El Pescador in La Jolla’s High End Decline
words and photos by Reviewer Rob
When I was in high school in 1981 we used to surf 11th Street in Del Mar and then go eat a fish and shrimp Combo sandwich at El Pescador Fish Market and restaurant on the coast highway. This “crew” was a group from Torrey Pines high school and one of them worked the afternoon shift and he’d hook us up with large helpings of smoked fish (shark, I think) in the orders. The price was under five dollars – which was a lot when gas was 79 cents a gallon or so – and so worth it; it was the best food EVER to have while in a post-surf stupor.
Ever since then I’ve returned to El Pescador from time to time, both the one in Del Mar and the one in La Jolla, when I was in the area and had time to wait for a fresh sandwich there. Every time I do I feel like I’m reliving a moment from those 20th century days of carefree surf excellence. Food has a way of bringing back memories for me that music and old friends sometimes can equal. But even those cues can become diminished like photos in a faded magazine, especially when their preparation becomes sadly a lost art.
So I was eating a shrimp and fish sandwich at the group cafeteria-style long wooden table inside El Pescador on Pearl Street in La Jolla two days ago, and when finished put my elbows up. Then I remembered suddenly that my mom, who died over 7 years ago, used to tell me (even after I’d grown up) not to do that. “Don’t put your elbows on the table,” she’d say gently. She’d also say, “Sit up straight,” when I’d slump lazily. Funny how things like that stick with you through life.
I’m 51 now and I took my elbows off the table.
My fish and shrimp sandwich on sourdough with avo at El Pescadore Fish Market in LJ this week was as good as I remember it being over thirty years ago. Now apparently it’s made with smoked salmon and bay shrimp, not shark. While years ago the El Pescador in Del Mar had a Combo sandwich on the menu that had shark but was awesome, there’s no combo listed on their menu now. I had to explain what I wanted to the dude behind the counter and it was a real hassle, a collosal hard time getting my lunch. Then when it came it was three times what I expected it to cost.
Yeah, I miss the old El Pescador I used to know. This boutique and shiny hipster hangout has nothing on the one in Del Mar in 1981 which was inside of an old small wooden California bungalow right on the Coast Highway that resembled a south-of-the-border taco tienda from days gone by. Things change.