Surf, Sun, Sandwiches, and Fish Tacos
With the weather and water temp rising (60 plus degrees in the surf today), I wanted to do an article about places I find beach friendly — meaning they are a short walk or car drive away, accepting of casual attire and serve good food. Though we know sand is never going to count as footwear, sandals, board shorts, T-shirts and the smell of salt water are going to be welcome and fit right in.
I picked a few of the popular beach areas and included restaurants based on the above criteria.
This list is by no means “all inclusive” nor is it definitive. What I hope is that it is useful.
Oceanside’s largest beach and the beach I spent most of my time at growing up. Though there are a lot of food choices at the harbor, I’m only bringing up one: Harbor Fish and Chips. The restaurant was founded in 1969 by a local fishing family headed by husband and wife, Doug and Sally McWha. It has been passed down through the family and today is run by Sally’s son-in-law, Terry Cross. The restaurant still uses the original recipes and from the food to decor, has not changed much since my first visit at the age of 6 when I spent lunch eating fish and chips with my mom and dad. Coming from an English background and having lived in London for a time myself, Harbor’s perfectly cooked fish and the thickness of their batter are exactly what I look for in a fish and chip to this day (and the standard I judge all others against). The pieces are huge and a one- or two-piece basket is all you will need while taking a break from the ocean.
*Side note: If sitting outside be aware of the squirrels and seagulls — they, like most of us, have discovered French fries are delicious.
I love our pier, I walk it every chance I get when I am downtown. Again there are a lot of options around this area but I narrowed it down to three for the reasons mentioned in the opening.
The first one is Tin Fish. Located right under the pier, it is as close to the beach as you can get. The style of batter is totally different than that of Harbor Fish and Chips. They use more of a light dusting of a batter but still deliver perfectly cooked fish and great waffle cut fries. I do not know why waffle cut makes a difference but it does…potato choice probably comes into account as well but let’s not get too foodie right now. They also have a great selection of non-fried seafood items including grilled fish platters and a range of seafood salads. They can get a little pricey but with being steps away from the beach and serving well executed food, it is by no means outrageous.
Second location is Zig Zag Pizza. This would be a good call if you’re trying to feed a multitude of tastes or satisfy a family. They have a variety of pizzas and chopped salads. It is a half block up from the end of the pier making it convenient and a much better choice, quality-wise, than any chain pizzeria.
The third location close to the pier is Johnny Manana’s. Johnny Manana’s has been located downtown for a long time and used to be my pre-work breakfast stop each morning when I was working downtown. If you go you are likely to see local surfers grabbing a post-surf breakfast or California burritos and fish tacos. My go-to was always one shrimp and one fish taco with rice and beans. I’m not a big egg person and was able to fill up on good freshly made, tasty, Mexican food along with a drink for under $10 including tax before starting the day.
I am going to mention two spots directly related to one another and perfect for grabbing food after a day at Buccaneer Beach and the adjacent park. Buccaneer Beach Cafe and The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza are both establishments run by a group of owners imbedded in the local surf and skate community; more than that they are huge proponents of the City of Oceanside, its locals, and local business owners. Add to that the fact they serve great food and it is a win-win.
The Buccaneer Beach Cafe is just steps away from the beach and serves simple, healthy Southern California surfer food. This perfect place for restocking calories after a day spent in the water or playing with your kids at the park.
A two-minute drive away on South Coast Highway is The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza. The Privateer is known for its inventive handmade pizzas and great vegetable dishes. Their lunch and happy hour deals are a steal if you can take advantage of them. My recommended dishes, if available, are the Wahoo Taquitos, Arugula Pizza, and any of their veggies.
*Be aware: The Privateer is closed on Monday but is open at 11:30 am the rest of the week; it can also get pretty busy at dinner.
I hope this information is helpful. Any feedback is always welcome.
Harbor Fish and Chips
Harbor Village, 276 Harbor Dr, Oceanside, CA 92054
Phone: (760) 722-4977
Hours: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
302 The Strand, Oceanside, CA 92054
Phone: (760) 966-0007
Hours: 8:00 am – 9:00 pm
Zig Zag Pizza
333 N. Myers Street, Oceanside, CA
Hours: 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
308 Mission Ave, Oceanside, CA 92054
Phone: (760) 721-9999
Hours: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Buccaneer Beach Cafe
1508 S Pacific St, Oceanside, CA 92054
Phone: (760) 966-1804
Hours: 8:00 am – 2:00 pm
The Privateer Coal Fire Pizza
1706 S Coast Hwy, Oceanside, CA 92054
Phone: (760) 453-2500
Hours: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm (Closed Monday)
Christopher Messenger runs a successful restaurant and food website as well as acting as a freelance food writer for a number of publications. He has been an avid foodie for over 20 years and worked in the restaurant industry behind the scenes to improve his knowledge of Chefs and food. An Oceanside native his goal is to highlight the North County culinary scene.