See Food, Eat Food
Our coastal cities here in Orange County boast a wide selection of seafood. It wasn’t until I lived in Las Vegas for a few months that I realized what a commodity it was to have poke spots, oyster bars, and fish markets all within a few miles of each other. So this week’s issue is about just that!
Each week we bring you the hottest trends, recommendations, and news from the OC food scene.
Let’s get to it!
🏖️ California Poke
Since 2010, poke (pronounced poh-keh) restaurants have been popping up all over Southern California. The star of this Hawaiian dish is the diced raw fish marinated in salt-based sauces such as soy, shoyu, or ponzu. Today, you can purchase poke by the pound at most fish markets and even some grocery stores!
The most common way poke is prepared is in a poke bowl. The sushi-grade fish is placed on a bed of rice or salad and is mixed with vegetables, seasoning, and an additional sauce. In SoCal, there are build-your-own bowl places in almost every city!
In our first section, we will be exploring some of the ways that California has put a spin on this Hawaiian classic.
Poke by the Pound. Also in a Burrito!?
🐟 Oysters, Fish, & Poke
📸 @this_mornings & @thediplomatickitchen
📍 Bear Flag Fish Co. - Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, & Laguna Beach
In 2007, Bear Flag opened the doors of their first location. The owner, Thos, had worked on many fishing boats and had developed a keen eye for high-quality fish. His talent made Bear Flag stand out from other restaurants and fish markets in the area. The restaurant is even named after Thos’s home-built fleet of fishing boats!
Bear Flag doubles as a fish market and sit-down restaurant. In their market, there is an ever-changing selection of fish for sale by the pound, including their famous ahi poke! If cooking with high-quality ingredients is your thing, you should definitely check out their fish market. Some of their more rare fish for sale include Swordfish, Ono, and Red Snapper.
In our research, we found that most returning customers visit for their classic fish tacos, burritos, and poke bowls. These items have been on the menu since the beginning and have brought Bear Flag the wild popularity it has today.
Our personal favorite has to be their poke burrito. Usually, poke burritos are served on rice paper, but Bear Flag took Californication to the next level and put poke directly on a tortilla and traditional burrito. The unfamiliar combination of raw fish and tortilla has been an extremely unique cuisine and experience for first-timers. I have to admit that prior to visiting I doubted the feasibility of a poke burrito, but since trying one I have been back multiple times and have become a bit of a Bear Flag evangelist to my friends. (and now to you!)
🐟 POKE CEVICHOS
📍 Roe Seafood - Long Beach
Located on 2nd street in Belmont Shore, Roe boasts an impressive roster of fresh-caught dishes. From fried calamari (which are still the best I’ve had) to fish tacos, Roe knows how to build flavors that compliment the fish without masking its natural flavor. Nothing exemplifies this more than their Poke Cevichos: a perfect marriage of poke, ceviche, sauces, and toppings that bring out the best of every component. You can dine in or take out and enjoy some local LB fish in many of the beautiful coastal parks. Or even buy some of their steller fish to cook something up at home.
🍟 Served with Fries
Nothing like some fries to go with battered fish!
A Taste of Britain
🇬🇧 Fish & Chips
📍 Union Jack’s Fish & Chips - Fountain Valley
Union Jack’s is a local fish & chips spot in Fountain Valley. They specialize in British fish & chips with menu items such as the London Special (2 pieces + chips), and Big Ben (4 pieces + chips). In addition to fish, they offer a variety of other fried seafood, such as shrimp and scallop. If you’d like to try everything their menu has to offer, I recommend trying one of their combo plates. Their menu is also very affordable with most plates ranging from $7-$11.
While you wait for your food, you can shop for some British groceries and goodies in the small shop connected to the restaurant. If you are ever looking for dinner on your Lent Fridays, you should definitely consider some fish and chips!
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Fast-Casual Lobster Rolls
🦞 Traditional Lobster Roll
📍 Slapfish - HB, Irvine, Laguna Beach, & Brea
In 2012, the Slapfish food truck renowned for its Lobster Grinder, hit the brakes and decided to open its first location in Huntington Beach, right off Beach Blvd. There, Chefs Andrew Gruel and Jethro Naud refined their menu and quickly began to open more locations throughout Southern California. Their new restaurants quickly reimagined seafood as something to be craved and ordered in a fast-casual setting instead of at a fancy restaurant. And at an affordable price!
Lobster Grinder: Chilled lobster, shrimp, and crab, spiced aioli, packed into a split-top butter roll
From our visits, we recommend the Clobster Grilled Cheese, Lobster Grinder, or any of their customizable fish and poke bowls. The Clobster Grilled Cheese, pretty well sums up the ambiance of Slapfish. It’s not often that you see a traditionally high-class food like lobster used in grilled cheese, but that’s just what Slapfish strives to be, a modern seafood shack.
🦪 Awwww Shucks
After visiting the Puget Sound in Seattle, I can say that oysters on the half shell is truly one of the most natural dishes out there. They are barely modified from their natural state!
📍 Shuck Oyster Bar - Cosa Mesa
Located at the OC Mix in Costa Mesa’s SOCO, Shuck Oyster Bar is known for their one-day guarantee: that is, their oysters are at most one day removed from the water. With oysters flown in daily from over 60 oyster farms, this truly is a paradise for oyster lovers. Oysters are everything, and in addition to oysters on the half shell, they also have prepared dishes like Oysters Rockafeller. Shuck Oyster Bar also boasts a wide selection of fine wine and seafood. Some of their more unique dishes include Clams & Chorizo, Lobster Linguini, and Ahi Tacos.
An Oyster Bar & a Fully-Fledged Fish Market
🦪 Oyster’s on The Half Shell
📍 Santa Monica Seafood - Santa Monica & Costa Mesa/Newport
Santa Monica Seafood is a historical fish market and cafe, opening its doors in 1939 on the Santa Monica pier. To truly serve the entirety of SoCal, their only other location was opened here in Orange County! 🙂
Today, Santa Monica Seafood offers a market with fish by the pound, occasional cooking demonstrations, a cafe with dishes from the sea, and a dedicated oyster bar. Their interactive product guide covers what seafood (and specifically, oysters) they have available for purchase. I spent some time poking around and actually learned a lot about the different kinds of oysters out there. Their selection is always rotating, so if you have ambitions to become an oyster connoisseur, Santa Monica Seafood is a great start!
Thanks for reading this week’s issue of The Foodie Maps!