Nothing Fishy About This Restaurant’s Success
Tin Fish Being Called a Downtown Gold Mine
By RENE BEASLEY JONES
Location, location, location.
The Tin Fish knows it’s all about location.
The tiny award-winning restaurant known for its fish tacos and crab cakes sits at the foot of the new Omni San Diego Hotel. It’s on the Gaslamp Quarter’s doorstep, across Harbor Drive from the Convention Center, a few feet from one of the city’s major trolley stops, and around the corner from Petco Park.
But the latter really put the Tin Fish on the map. Since the baseball park opened in early April, the restaurant’s sales have almost quadrupled, said General Manager Derrick Osborne.
On game nights, the line of patrons stretches outside the restaurant often to a water fountain on the plaza in front of the Tin Fish. All 25 seats inside and 300 outside are full. When no tables remain, some eager-to-eat folks plop down on the ground.
“When that line gets to the fountain and it’s nonstop for three hours, I’m like: ‘Thank you, Jesus,'” Osborne said.
The Tin Fish a nickname for torpedoes during World War II — was open nearly three years before the Padres played their first game at Petco Park. The Convention Center drew a healthy lunch crowd, and some Gaslamp visitors meandered down Fifth Avenue as far as the Tin Fish. But this part of the historic district failed to draw foot traffic from the Broadway area.
Except for Fridays and Saturdays, the restaurant folded up at 3 p.m. It still does on non-game days.
Osborne estimates the restaurant serves between 500 and 700 meals on days when the Padres play. That compares to 300 on non-game days.
The most popular meal for the ballpark crowd: Fish and chips and fish tacos. And the restaurant’s cheaper draft beer is a big hit. The Tin Fish sells a 16-ounce draft for $4, as compared to $6.50 in Petco Park.
Business is so good that the restaurant, which has doubled its outside seating area once since the ballpark opened, applied with the city to expand its courtyard again. Osborne hopes the permit will be approved in two to four weeks.
“It’s a gold mine,” Rachel McIntyre, a security guard with the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, said of the Tin Fish.
McIntyre has worked at the trolley stop at the end of Fifth Avenue for two years. She’s watched the sleepy little restaurant spring to life in the past few months as Padres fans as many as 15,000 a game, McIntyre said — hop on and off the trolley only seconds from the Tin Fish door.
Jenifer and Doug DeSouza of San Diego hold tickets to 12 Padres games this season. They’ve been exploring restaurants in the Gaslamp area. The Tin Fish is Jenifer’s pick so far.
The DeSouzas park in the Convention Center’s garage. The Tin Fish is the first restaurant they come to before heading into Petco Park. It’s convenient, the food is great, and the price is right, Doug said.
“All we need now is for the Padres to start scoring some runs,” he said before a recent game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.