337),

Union Kitchen & Tap
333 fifth ave., Gaslamp