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Nico’s Fish Market Docks in Pacific Beach This Summer

The popular pop-up is getting a permanent location taking over the former La Perla Cocina Mexicana
Nico's Fish Market
Courtesy of Nico's Fish Market

“I’ve been fishing and surfing since I was really young. I just love the water,” says Nico Gibbons, San Diego native and owner/operator of soon-to-open Nico’s Fish Market. “The ocean was always part of my life… [and] I love everything about San Diego.”

Gibbons has been in the local fish business since he was a teenager, first working as a busboy at El Pescador Fish Market in La Jolla before eventually moving up to fishmonger. It was there that he realized he’d found what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“This is my dream—to open up my own fish market restaurant,” he says. After attending business and film school at UCLA, all the while coming back for shifts at El Pescador on school breaks and holidays, Gibbons departed for Mexico City to work under the acclaimed seafood Chef Federico Rigoletti (Contramar, Puntarena, Primos) and eventually moved back stateside to work at Hawaiian Fresh Seafood. 

There, “I got to know the supplier side,” he explains, working with restaurants to get a sense of what it would take to open his own. He always had an eye out for a possible location, but when he couldn’t find the right fit, he decided to launch a pop-up business in early 2022 to cultivate a following as he continued his search.

Nico’s Fish Market started doing pop-ups at local bars, restaurants, cafes, and other locations. “Slowly but surely, the word of mouth kind of just started spreading,” he says. “We always had the regular locals coming over for their fish fix on the weekend, and people being stoked about the food and such.” After a sold-out pop-up at Wayfarer Bread & Pastry in Bird Rock, he knew he had to find a brick-and-mortar to meet demand.

Fate works in strange ways sometimes. Gibbons lives in Pacific Beach, and would walk his dog past La Perla Cocina Mexicana on Emerald Street all the time, often stopping for a bean and cheese burrito and quick chat with the owner. When La Perla closed, Gibbons’ relationship with the owner meant he was able to sign a lease right away.

“Now, it’s like having Nico’s Fish Market right in Pacific Beach half a block from the water,” he laughs. “We really struck gold with it.”

He estimates they’ll open at 745 Emerald Street in late summer as both a restaurant and fish market over 1,500-square-feet and indoor/outdoor dining. He envisions it running like a “1950s dish market deli,” where customers can place orders to eat onsite as well as fresh cuts of fish to take away from the same counter.

The menu will be similar to the pop-ups, with favorites like ahi tuna poke bowls, local catch burritos, their signature habanero-guava-carrot hot sauce, and fresh oysters, but Gibbons says he plans to add some soups, salads, and sandwiches as well. But he stresses that it’s “transparency, quality, and freshness” that sets him apart from other seafood vendors. “Everything is cut to order. What you see in the fish case is what you are going to eat that day… no shortcuts.”

Courtesy of Aldea

San Diego Restaurant News & Food Events

Julian Beer Company & Cyclops Farms Launch Seasonal Dinner 

On March 16, Cyclops Farms and Julian Beer Company will team up for a “collaborative, seasonal dinner” at the farm’s property in Fallbrook starting at 5 pm. Tickets to this rain-or-shine, 18+ event are $100, and guests are encouraged to bring their own wine to pair with a yet-to-be-announced multi-course menu spearheaded by Vince Marsaglia (Pizza Port, Port Brewing, The Lost Abbey) and Mike Aubuchon (Pizza Port, Heritage Barbecue).

Launched in 2014 in Oceanside, Cyclops Farm moved operations to four acres in Fallbrook in 2020 and now hosts monthly collaborative farm dinners with guest chefs. Their focus is to serve seasonal dishes made with local ingredients from their farm, as well as nearby farms, and the menu tends to be a surprise based on ingredient availability and chef vision.

“I don’t really require the chefs to tell me what they’re going to cook,” laughs Luke Girling, owner of Cyclops. “They come and do their thing.” He says guests can expect around five courses related to an Irish and St. Patrick’s Day theme, with an unfussy vibe. “It’s a big awesome part, not too fancy… it’s like ‘bring your wine if you like wine, go get your keg beer, and don’t miss some courses, because we’re flying.’”

Marsaglia opened Julian Beer Company in 2018, after renovating the space and adding a brewhouse to brew craft beer onsite. Their menu ranges from pizza to barbecue and hosts an impressive tap list of local craft beers, cider, and some NA options as well.

Aldea Opens This Week in La Jolla

Aldea, which means “village” in Spanish, will open this Thursday, February 22 at 1251 Prospect Street in La Jolla. Founder Steve Horowitz, a native of La Jolla, brought on chefs Alex Reznick and John Villalba to create the California-Mexican menu featuring plenty of seafood, like locally-caught red snapper, mahi-mahi, fresh ceviche, and more, as well as meat dishes like pork belly, ribeye, short rib, and a robust cocktail menu. Guests may recognize Reznick from shows like Top Chef and Beat Bobby Flay, and Villalba from New York City icon Tavern on the Green. 

The 3,200-square-foot space will be open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sundays 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., with brunch hours starting March 9.

Beth’s Bites

Puffer Malarkey Collective’s forthcoming Le Coq will open in La Jolla this spring, but with la poule heading up the kitchen. Tara Monsod, executive chef at Animae and semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: California 2024 award, has been named executive chef for the French-inspired steakhouse in addition to her position at Animae. Get it, queen, get it!

More burgers are a’coming—Encinitas-based Eat Crispy Burger is planning on opening new locations across San Diego throughout 2024, including Convoy District, Oceanside, Downtown, and Eastlake. I haven’t had a burger with a crunch yet, but I’m always down to try something new.   

More coffee, too. The Living Room Coffeehouse has been a San Diego coffee and live music institution since 1991, and just opened a new location on 2512 Jamacha Road in Rancho San Diego. 

Even more coffee. Achilles Coffee is opening this year in Carmel Valley, their second spot in North County and fifth overall. I haven’t tried their “real New York bagels” yet—can anyone confirm the realness? [email protected].

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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