Tavern by the Beach

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Under new ownership, the recently rechristened Big Fish has a revamped 
menu that emphasizes quality beers and bold flavors.

By Bria Balliet | Photos by Jody Tiongco


It was a close call for beer and seafood fans this past fall. After nearly shutting its doors, the beloved House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer was purchased in the 11th hour, saving Laguna from losing a prime dining location with second-story views of the Pacific.

Now called Big Fish Tavern, the eatery has done more than just change its name. A fiery new chef is at the helm with a trimmed down menu, and a refreshed interior reflects a high-end sports bar aesthetic with strategically placed TVs that allow patrons to watch the game while enjoying a craft brew.

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The Peruvian-style crab and shrimp ceviche

To begin a meal here, the Peruvian-style crab and shrimp ceviche is a must. Pieces of crab and shrimp are tossed with avocado, corn, sweet potato, onion, peppers and lime juice before being scooped into a mason jar and served with corn tortilla chips. Light and refreshing, it highlights the quality of the seafood with a tangy kick, and is a great alternative to a typical chips and salsa starter. Equally satisfying is the Thai-glazed calamari: Made from locally sourced squid, the dish arrives lightly crisped and coated in a sweet glaze with carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro as garnish.

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Thai-glazed calamari, made from local squid, comes garnished with carrots, bean sprouts and cilantro.

To wash down the appetizers, one of the eatery’s beers on tap will suffice. The Golden Road Brewing’s Wolf Among Weeds India pale ale is a hoppy brew with notes of citrus and peach—it pairs well with most plates on the menu, including the gluten-free, spicy seafood chowder. Beginning with a tomato herb broth, vegetables like celery and potatoes join mussels, shrimp and freshly caught fish (which is also available in the evening special). The spice is prominent but not overpowering, and the fish is tender, but not so flaky that it falls apart in the soup.

Those who want something soothing rather than spicy will find satisfaction in the lobster meatball truffle risotto. Butter—lots of it—makes this one of the richest items on the menu, so it’s a great plate for sharing. Tender risotto is folded with truffles, caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese. Typically topped with house-made lobster meatballs, the chef may substitute the fresh catch of the day (such as halibut from the coast of Catalina) for those who ask.

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The lobster meatball truffle risotto

If the quality of its dishes is any indication, Big Fish Tavern has continued to be a mainstay on Laguna’s culinary scene. Meanwhile, future plans for menu tweaks and high-tech, tableside speakers will keep patrons coming back to find out what’s new at their old favorite restaurant.

Tip: Grab a seat on the restaurant’s enclosed patio for some spectacular ocean views.


Big Fish Tavern
540 S. Coast Hwy., Ste. 200

Hours: Opens at 11:30 a.m., daily for lunch and dinner

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