It’s been a successful 20 years for The Fishery, founded with a firsthand love of the ocean’s diverse bounty

By Wendy Lemlin  |  PhotoGraphy by Eric Wolfinger
Executive Chef Paul Arias
Executive Chef Paul Arias

The décor is casually unpretentious. The quality of the fresh seafood- and produce-driven cuisine is sublime. The bill of fare runs the gamut from the familiar—think Fish & Chips or Shrimp Tacos—to such creative entrées as Marinated Albacore Belly with quinoa, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate, mint, parsley and mulled wine reduction. In a time when restaurants seem to come and go before the ink on their menus is even dry, The Fishery has thrived in North Pacific Beach for 20 years.

The first thing you notice when you enter The Fishery is the retail fish market occupying a prominent part of the restaurant—a preview of coming attractions, dinner-wise, but also a crucial link to the restaurant’s history.


Judd Brown, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Mary Anne, is a fourth-generation La Jollan who grew up sport fishing. This led to a 10-year commercial fishing career, and in 1980, he founded Pacific Shellfish, Inc.—which, to this day, is a leading local seafood purveyor and distributor, and the parent company of The Fishery. The move to—and renovation of—the upscale warehouse on Cass Street began in 1996, and in early 1998, The Fishery opened its doors—one element in the three-component, vertically integrated business including wholesale distribution, retail fish market, and the restaurant.

As Mary Anne Brown explains, “This provided us with the opportunity to combine our diverse backgrounds to broaden the seafood experience—from seafood education to cooking, and ultimately allowed us to elevate the dining experience for the community with an ocean-to-table menu under the helm of Executive Chef Paul Arias.”

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The Brown Family Austen, Annemarie,  Mary Anne and Judd
The Brown Family Austen, Annemarie, Mary Anne and Judd

Arias’s playful culinary style has been a perfect fit for the kitchen. The sophistication of the flavor profiles of each dish is impeccable and always enhances without overwhelming the seasonal, wild-caught seafood—each plate’s star attraction, and the only protein served in the restaurant. Several years ago, he created Tuesday Tastings, a four-course thematic prix fixe dinner for around $40 per person, and the weekly events continue to be extremely popular.

“Our direct fishing connections have been crucial to our success, and housing everything under one roof in a building we own has been highly instrumental in our longevity,” Brown notes.

And the next 20 years? “Judd and I are so fortunate to be able to someday hand the businesses down to our son, Austen, and daughter, Annemarie, both of whom are pursuing their own strengths within the company,” Brown shares. “Austen, too, was a fisherman, and now is very involved in the wholesale side—what I call the ‘back of the house’—while Annemarie is The Fishery’s General Manager and wine buyer. She enjoys pairing wine and seafood, and through her extensive travels has expanded the wine list to include wines from small vintners worldwide. She is currently in the process of earning her first-level Sommelier certificate. All in all, we see a bright future continuing for The Fishery and Pacific Shellfish, Inc.”

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5040 Cass Street, San Diego 858.272.9985 thefishery.com