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The Coast News

The one-of-a-kind Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle

David Boylan

Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle on the Shelter Island Pier. Photo Courtesy Fathom

On occasion I come across a restaurant that is so unique and reflective of it’s owner that it’s story must be told, even if it’s a bit of a drive for North County folks. Trust me on this one, it’s worth the drive and really, Point Loma is not that far.

There are four very compelling storylines here, the location, the proprietor, the food, and the atmosphere/soundtrack.

First off, I can’t say as I’ve ever heard of a bistro combined with a bait and tackle shop but it makes perfect sense having them side by side with Fathom’s location on the Shelter Island pier. Which brings me to the spectacular location portion of the story. Fathom sits on a pier on the San Diego Bay that has incredible views of downtown San Diego plus all types of commercial, military ships and pleasure craft cruising by and a great assortment of humanity fishing and hanging out on the pier. Sure, there are restaurants on piers all over, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been to one that has such a cool vibe. It has a great mix of salty dog fisherman, hipster chic, and foodie flair. Any of those elements on their own (except for the salty dog portion) would probably have me running in the opposite direction but together they give Fathom it’s eclectic, charming identity. Just trust me on this one, it works and you will find yourself lingering long after your meal as a result.

Owner Dennis Borlek grew up in the area and his dad was a submariner in the Navy. He was fishing, diving, and working on boats at an early age so the ocean has been a part of his life going way back. His wide-ranging taste in music was shaped working at a record store that he likened to being very similar to the one in High Fidelity, a movie he knows way to much about and that we both count on our top 5 movies of all time. Note the subtle reference to the movie there. His first career was as a nurse here in San Diego but he always found himself moonlighting at a bar as the craft beer movement was taking shape. While managing Hamilton’s, a popular South Park restaurant and watering hole, his vision for a place of his own started to take shape. The location on the pier was available and Dennis was able to sneak his vision in for the space via a proposal at the last minute. Much to his surprise, he was selected and Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle was born. That was over a year ago and since then, every other chef I’ve interviewed for my show on KPRi has mentioned Fathom as one of their favorites and that’s all the validation I need for a place.

They could be serving gruel at Fathom and I’d probably be happy, but lucky for all of us, Dennis has good taste in what he offers up as well. He makes his sausage in-house and has a nice mix including a Bierwurst with a choice of grilled onions or braised red cabbage on an Amoroso roll, a spicy Italian with Provolone and red sauce, and a Chicken-Basil with sun dried tomatoes. I had the Bierwurst and loved it. Dennis will call Fathom a glorified hot dog joint, which is very modest of him as it is much more, but he does offer up some quality Vienna Beef dogs as well.

The sandwich offerings include the monster Fathom Burger and a nice looking Kimchi Pulled Pork Sandwich with slow cooked pork topped with their house made Kimchi.

It’s not all about sausage, dogs and pork sandwiches though. He does have a wedge salad and Chicken Lumpia thrown in just to make things interesting. Sunday brunch looks amazing with house made Beignets, Drunken Fruit Salad…which you must be 21 to order, seriously. Plus a couple of classic Hawaiian dishes including scrambled eggs with white rice and Spam and the Loco Moco with a mound of sushi rice and a burger patty topped with scrambled eggs and your choice of beef gravy, Japanese curry gravy or their Kimchee sauce. Are you kidding me? I am so going down there some Sunday morning for that. And let’s not forget the Italian sausage biscuits and gravy.

I’ll wrap this up going back to the fact that Dennis did a stint in a record store and developed a deep appreciation for music of all genres. His mix at Fathom reflects that with Burt Bacharach followed by New Order followed by Frank Sinatra then The Who. It’s not your typical digital smooth jazz background music and for that Dennis I thank you. Actually, I’d like to thank you for opening the first restaurant I’ve ever been to that is as close to what I’d do with my own place as I’ve encountered.

If you have not been, make it a point to venture down. Details and location at

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