I actually said, out loud, as we were having lunch here "Great, I just wrote a fawning review of Heat. I'm gonna have to write 2 fawning reviews in a row!"
My dear readers (all 3 of you), I do not love every restaurant. I promise. I've just been going to some really great places lately. And Ironside Fish & Oyster is one of said places.
First off, the decor is gorgeous. It has a turn-of-the-century meets steampunk meets subway station meets hip-restaurant-of-today feel. What are those, fish heads?
Yes. One entire wall of the restaurant is fish heads. A wall of fish heads, like a wall of gold skulls, is made for one thing and one thing only: selfies. Glorious, glorious selfies. This is how my lunch partner (and partner is best-friendery) MIchaela and I amused ourselves while waiting for our food.
With such a photogenic, selfie-friendly interior, it would be easy to assume that Ironside is all style and no substance. However, we quickly figured out that there is plenty of substance going on as well.
Oysters: Chef's Choice
You can order 6 or 12 oysters "Chef's Choice" and will get 1 or 2 of each variety they have on offer that day. On this day the varieties were Kumamoto, Penn Cove Select, Fanny Bay, Hollie Wood Zen, Dabob Bay, and Phantom Creek. They make a specific point of not serving cocktail sauce, which is fine with me, as I prefer mignonette with oysters anyways. If you are a cocktail sauce fan, you're gonna go home disappointed though.
My favorite was the Kumamotos, which are the most common, but I do love a classic. The Penn Cove Select were particularly good as well. All of them were very fresh and refreshing, as were the glasses of Albarino we washed them down with. Oysters + Albarino + a lazy afternoon is probably my favorite equation for happiness.
We didn't just have oysters though. We each had a bowl of...
It was gloomy that day (as you might be able to tell from the very low light in this picture), so this sounded like the best entree option. And it was. Oh how it was. I hesitate to award "best ever" to anything, but this was the best clam chowder I've ever had. It featured a generous amount of clams (some still in their shells), a not-overloaded amount of fingerling potatoes, and fresh bacon cut up on top. You could taste every flavor distinctly and individually, but it still came together well as a final product. It was so thick that you don't really need the toast on the side. However, said toast arrives covered in herb butter, so it's a welcome addition to the party.
- The staff is super nice and helpful and was quite fast when we first arrived. However, our waiter seemed to get overwhelmed after that. It took us a very long time to get our check and get our cards back once we'd paid.
- Parking in Little Italy is fucked. There are too many restaurants and not enough parking spots. We paid $8 to park in a pay lot a few blocks away. In the same neighborhood, Juniper & Ivy only charges $5 for valet. This fact made me cranky.
- It was SO hot in there. If they are trying to evoke a fish shack on the beach on the hottest day of the summer, then mission accomplished. If not, get it together on the A/C front. As mentioned earlier, it was a gloomy, coldish day, but eating soup in the hot environment made me feel like I was having a hot flash.
Ironside Fish & Oyster
1654 India St.
San Diego, California 92101