At Mitch’s Seafood: ‘They catch it, cook it and sell it!’ at Point Loma/San Diego restaurant
In Good Taste:
Mitch’s Seafood was started in 2008 by three families with a long history of fishing in Point Loma . Located on San Diego’s working waterfront at 1403 Scott St., the restaurant specializes in fresh seafood from the waters right off the dock it overlooks. The outdoor patio offers a spectacular view of the fishing fleet that supplies the menu.
Mitch Conniff runs the day-to-day operations. Brian Kiyohara and Randy Toussaint, his two partners, are full-time local fishermen. Whatever they catch, the restaurant serves, along with fare from other local fishermen. As Mitch explained: "(My partners) own the American Angler and the Royal Star, which are sportfishing boats that go out from landings here. In addition to running those boats, they’re lobster fishermen, crab fishermen, and anything else that’s biting at the time — they’ll go out and catch tuna, yellowtail and white bass when these fish are in season.”
How did this union come about? Mitch said he used to work on the American Angler with Kiyohara for years. Toussaint worked on another boat, and they’d all be fishing at the same time. Back then, the restaurant was Hudson Bay Seafood, which catered mainly to tourists.
“It just served your generic fish and chips, frozen shrimp ... whatever they were getting from their giant wholesaler. And we always said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a restaurant there that specialized in the fish that we’re catching right here?’ An opportunity came to take over the restaurant, a couple of years after I left working on the boat, and we decided, let’s do it.”
One look at the menu, and something strikes you right away — the extremely reasonable prices. A grilled local fish or wild shrimp taco goes for $4. The Smoked Fish Tostada is $5.75. Grilled fish salads are $16. The Baja Stone Crab Cakes (with cole slaw) are $11, same for the Grilled Octopus with romesco sauce and a white bean and arugula salad. Mitch says one reason their prices are low is their ability to get fish cheaper than everybody else because they’re buying it directly from local fishermen. But there are other reasons.
“It’s a great product,” Mitch said, “and we don’t want it to only be available to people who are going to go out and spend $50 or $60 on a meal. We want it to be available to people who are going to come in and spend $5 or $10 on a couple of fish tacos.”
Mitch has designed the menu to directly appeal to the fishermen who leave the dock every morning.
“We’ve become a natural place for the guys who are going out sportfishing to stop and either have breakfast or a couple of beers and some fish tacos before they head out for the night,” he said. “We try to get as many local fishermen, who actually work on the boats, to come in to provide a hangout for them. We’ve been successful in that regard as well.”
The restaurant still gets a lot of tourists staying at local hotels or walking the waterfront, and although he appreciates their business, Mitch has worked hard to keep the restaurant welcome and accessible to Point Loma and San Diego residents.
Where does Mitch see himself in five years?
“Right here,” he said, emphatically. “Hopefully, fishing a little bit more instead of working on payroll and accounting. It’s great being on the waterfront and it’s a fun restaurant to own. I really enjoy interacting with the fishermen and all our customers. I love the Point Loma waterfront, it’s such a neat place.”
—Mitch’s Seafood is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily at 1403 Scott St. in Point Loma. (619) 222-8787. mitchsseafood.com