In 1976, a sport fisherman, business partner, boat captain and gourmet chef joined forces to open The Fish Market. Not one of them had notable experience in the restaurant business, but their individual and collective passion for seafood was deep enough to drive them toward their vision:
A lively, welcoming restaurant serving the freshest seafood,
prepared to perfection, at an honest price.
Fred Duckett and Robert Wilson partnered in 1964 to form Duckett-Wilson Development Company. Duckett had been an avid fisherman his entire life and began floating the idea of opening a seafood restaurant. With Wilson–also a seafood fanatic–immediately onboard, the first two founders reeled in John Freis, captain of Duckett’s boat, and Dean Betts, their culinary-skilled colleague. That made four founders, and a dream team of seafood people on a mission to create a unique dining experience around freshness, simplicity and quality.
ANCHORING IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Fish Market first opened in Palo Alto, down the street from Stanford University, in 1976. What was previously an old pancake house quickly became a seafood sensation, and in 1979, the group opened the second Fish Market in Santa Clara. The new restaurant kept the same recipe for success, with a larger space and the debut of Santa Clara’s first oyster bar. Just like the Palo Alto location, the Santa Clara Fish Market became an instant favorite that led to additional openings (San Mateo in 1982, and San Jose in 1997).
EXPANDING DOWN TO SOCAL
The Fish Market founders all lived in Southern California, even as their restaurants were thriving in Northern California. So, they brought the concept closer to home, opening a third location across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Race Track in Solana Beach in 1981. That, too, was a hit – and one that set the stage for big things to follow. In 1989, The Fish Market came to Downtown San Diego, bringing its now-famed seafood to the city’s waterfront dining scene. Today, the San Diego Fish Market stands as our beautiful, bustling flagship restaurant on the bay.
THE FISHING BOATS
Beginning in 1982, Duckett launched two commercial fishing boats, the Pilikia and the Temptation. Pilikia, which means “trouble” in Hawaiian, sailed full time, harpooning swordfish for our restaurants. In 2000, true to her name, the original Pilikia ran aground on San Clemente Island and was lost. Today, it is another local boat, called the Chula, that partners to provide the Fish Market with fresh local catches including harpooned local swordfish. We make a point to maintain close relationships with local fishermen, because we respect their commitment to preserving seafood supplies and appreciate their service.
When it comes to seafood, freshness is everything. That’s why we have our own seafood processing and distribution facility, Farallon Fisheries. What started out as a wholesale operation out of a small shack on the docks near Half Moon Bay, now–from its current South San Francisco location–purchases, processes and distributes a significant portion of the seafood served in our restaurants. Farallon’s purchasing arm extends worldwide to ensure only the highest-quality seafood reaches our kitchens and customers.
TOP OF THE MARKET
Our San Diego and San Mateo restaurants feature a unique and elegant dining experience that combines the freshness of the Fish Market with the ambiance of an upscale establishment. Top of the Market–which truly sits at the top of the market–gives guests a chance to enjoy an expanded wine list, exhibition-style cooking and distinctive dishes, in an intimate setting designed to turn special occasions into lifelong memories.
When you have a proud past like ours, you cherish it in the present and preserve it for the future. Browse our curated collection of photos paying tribute to The Fish Market’s history.