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Radio Host Chris Cantore & Chef Tyler Mars Launch New Pop-Up

Needlefish is the duo’s omakase-and-vinyl project, 25 years in the making
Needlefish Omakase sushi pop-up restaurant and vinyl-listening experience in San Diego from Chris Cantore and Tyler Mars
Courtesy of Needlefish

Sometimes, it’s the most fun to chop it up with friends. And when your friends include legendary sushi chefs and top DJs, all the better. This week we brought to Happy Half Hour Chris Cantore, a former voice across San Diego’s radio airwaves, and his long-time buddy, North County sushi chef Tyler Mars. Troy goes way back with the duo, having been both a music and food journalist during his career.

The pair just launched Needlefish, an omakase and record-spinning pop-up that they plan to take around San Diego, and hope to one day make a brick-and-mortar location. In fact, they held their first event for SDM staff just a few weeks ago to rave reviews.

The idea is simple: fresh fish and good tunes, vinyl-only. Cantore says he likes to bring back the classics, like 90’s hip-hop, punk, and stoner rock like Queens of the Stone Age. Tyler pairs that with his own sliced fish creations, served on warm vinegared rice and usually in combination with other condiments and ingredients you haven’t experienced eating sushi before (think thin-sliced prime rib eye and chimichurri, for a non-fish example). 

Illustration of Needlefish omakase sushi food pop-up from San Diego featuring Chris Cantore holding a vinyl record and Tyler Mars next to a surfboard
Courtesy of Needlefish

Though Needlefish is new, the duo’s idea is not. They both wanted to open up a spot together 25 years ago. But they were scared, and life happened. So did kids, and marriages, and careers, and the transitions of said careers, and Mars’ eventual cancer diagnosis. The latter came in 2021 but Mars is now in remission. 

“It’s really because of what happened to Tyler that we finally had the courage to pull the trigger on this,” Cantore says. “We realized that life is short, and you don’t know how much time you have left. You have to do what you love to do, and this is what we love to do.”

Stay tuned to our pages to find out more about where these guys will be popping up and when. Follow them on @needlefishco on Instagram for the latest updates.

We also chat other food news around town including our Best Restaurants issue! Mission Hills’ jewel Wolf in the Woods took home the top prize of Best Restaurant, while North County brunch temple Atelier Manna won Best New Restaurant. Check out all the other critics’ and readers’ picks here.

Basic Pizza is also closing its doors, which opened in 2006, when Petco Park was just two years old. It’s moving to the other side of the park, though, so fret not (and, also, it’s the same owner as all the URBN restaurants with similar menus). And, finally, beloved LA Japanese chain Katsuya is coming to UTC with Katsuya Ko, which offers more of an izakaya-style menu geared towards younger consumers.

By Jackie Bryant

Jackie is San Diego Magazine's content strategist. Prior to that, she was its managing editor. Before her SDM career, she was a long-time freelance journalist covering cannabis, food/restaurants, travel, labor, wine, spirits, arts & culture, design, and other topics. Her work has been selected twice for Best American Travel Writing, and she has won a variety of national and local awards for her writing and reporting.

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