Though he didn't work in the restaurant industry, the very first time Rick Covert set foot in The Sand Crab Tavern—established in 1988—he knew that one day it would be his. Some 22 years later, he finally bought it, and though he's made a couple of changes, Rick has maintained the restaurant’s defining traits. A primary change was the addition of Rick's Black Pearl, a twice-weekly spread of raw oysters on the half-shell. What he hasn't changed, though, have been some of the faces customers have gotten to know before he took the helm: cook Lucy has been boiling crawfish at the tavern for more than 15 years, and server Kim has been doting on guests in the lantern-lit space for more than 19 years.
Perhaps almost as important as The Sand Crab’s food and faces are its surrounds. Dangling in the net that’s suspended from the ceiling, like delicious constellations hover starfish, shells, and realistic crabs. And, mimicking the barnacle-coated sides of a whale, the walls are encrusted with sepia-toned photos, nautical memorabilia, and navy patches. Wooden booths host enough dunking of Maine lobsters and king crabs into melted butter to be considered basketball courts. The Sand Crab Tavern hosts live blues music during Sunday brunch, but that's not the only time musicians visit. They're a common sight and sound in the warmly lit dining room, where guests can fill their ears while grabbing frosty bottles of beer sourced from local microbreweries.
On a sunny day, salty sea breezes tumble over the sands of Solana beach and through the open windows of Woody's Solana Beach eatery. Chefs complement the ocean-enriched air with fresh catches of the day prepared to diners' specifications and their classic seafood paella with chorizo sausage and saffron rice. The restaurant hosts brunch every Sunday, which, in addition to hot breakfast eats, features such drink specials as bottomless champagne, for which diners can enjoy while watching Sunday NFL games on Woody's eight high-definition TVs. Corrugated metal emulates the texture of water, covering the walls between exposed metal beams and wood paneling. The hammered-tin silhouette of a whale frolics amid the faux waves, creating a playful metallic seascape.
Oceanside eatery with steaks, seafood, and a bounty of gluten-free options.
Where to Sit: To make the most of this beachside experience, try snagging a table next to the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Pacific.
When to Go: Head in between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for happy hour. Jake's specials extend beyond the typical drinks and appetizers into the realm of fresh seafood at persuasive prices.
While You're in the Neighborhood
For date night: Just next door, Powerhouse Park (1658 Coast Boulevard at 17th Street) sports an outdoor theater and palm-tree-studded lawns ideal for a romantic stroll.
For flying solo: About 3 miles away, the Del Mar racetrack (2260 Jimmy Durante Boulevard) hosts summer-long thoroughbred-racing events, inviting guests to place bets on which steed will win the race and which jockey will be named Best Dressed.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: For a taste of Jake's at home, whip up the restaurant's breakfast potatoes using this recipe.
Outside The Beach House – Cardiff by the Sea, waves crash and ocean breezes blow as diners enjoy their meal on a patio that sits beside the Pacific Ocean shoreline. The feast for the eyes is only matched by Executive Chef Michael Ingino’s menu of seafood, steak, and fowl entrees. To ensure meals are as fresh as possible, the selection of these entrees changes daily, depending on the season and whether any new vegetables have been invented lately.
Perched on a cliff in La Jolla, Crab Catcher's sea-foam-green dining room surveys the source of its acclaimed dishes: the ocean. Chefs let their hauls of fresh fish speak for themselves, simply accentuating sea bass with mustard-thyme sauce or tossing Mexican shrimp in cilantro-garlic butter. Patrons seated inside at lofty wicker chairs or hiding under the patio's tables complement their meals with wines hailing from vineyards nearby or as far as Australia.
Step back in time to the 1950s and meet friends for a special dinner at Lou & Mickey’s. Designed as a post-World War II supper club, the dining room features green, leather upholstery insets on the walls, dark wood archways and an opulent tile floor, imported from Italy. Time has a way of standing still at Lou & Mickey’s, where the attached cocktail lounge sports a solid, zinc bar – rare for its temperature controlling properties– that is never too cold or too hot, a comfortable feature for the Convention Center neighborhood where days can turn from a chilly, marine layer to blazing sunshine in a few short hours. The menu honors that mid-American past with contemporary updates to its steakhouse and seafood specialties, without losing sight of the heritage that has kept it going. A large patio waits outside but hardly competes with the elegant dining room.