Merill Shindler, a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic calls El Segundo Fish Company, “A Great Place for Locals to Call Their Own” on the Daily Breeze. 

As seen on Daily Breeze written by Merill Shindler.

There were unshelled peanuts on the table, a basketball game on the big screens and, of all things, a stack of New Yorker magazines sitting on a side table in the El Segundo Fish Company — which, despite the name, isn’t a fish market.

Instead, it’s somewhat of a rollicking seafood restaurant in a mini-mall, filled with people who all seem to know one another. (No, seriously — the couple at the table next to mine spent so much time greeting friends, I didn’t think they’d ever get to their food.) This is a neighborhood restaurant, in a neighborhood that lives apart from the nuttiness of Los Angeles and the chillness of the beach cities. El Segundo really is a world unto itself, and a good part of that world congregates at the Fish Company.

The restaurant is a funny place where the service is erratic, but no one seems to mind, since they’re so busy chatting with friends, watching the game and, I suppose, reading copies of the New Yorker.

As ever, once I’ve got a beer in hand, I’m a happy guy. The beer selection here is good, too — or at least good enough (with Rock & Brews around the corner, it’s hard to compete). There are 16 bottled beers, along with four beers on tap. Among the selection of brews is White Dog IPA from the local El Segundo Brewing Co. Hey, support your local craft brewery, right?

And what’s just perfect for locals? Nightly specials. On Taco Tuesdays, fish or chicken tacos go for $2 apiece, while Coronas are $3. On Wednesdays, kids eat free with the order of regular entrees by their folks. Every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., there’s a Senior Special Combo for Two — four pieces of fish-and-chips and two drinks for $9.95. Hard to find fault with that.

When it comes to seafood, the menu at the Fish Company pretty well touches all bases — or at least, it pretty well touches all the old school bases. They aren’t cranking out sushi in the kitchen, or doing clever things with sea urchin. The most modernist they get is an order of seared ahi with wasabi mayo, a seared ahi salad and a rock shrimp quinoa salad.

Otherwise, this is a restaurant defined by venerable favorites like their thick, ingredient-heavy New England clam chowder, their fried catfish with hushpuppies and their fish-and-chips. And yes, they’ve got five different fish tacos — the Fish Company, they do “heart” their fish tacos.

It needs to be mentioned that the prices here are as retro as some of the dishes. Order a seafood entree — grilled or blackened ahi, mahi, sea bass, salmon, swordfish, sole, snapper, tilapia, trout, catfish — and you get a choice of two side dishes with it, some of which are included, some of which add on a dollar or two.

I went with the cioppino, and thought they had made a mistake. I was expecting a cup. I got a bowl; a whole lot of cioppino, very red and moderately spicy. It was the sort of dish that by definition will land on whatever you’re wearing. (I was so careful and I still wound up with a few red dots on my shirt.)

For the most part, the food is workman-like. Nothing leaps out as exceptional, but nothing offends either. I do wish an order of salmon were cooked a bit less, but I’m reminded that undercooked salmon is a modernist conceit. For an older demographic, the fish needs to be cooked all the way through. If I serve my mother-in-law salmon that’s anything less than fully cooked, she’ll have me put it back on the Weber. It’s how it is.

Plus, this certainly is a restaurant where the choice of dishes is more than enough. I could see popcorn shrimp at lots of nearby tables, along with fried calamari, crab cakes, fried oysters and steamed clams. Those hush puppies appear a lot too. There’s a house gumbo I’d like to go back for — shrimp along with chicken and sausage — though I’ll make a point of wearing a shirt I don’t want to wear again.

This is a restaurant that’s full of good intentions and if I lived in El Segundo, I’d be a regular too. Everybody needs a place like this to call their own.

Merrill Shindler is a Los Angeles-based freelance dining critic. Send him email at [email protected]