The Fish Market’s update enhances Solana Beach restaurant

The upgraded Fish Market

By Kelley Carlson

More than 30 years after The Fish Market’s Solana Beach location opened, the management decided it was time to dive into renovations.

For a more updated look, changes were made to the interior during an eight-week process that started Memorial Day weekend and was almost completely wrapped up by the start of the Del Mar racing season.

The main idea for the project was to visually enhance the restaurant so it had a lighter feel, according to Dwight Colton, vice president of operations for Fish Market Restaurants.

With designer David Robinson and contractor Greg Jenkins on board for the project —the first major dining room renovation since the site opened in 1981 — the essence of the classic fish house theme with teak and nautical elements was kept.

A number of changes were made, including the replacement of the dark-brown cork ceiling with a lighter acoustic material to brighten the interior.

“There’s not a feeling like something is right on top of you,” Colton said.

Some tables were substituted with booths, adding a feeling of warmth, he said. There is also new fabric, in which some of the original burgundy color was maintained, but brown and lighter tones were added.

The walls are brighter, yet they continue to display black-and-white seafaring images.

There is now more etched glass, as well. Artist Jay Curtis, who provided all the previous works in The Fish Market, created additional pieces with images such as marlin and tuna that were placed on doors between the main and back dining areas, and partitions between booths.

Furthermore, the main dining room and back room are now “more incorporated” so there’s not a two-room feeling to the restaurant, Colton said.

In the back, partitions were removed and booths installed, in an effort to make the area more “flexible” for different-sized parties. Up to 50 people can be accommodated.

Finally, the private conference room was enhanced: Small tables were removed and replaced with a large, single table that can accommodate up to 14 people. The style of chairs was changed, and lighting was improved, providing a more “private, fun feel,” Colton said.

During the period of renovation, 20 percent of the restaurant was closed at a time. It was accomplished without any disruptions, as it occurred during the San Diego County Fair — typically a slow period for The Fish Market.

“We were able to accommodate everybody,” Colton said.

A soft opening to debut the look was held July 18, and so far, the response has been positive.

“The feedback has been tremendous,” Colton said. “People really like the booths and the lighter feeling.”

He noted that many guests know something has changed, but they can’t really pinpoint what it is.

“It’s different, but not dramatically different,” Colton said.

That was one of the goals.

“One of the mandates from the owners was that we don’t want to lose who we are,” Colton said. “Often, restaurants will remodel and change who they are in the process. We love who we are, and we think our guests do, as well.”

A special event to promote the new look is being planned sometime after the racing season ends on Sept. 5, according to Colton.

Similar projects could be in store for other Fish Market locations, as well. Colton said the management will see how the changes at the Solana Beach site translates to the other restaurants. One is in San Diego; the remaining four are in the Bay Area.

The local Fish Market is at 640 Via de la Valle in Solana Beach. Call (858) 755-2277 or go to