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Mexican Chain Opens 1st U.S. Restaurant

RESTAURANTS: Fisher's San Diego Spices Up Little Italy

A Mexican restaurant chain, Fisher’s Group, in May opened its first U.S. restaurant in Little Italy.

Nino Franco
General Manager
Fisher’s Group

General Manager Nino Franco said that he spent about $1 million renovating what had been an Italian deli, Roman Urban Market, at 555 W. Beech St.

“I tore down everything. I couldn’t use anything,” Franco said.  “I completely changed the space. I kept the working freezer and working cooler. The rest, I changed everything from floor to ceiling.”

The result is an eclectic decor meant to have a coastal feel in keeping with a menu that’s focused on seafood.

“Everything is hand-made,” Franco said, including a very large blue papier mâché fish that floats above the dining room, which has exposed rafters and a color palette of blues and aquas.

Founded in 1989 as a four-table restaurant near Naucalpan de Juarez northwest of Mexico City, the Fisher’s Group has grown to have 31 restaurants worldwide, including one it recently opened in Spain, and one soon to open in Miami, Franco said.

The 8,700-square-foot Fisher’s San Diego restaurant includes an outdoor patio, and its menu includes an oyster bar, seafood bar, tacos, shellfish marinated in citrus and seasonings, and seafood pasta.

The restaurant differentiates itself from other Mexican eateries by offering food cooked in internationally inspired sauces.

“It’s not the food that they are used to serving here in California. There is a lot of influence from other countries,” Franco said. “There are things that are completely different from other restaurants. These flavors and the way we prepare them have not been done here in the states.”

Some of the featured dishes include smoked tuna, Mediterranean octopus and Peruvian fish ceviche. “We have tacos, too,” Franco said.

Everything is made to order on the spot.

“If you come with 15 guys and you all order something different, we put 15 pots on the burner and we make them from scratch,” Franco said. “You order it, we cook the dishes. That’s something that’s very attractive for the clients because they can customize their dishes.”

Franco said that he initially thought of opening his first U.S. restaurant in Texas, but opted for San Diego, because of its close relationship to Baja, Mexico, and Tijuana in particular.

“I thought it would be easier to be in San Diego,” Franco said, particular since the restaurant menu is so focused on seafood.

“There’s a lot of seafood in the north part of Mexico, in Baja. There are a lot of advantages to being close to Baja,” Franco said. “It (San Diego) came out to be perfect. I love this city. The people are amazing.”

Before settling on the Little Italy space, Franco said he looked in La Jolla, the Gaslamp Quarter and Mission Valley.

‘It was really funny. I was on my way to fly back to Mexico. I made a U-turn, went back to the space and thought, ‘this is the one,’” Franco said. “The neighborhood is beautiful. It’s right next to the water. It’s on a corner. It’s just beautiful.”

Franco likes to mingle with diners, but he also helps in the kitchen. “I can cook anything on the menu,” he said.

Also helping in the restaurant are Franco’s wife, Sofia, and his children, Valentina, 22, Nino, 21 and Camila, 20.

Franco said that he may open a second California restaurant in Newport Beach or Los Angeles, but for now, is focusing on San Diego.

Hard hit by the pandemic, Franco said the restaurant market is improving. “This is a very good time to open a restaurant,” he said. “You have to have a very solid concept and know exactly what to do, what to offer.”

Fisher’s Group

Founded: 1989
Managing Partner: Nino Franco
Headquarters: Mexico City
Employees: 2,500
Business: Restaurants
Website:  www.fishers-sandiego.com
Contact: 619-915-4802
Notable: The Fisher’s Group has 31 locations around the world, most in Mexico.

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