A Local Favorite Hangout

Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar have been popular landmarks in the San Clemente community since 1981. Perched atop the entrance of the pier, patrons, both locals and out-of-towners, flock here to enjoy any meal of the day or simply pop in to enjoy a tasty snack or a delectable dessert. Many of the dishes featured on the menu come directly from the ocean below the planks of the pier. But if fish is not your fancy, there’s a plethora of seafood-free options to choose from as well.

Fisherman’s is run by a tightknit group of friends who consider one another family. Robert (Bob) Novello has been the vice president for over 30 years. Troy Griffith, owner’s son and senior vice president, recently relocated his entire family to our seaside village. Valarie Daugherty keeps the operation organized and running smoothly as senior executive assistant. Mark Esparza, general manager, and Jose Montes, kitchen manager, are regularly on site, mingling with patrons or helping out in the kitchen.

“I met my wife Kathleen here,” says Novello. “All of us pride ourselves on being family. The staff here stays here because we provide opportunities for growth and promote from within. Fisherman’s is a local community with local people serving local seafood.”

In July of 2018, Vito Raspatella was brought into the fold of the Fisherman’s family. Raspatella transitioned here from the renowned Tina and Vince’s Italian Deli on Avenida Del Mar where Novello was a welcomed regular. Raspatella’s new position as executive corporate chef entails being in charge of the food for the Fisherman’s here in San Clemente, the one in Rancho Mirage, The Crab Pot in Long Beach, and Enzo’s Bistro and Bar in La Quinta.

“I love developing new items and creating different specials for the menu at all of our locations,” says Raspatella. “We implement the freshest, seasonal ingredients in all our recipes, and then I oversee they are made correctly to ensure the highest quality and consistency.”

Facing the ocean, on the right is the bar section and on the left is the dining room, with a seating total of 402. Both sides have indoor and outdoor tables available. The entire restaurant is aptly decorated in a nautical theme. Frayed nets are suspended from the borders of the ceiling; entangled in them are wood carved seabass, crabs, and starfish. The tables are imbedded with knotted sections of rope and seashells. Stained glass pieces around the bar glisten in the sunlight, depicting ships at sail. From every angle at Fisherman’s, patrons are able to eat and relax while watching the sun reflect off the waves, surfers battle for position, and children frolic in the whitewash.

The restaurant side is open from 8-11am for breakfast. The menu features delicious breakfast fare, but it’s the unique specials such as the Soft Shell Crab Benedict that are astounding. The hollandaise sauce which is drizzled over the poached eggs is made from scratch with quality ingredients. In fact, the cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and salad dressings are never poured from a bottle; all are crafted on site daily.

The Sunday brunch extends this versatile menu until 2 pm. An added incentive to eating Sunday brunch here is the piping hot assortment of freshly baked muffins and a discount on the house champagne, poured solo or into a Mimosa. So as the sun rises into the sky, sip bubbly Mimosas or Bloody Mary’s garnished with lime, olives, and pickles to kick off the most important meal of the day.

At lunchtime, patrons can take their pick of either side because the bar opens up at 11am. To gaze at the horizon during a lunchtime break, enjoying the Lettuce Wedge salad with nuggets of bleu cheese and healthy chunks of smoked bacon is sublime. Both chowders are savory and sweet and the sourdough bread is served warm and with butter. If work needs to come along with you, the WiFi is free. If your entire staff needs to escape the office, Fisherman’s is happy to accommodate by booking luncheons or special events.

As the sun begins to sink into the sea, it’s officially Happy Hour at the bar from 4-7pm, Monday through Friday. Each weekday night features a delectable $5 meal and the price of beers and cocktails are reduced.

“Our most popular drink at Happy Hour is the tropically infused Cottons,” says Novello. “It tastes great when tossing back our ‘buck a shuck’ oysters. Our oysters are shipped fresh from the east coast, and we shuck them as fast as you can eat them.”

On Monday nights at the bar, during the season, football is celebrated in a big way. For $18 per season, football fanatics can join the club, scarf free hot dogs with all the fixings, and receive a t-shirt and a mug. Seven television sets encircle the bar and broadcast the game. It’s a guaranteed statement that football is always more fantastic when celebrated en masse.

For a more subdued meal at dusk, the dining room runs their Sunset Dinner specials Monday through Friday from 4-6pm. The portions are the same size as the dinner menu but offered at a lower price. Taking advantage of the Sunset Dinners is perfect for families who have a bedtime or homework schedule to adhere to or for couples with a night out on the town planned.

To be seated on the deck of Fisherman’s as the twilight breezes trickle in and the outline of the moon is visible in a sapphire sky is an unparalleled experience. The dinner choices on the menu are vast. The Roasted Sunrise Chicken is free range with no hormones. The Filet Mignon is juicy and tender like melted butter. The Fresh Catch is determined by what fish was purchased by Novello that same morning. On the day of this interview, for example, Novello had acquired fresh ahi, salmon, seabass, mahi mahi, and albacore tuna to create daily specials from. The fish is always grilled on mesquite charcoal which gets very hot, searing the cut and locking in the moisture. Opt to create a party at your table by ordering one of the four Feasts from the menu. Or enjoy a quiet romantic dinner with your wife, husband or bestie. All entrees are served with a choice of rice pilaf or potato in many forms, and a cornucopia of seasonal, sauteed vegetables. It’s an absolute must to leave room for one of the sumptuous, handmade desserts. The towering Mudd Pie is phenomenal in both size and flavor so plan to share it and dig in!

Engaging in any meal at Fisherman’s is not just gratifying to the palate but to the heart, mind, body, and soul as well.

Sunday, October 7, 2018 is the 31st San Clemente Seafest. Here, on this date, the Chowder Cook-off takes off and Fisherman’s makes available their yearly special of 1&1/4lb.Maine lobster so come down and get your fish on!