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Fish began as a trip to a bait and tackle shop called "Caruso's" back in 2002.  I had been tasked with getting frozen bait, my one requirement for being taken out and taught how to fish for our local salmon.  Although a Bay Area native, I hadn't spent much (ok, none) time on the Bay or in Sausalito, but had recently moved to the town.  Caruso's, I found out, was founded by Tony Caruso in 1955-ish, not long after Cliff Pedersen had purchased the land from the WWII war effort, which we now know as Clipper Yacht Harbor.  Tony passed away, leaving the business to his partner Sid McMullen, which in turn Sid finally sold or gave the business to a young deckhand. All of this transpired between roughly 1955 and 1977.

By the time I wandered into Caruso's, the owner had been there 25 years.  It was magical - a large building with a small cafe, a fish market, bait & tackle, provisions (beer), really bad coffee, charter boat booking, and the famous Liar's Table toward the back.  This table, of course, is where members of the fishing community gather to tell tales, some true, some not.  I bought bait and went on my way, but returned the next day to see this again.

I ordered a swordfish sandwich, ordered a Lagunitas IPA on tap, then wandered outside to the lower deck.  It was a perfect day, in every way - weather, beer temperature, and the sandwich (this was loooong before I was informed swordfish is a not a fish we a supposed to be eating) was incredible.  Even if it wasn't, the setting made for the perfect moment.

About ten minutes into my happiness, the obvious hit me.  I was the only one there.  This, well, flummoxed me.  Or confused.  At the least, surprised me.  I wandered back in to the counter, and asked the man behind the counter, "Where is everyone?".  He replied, to the best of my bad and probably highly selective memory, "Dunno. I'm the owner.  Wanna buy it?".  A long story short, he'd been there 25 years, and that amount of time in one business is enough for any person.  I got it.  The fact that a waterfront cafe didn't have a full patio baffled me, and was probably the reason the conversation led to negotiations.  I'm going to skip over the process and time it took to finally say yes, but it took a lot of time and help from others.

I confess up front that I am not a career restaurant person.  My love for the space stemmed from going fishing in Santa Cruz with my dad of the main pier.  I was pretty young at that point, but there is nothing better at that point than wandering in front of the fresh fish market (Stagnaro's), then plopping down with a cup of red chowder and oyster crackers at the end of that pier.  Sometimes we'd catch fish, sometimes we'd get skunked.  It didn't matter, being that close to the ocean, the sights and smells, made for a long lasting and cherished memory of my dad.

So this became the core tenant for the new business, a place to come to and enjoy the moment.  The menu seemed obvious, it had to be seafood. I spent the better part of a year visiting the seafood institutions of the Bay Area - Swan Oyster Depot (of course), Tadich Grill, the Old Clam House, and many more.  The goal was to develop a view of what had historically been San Francisco seafood, and then try to improve on it.  Fisherman's Wharf was full of restaurants that offered nearly identical menus, such as a crab cocktail, cioppino, a louie salad, and sole Meunière.  These all seemed a bit tired to me, and I wanted a menu that would float above the rest.  

Wanting to stay as West Coast as possible, we borrowed from the highly successful Pearl in NYC, remaking her (Rebecca Charles) lobster roll into a dungeness crab roll.  Not wanting to offer a Manhattan red chowder, we created a fictional Portugeuse red, based on the Portuguese historical influence on Sausalito and the local fishing community.  A fish taco seemed obvious, but really wanted to avoid the fried Baja taco, so we went with grilled over wood.  

Many trips to the Marshall Store made me fall in love with BBQ oysters, with Tomales Bay laying claim to the origin of this dish. A random introduction to the Saigon Sandwich shop in SF (on Larkin Ave, still wonderful) gave me the seeds for a local King Salmon bahn mi, the Saigon Salmon Sandwich. 

My love for Italy brought the tuna bean salad to the menu, with poached whole local albacore.  The Glad Hand salad has a spot, a Sausalito recipe lost to time and history, yet a reminder of the artist community that defined the city in decades past.  Grilled fish over greens, especially a caesar salad, seemed mandatory.  Linguine with clams was yet another obvious choice, although somewhat complicated by the decision to make our own egg pasta.  Fish and Chips, complete with a pint of Guinness, seemed unavoidable.  

This formed the foundation of the menu, with addition of the Specials chalkboard, a place to test new recipes and get creative.

The other requirement for the new business was to bring the sense of casual dining I had seen in Italy, dining outdoors at wood tables and eating rustic food with stemless glassware to enjoy wine.  This style of dining seemed to always lead to happy moments. At this point, being both kid and dog friendly didn't seem like a choice - they define family.  Thinly disguised as the Italian wood table, the traditional American picnic table and classic Ball jars became the look of Fish.

Thanks to the unwavering commitment to sustainability from my partner Kenny Belov, Fish. became the first restaurant to reach out to and partner with the Seafood Watch program, part of the Packard Foundation and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  The program exists to provide consumers and chefs alike the information to buy seafood that isn't at risk of collapse or permanent extinction.  While it limits the amount and type of fish offered on our menu, it doesn't seem like a choice to only offer seafood that can be shared with generations to come.  

This relationship led us to develop our own trout farm and fish feed, still the only farm in the world to not use animal products in the diet.  (A gratuitous plug for that is at  This led us to opening our own seafood company, "TwoXSea", built to only sell seafood that is honestly a renewable resource.  (

So what is Fish, you ask?  

It's a place to gather with friends and family.  It's a place to not feel rushed, to eat good food and share stories.  It is a reflection of myself, my partner, and the members of our family and their children that have grown up with us.  It's a communal table, and a spot for happy memories.

To be continued!