The Brigantine in Del Mar is one of those classic restaurants in coastal North County that exemplify all that is good about living in this area. From the near perfect location overlooking the racetrack, with coastal views to the South, to their very solid menu and festive atmosphere, the Brigantine in Del Mar is right up there among San Diego’s top destinations. Their recent remodel has opened up the space dramatically and added some stylish updates to the interior. With its dining rooms, oyster bar, lounge, deck, patio, there is always an interesting mix of people to check out. The artistically-appointed garden is a one-of-a-kind setting for weddings, picnics, and theme events.
The Brig has been called a “Home Away From Home" for race fans. I was there the night before opening day and that presence was evident. You can actually see the horses rounding the curve and hear the roar of the crowd from the track. If you can time your visit during the races, that is always a thrill.
The original Brigantine opened in Pt. Loma in 1969 and has expanded into a mini empire now billed as The Brigantine Family of Restaurants which includes seven Brigantine Seafood Restaurants, five Miguel’s Cocinas, and The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla. Steve Floyd, the Executive Corporate Chef for the Brigantine Family of Restaurants, began a flourishing career with the company in July 2004 and was immediately tapped to head the company’s culinary training program. As Corporate Training Chef, Floyd established a consistent food standard between all restaurants and created new menus for the company’s evolution of the Brigantine Seafood concept. As a result of his impressive and innovative work, Floyd was invited to take the culinary helm as Executive Corporate Chef for the Brigantine Family of Restaurants in 2007. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Floyd for Lick the Plate Radio and was very impressed by his ability to combine the traditional favorites that keep the old-school crowd coming back with seasonal and innovative dishes for foodies.
The lounge and dining room menus are equally appealing and are both full of so much good stuff it’s really hard to choose. Small plates include standout crab cakes, artichoke fritters, calamari strips and of course some of the best oysters around from the oyster bar. The Brig clam chowder is right up there with the best I’ve had and all the fish sandwiches are very good. I did not see anything over $13 on bar menu. Taco Tuesday at the Brig is an event unto itself. Their classic fish taco is only $2.50 and is a healthy portion of crispy Pollack, cheddar cheese red cabbage salsa fresca and cool ranch dressing in a warm corn tortilla. We live in fish taco heaven around these parts and this one belongs up there on the list of favorites. As mentioned, the Brig attracts a diverse crowd and with the newly expanded bar area, that scene was completely going off when I was there recently. While I tend to prefer my fish tacos with a Mexican beer, they have an extensive signature drink menu that I will be back to sample for a fun happy hour soon.
The dinner menu is a seafood lover’s paradise and while they do have some meat dishes that I’ve been told are solid, I’m going to the Brig for fish. The grilled white sea bass with parmesan risotto, fresh vegetables and a wasabi-shoyu sauce is delightful. Same with the macadamia crusted halibut bamboo risotto and baby carrots. Entrées are mainly in the $18-$26 range.
Parking at The Brigantine is valet only and when it gets busy that can seem like a bit of a mess to deal with. Looks can be deceiving though as the valet crew there is super-efficient and will have your car to you in no time. I was a valet guy back in college and can appreciate it when they hustle. An alternative to valet is to park in a neighborhood up Coast Highway and take a pleasant stroll down to the Brig.
The Brigantine is open every day for lunch and dinner and Sunday brunch. They also have a very appealing 3 course “First Catch” dinner daily from 5:00 – 6:30. Full hours, location and menu can be found at www.brigantine.com.