I must admit to being somewhat spoiled when it comes to eating out. As a military brat I grew up in the heart of Europe and became accustomed at an early age to what authentic foods should taste like, from hearty German fare to Italian and even plain but discerning fish and chips. As adult I've lived in several regions of the United States which has only served to heighten that level of expectation to the point of simply not eating some foods unless I happen to be in the part of the country where the dish first came from. Lobster in Boston, Cuban in Florida, Tex-Mex in Texas and deep dish pizza in Chicago come readily to mind. I'm just happy barbecue is pretty much unique all across the country!
Obviously the good thing about this strategy is being reasonably guaranteed that an authentic dish won't be "regionalized" according to local preferences for more or less spice or whatever. The downside, though, can sometimes have those reasonable expectations disappointed just as easily for whatever reason, too much hype or just a bad day in the kitchen.
My boss and I had recently wrapped up a very successful trip together to California, doing meet-and-greets at several office locations around Southern California. While casting around for a place to dine that evening it was decided that Anthony's Fish Grotto would be a nice, per diem friendly place to mark all of our hard work. Well situated on the waterfront overlooking Coronado with central downtown just behind, Anthony's is one of the more popular restaurants in San Diego, having drawn a faithful following for over 60 years.
Boss-Lady and I felt that these people must know good seafood and what better city than to experience it than San Diego where a nice mix of traditional mixed with Baja offerings might be in the cards. Boss-Lady also happens to be of fisherman stock in Florida so she is finely attuned to what acceptable seafood is and is not. Both of us were in a forgiving week regarding our seating as the prior week had been taxing in itself. At the height of the dinner rush and with no reservations we took the offered side table along the main corridor instead of waiting an hour for a table by the window.
While we accepted lower-tier seating we were not impressed with the rushed service from our waitress. No time to smile it was the kind of service that stopped long enough to take drink orders on the way to doing something else. The drinks were brought along with more hurry-it-up attitude as we placed our dinner orders from the lengthy but surprisingly uninspired menu.
We would have done better with fish tacos from Wahoo's, a local fast food chain famous for these Baja treats from right near the border. The cod was unremarkable, the calamari appetizer ordinary and the king crab cold and tough. At least the drawn butter was hot and golden.
San Diego is a delightful city and we both allowed that tonight must simply have been an off night. Neither of us live there, however, so a repeat visit to San Diego might be in the cards but turning up at one of Anthony's competitors seems a guarantee.