While having lunch with a San Diegan friend of mine recently, I was told that downtown Oceanside has been getting a face-lift of late with new restaurants and businesses sprouting out of nowhere. So when I drove down to have lunch with a friend of mine who lives nearby, I made sure to be mindful of this fact. Traversing through downtown Oceanside, the abandoned storefronts still exist, but once I turned on to Mission Avenue, things started to look different.
Therefore, when I arrived at Hello Betty Fish House and saw this beautiful restaurant sitting at the edge of the street just steps away from the beach, I was utterly blown away. This is exactly what Oceanside needed, a beautiful restaurant with an even better view!
This modern seafood shack reminds me of Connie & Ted’s in LA, except this eatery actually has an ocean view. I would call the ambiance nautical shabby chic — with heavy rope as part of its decor, as dividers, as part of the banquette new, but with the illusion of vintage. I love the use of heavy rope almost everywhere, including the cushions and also, interspersed into wooden planks dangling from the ceiling. If you’re not sitting facing the water, no problem! You will see its reflection off the mirrors aligned against the wall.
When gals get together, there will always be cocktails involved, especially since we haven’t seen each other in almost a year. Our selection included: She’s A Betty ($8) on draft, Mt Gay Black Barrel, Cruzan Blackstrap, pineapple, lemon, tea syrup, Kraken float; El Toro ($9) Cazadores Silver, Licor 43, raspberry, cilantro, jalapeno, lime; Beach Break Therapy ($8) Hangar 1, kaffir lime, Sugar Island coconut rum, pineapple, lime, bitters. We agreed, the El Toro was definitely our favorite followed by She’s A Betty.
The first thing I popped into my mouth was raw Littleneck Clams ($10/6pcs), filled with that umami taste I love so much. Served with a jalapeno mignonette and cocktail sauce, the former was definitely the favorite dressing between the two.
Hamachi Crudo ($14) was possibly the favorite dish of our meal. Generous slices of hamachi is topped with wasabi caviar, sliced red jalapeno chile, crispy shallots, radishes, cilantro and drizzled with a delicious citrus soy. The salty tart flavors were so addicting we were fighting for the last piece.
I love salmon rillettes and the Smoked Fish Spread ($9) is exactly that! Served with crackers and toast points, the salmon is nicely textured and seasoned well.
Another favorite item was Steamed Mussels ($14), so fresh and tender with bits of salty chorizo giving it an extra oompf. Tomato, chilis and garlic, together with Dos Equis amber combine together for the tastiest broth ever.
We were rather intrigued by the thought of Fried Avocado Taco ($4.50) and were told it was half an avocado, battered and fried. It was a generous portion and texturally it was great, but needed just a touch more salt. Served on corn tortillas made fresh daily, it is an ample portion to share or just on your own. Vegetarians will revel in this!
Our server Rachel recommended the Smoked Pork Belly Carnitas Taco ($5) and I’m glad she did because it was really delicious. For pork belly, it wasn’t fatty at all, well-rendered through and then finished off on the flattop for that bit of crispiness on the edges. Topped in the traditional style with onions and cilantro with a side of guacamole, I wanted something spicy, perhaps a side of salsa, to go with it.
I saw the loco moco burger on the menu and asked why they didn’t have it the traditional way. Luckily I asked because they did and I had my Loco Moco ($13.75) over a bed of rice. The one here is fantastic because not only do you get the hamburger pattie, but you also get a slice of spam with an onion gravy slathered on top PLUS a runny fried egg. My son loved it and proclaimed it pretty close to the ones he used to eat as a child in Hawaii.
When I saw Whole Fried Fish ($25) I was really excited because a lot of restaurants have been serving fish whole lately. However, here, they fillet and chunk out the red snapper, coat it with a corn meal crust before frying to perfection. The fish is moist inside and crunchy outside. They also fry the fish carcass and serve it alongside the fish nuggets. I would have preferred the fish served whole, but I get how that might freak some people out. The salsa verde and chipotle tartar were great dipping options although I loved the salsa just a little bit more.
You also get a plate of red rice and beans with the fish — big portion — which was tasty, especially the rice.
If you still have room after your meal, I highly recommend ending with the Horchata Sundae ($5.50). I am a huge sucker for ice cream and this one is fabulous. Creamy horchata ice cream is scooped over hot fudge and caramel sauce — a little too much for me — with bits of caramel krispies, fresh cream and topped with a crispy Mexican buñelo triangle. I couldn’t stop eating it but had to stop and give in! It was a very big bowl of ice cream goodness.
If you’re ever in Oceanside, stop in and grab a bite! It’s a beautiful restaurant to stop into especially on a beautiful day!
Hello Betty Fish House
211 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92054