When your boss tells you to do something, you do it. When your boss is Troy Johnson, food critic and Chief Content Officer of San Diego Magazine, texting you: “I just left Tunaville. He’s doing amazing stuff. Get Tommy on the podcast,” well, you get Tommy Gomes on the Happy Half Hour podcast.
Gomes, a commercial fisherman by trade and blood, is no stranger to the airwaves and pages of SDM. He’s been a guest on the pod a few times before, and we’ve written about him glowingly because of the work he’s doing to improve San Diego’s fisheries and the shopping options for the people who eat from them.
These days, Gomes runs TunaVille, a seafood shop at Driscoll’s Wharf in San Diego Harbor that serves local, only. It opened last May. The fish is caught by residents on city boats, and is delivered 10 feet away to the storefront. “It never sees the back of a truck, our fish,” Gomes says in the episode.
Tunaville is a partnership with another fisherman and local seafood icon, Mitch Conniff of Mitch’s Seafood, and a handful of other local fishing families who have bought in. Restaurants like Herb & Wood, Solare, and Juan Jasper, for example, are clients, sourcing their treats from the sea from Gomes.
Gomes is also tinkering with different fish preparations, some of which we sample on air. He’s experimenting with dry aging tuna—traditions popular in Japan and Spain, for example—and he brought in everything from a gorgeous 15-week aged bluefin slab to mojama, a cured tuna muscle not unlike Jamón Ibérico. It can be found mainly on tables in bars in Southern Spain, and not many places else. Except for TunaVille.
While he’s doing all this, Gomes also has a top-rated show on Outdoor Channel, aptly called The Fishmonger. In it, he travels around the country telling the stories of fishing families and their plights of declining stocks, closed fisheries, tough regulations, and other woes of a struggling American industry. We talk about all of this and other issues with sustainability and greenwashing in this episode.
We also get into some news: Troy and I discussed our end-of-2023 articles detailing the best new restaurants in San Diego and dining trends we saw last year, some of which we expect to continue into next year (inflation, omakase-everything, more actually-good Italian restaurants, bakeries); cake donut wizards Sidecar Donuts will be opening a new spot on Kettner Boulevard in Little Italy; and Food Network star Lauren Lawless will be opening Ramen World, a serve-your-own spot somewhere in Mid-City.