Birthday Weekend Pt. 1: Pacific Catch on Chestnut St.

My parents wanted to take me out for my birthday, so they planned on spending the whole day with me in the city. When I was picking out a place for lunch, I remembered a friend of mine who recommended Pacific Catch on Chestnut St. She had mentioned it when I was talking about my trip to Oahu and thought that I would like their Ahi Poke Bowls.

Yup. She had me at "poke".

I told my dad about the restaurant, and...I had him at "poke", too. (The photos feature on Yelp can be such a wonderful thing.)

Pacific Catch, "Fresh Fish Grill", has 4 locations in the Bay Area. Since the original location is on Chestnut St., we thought it was best to go where it all started. The menu includes fresh salads, fish & chips style baskets, island tacos, and "pan-asian" rice bowls. While it didn't have the specialty cocktails and sushi rolls like the other locations, everything this place has to offer is fresh, bright, and mouthwatering-good. In addition to my parents, I brought my nephew Jon and invited my aunt, uncle, and cousin to join us. San Francisco had more blue-sky weather that Saturday, so it turned out to be a fun, relaxing afternoon with family.   

My Dad & Uncle Elvis
Before we even got to the restaurant, we all parked along Fillmore St., and right on the corner of Fillmore & Bay is Marina Middle School. I mentioned before that my dad attended this school and the nearby Galileo High, so I just had to get a photo of him and my Auntie Mel's husband while we were passing by. They've actually been best friends since middle school.

"We were good here," my uncle laughed, "It was in high school when we started to cut class."

My dad and uncle kept pointing out all of the tennis courts that they would hang out at. Helen Wills Park on the corner of Larkin & Broadway, Moscone Rec Center on the corner of Chestnut & Laguna...Every story started out with, "See, when we would cut class, we would go here..."

When we finally got to the restaurant, the wait for a table was about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (45 minutes, if we were willing to split up). Pacific Catch is cozy, like really cozy, with only counter seating next to the open kitchen and a few two-toppers that can be pushed together to accommodate different party sizes. So, this wait time was actually pretty understandable.

Not wanting to waste a perfectly sunny afternoon, we decided to walk around Chestnut while we waited. We came across these adorable, yet huge and slobbery Newfoundlands outside of Super Duper Burgers. Yes, I whipped out the iPhone for a photo session on the fly...but I wasn't the only one! By the time I finished fawning over these guys, the restaurant called to say that a table for our party of 7 opened up unexpectedly. A 1-hour wait suddenly turned into 15 minutes! Happy birthday to me.

Our group was seated next to the window, where my parents, nephew and I were able to squeeze onto the bench and my aunt, uncle and cousin each got chairs. The space we had wasn't bad at all. The restaurant's atmosphere is very casual, yet it has an energetic buzz to it. Our waitress was so friendly and answered all of our questions about the menu with ease.

I started out with one of the specials, the Scallop & Mango Poke (Mango? Yes, please!), and a glass of their Lemongrass-Ginger Infused Iced Tea. They even had Thai Iced Tea and Sparkling Lemonade! The poke, though, was really more like a ceviche. It had citrus juices, fresh cilantro, black sesame seeds, and a sprinkling of a house seasoning blend. Aside from the labeling snafu, there was nothing to dislike about this dish. The natural sweetness of the scallops paired well with the ripe mangoes, and the citrus and red onion gave everything just enough kick to wake up the palate.

In a rather ironic turn of events, I had the Seared Ahi Japanese Wasabi Bowl. I know, I know. The Hawaiian poke is what brought me here, but I couldn't help myself when I saw this on the menu. (I promise, poke, I'll come back for you.) A generous portion of rice is covered with pickled ginger, avocado slices, wakame salad, daikon salad, sprouts, sesame seeds, and shredded nori. Oh yeah, then the soy-wasabi sauce and seared ahi. The tuna had some of that house seasoning blend, and it gave the fish a nice, smoky char. The soy-wasabi sauce was my second-favorite part of the bowl.

Next to me, my mom had the Grilled Salmon Hawaiian Teriyaki Bowl, and I definitely picked off of her plate a few times. For this bowl, the rice comes with grilled pineapple, crispy fried onion, scallions, sesame seeds, and a vegetable mix of shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and carrots. The teriyaki sauce was a nice blend of sweet and tangy, which was perfect with the grilled pineapple and the fatty salmon.

My dad, who also managed to completely forget about the poke, had a Three Taco Platter with Sweet Potato Fries and a Kona Longboard Lager to wash it all down. (I love that Pacific Catch serves beers from Kona Brewing Co. and Maui Brewing Company.) For his three tacos, he had the spice-rubbed mahi mahi with avocado-tomatillo salsa and lime crema, the bbq glazed salmon with avocado and pico de gallo, and the cabo shrimp with jalapeno tartar. Another nice touch was the faux-newspapers used for tacos and sandwiches!

My aunt had the Vietnamese Steak Sandwich, which was similar to banh mi, and my cousin had the Spicy Ahi Sandwich with grilled rare ahi and chipotle aioli. I didn't get to try these ones, but everybody had clean plates and bowls at the end of their meals. We all enjoyed the food and were completely stuffed...

...But, of course, I still had to order dessert. The dessert menu is a bit limited, but they all seemed like good choices: Mochi Fondue, Double Rainbow Ice Cream, and Fried Dulce De Leche Spring Rolls. After I asked our waitress about the spring rolls, she said that it's basically dulce de leche cheesecake wrapped up and fried. Oh, fried cheesecake? I could never say no to that.

Creamy dulce de leche cheesecake, crispy spring roll, rich caramel sauce, and vanilla bean ice cream... Yes, yes, yes, and yes. I was supposed to share this plate...but that didn't happen. If you come to Pacific Catch and save room for dessert, I would definitely recommend getting these spring rolls.

As I mentioned before, we brought Jon with us. Yelp might say this place isn't good for kids, but we had no problems with my 5-year-old nephew. The kids' menu had plenty of simple meals that most picky eaters would be happy with, and his drink came out in a trusty, non-shattering plastic cup. Our waitress was even happy to bring him a bowl of wonton crisps when he kept asking for chips!

He had just as good of a time as the rest of us! :) I really enjoyed lunch with my family at Pacific Catch, and I'm happy to add it to my list of favorite Chestnut St. restaurants.

After lunch, we walked around some more. The Marina District has a lot of cafes, gastropubs, and shops, so it's an ideal place to explore. Jon had some gelato from Tuttimelon, my dad and uncle got coffee from Peet's, and I passed through SusieCakes. SusieCakes touts itself as an "All-American" bakery selling classic desserts made from scratch. Frosting-filled cupcakes, "sweetie pies", and layer cakes are just some of the sweet confections offered. If you're ever in this neighborhood, you'll have a lot of fun spending an afternoon here.

Upper-left: My cousin Miko and a JonJon photobomb; Lower-right: Dear ol' Dad
To end the afternoon, we all walked over to the Marina Green. On clear days like this, there are nothing but picturesque views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Angel Island. (Sing it with me, Journey fans... "When the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the baaay...")

My Uncle Romy and Auntie Cathy, who attended the Pacific Orchid Exposition at Fort Mason, were meeting up with us for dinner, so this was a perfect place to sit back and relax while we were waiting. And, for more on that dinner, stay tuned for Birthday Weekend Pt. 2! :)