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Surf's always up at Buster's Beach House

"Surf's up!" When the call goes out at local beaches, when the convergence of tides, gravity and water is such that the waves are tall and powerful, black-clad figures paddle out from shore on long pieces of wood or plastic to enjoy the thrill of being propelled back toward the sand on walls of water at thrilling high speeds. It is an addictive sport, snaring aficionados into lifetime commitments. I've seen young and old, unemployed as well as professionals and executives, rise early in the morning to catch a few rides before the sun is high in the sky.

San Diego has long been a center of surfing. Duke Kahanamoku, the "father of modern surfing," brought the sport in from Hawaii and set up an exhibition of surfing at the Del Mar Pier as long ago as 1916. The popularity of the sport spread quickly. By 1940, beaches from Oceanside to the border were popular places to surf.

Surfing history and traditions are incorporated into the décor and ambiance of Buster's Beach House in Seaport Village. The restaurant is part of the Aloha Restaurants group, which includes such popular venues as Jolly Roger and Monterey Bay Canners operations. There are two locations for Buster's -- San Diego and Long Beach. Both are set in marinas with gorgeous ocean views. Private yachts and vessels are moored in neat rows just outside of the restaurant windows.

Our local Buster's Beach House looks like a Hawaiian plantation house, with wood exterior, palm trees and flowers crawling up the outside walls. Upstairs includes a large dining space that is terrific for private parties, corporate events and Sunday Brunch. Sunday Brunch is a wonderful way to sample some of the restaurant's best dishes with a glass of champagne. A patio faces the water so diners can enjoy the ocean air, the water views and the pedestrian action on the promenade that runs along the shore.

The surfing theme is carried through in staff uniforms -- Hawaiian shirts -- and by décor that fills the dining spaces. In the bar, long surfboards hang from the ceiling, each promoting a brand of beer. A Volkswagen bus, the "chariot of the gods of surfing," emerges from the wall and brings back memories of "Gidget" and the halcyon days of the "surfin' '50s". More surfboards, photos and other surfing memorabilia decorate the upstairs area.

Buster's Beach House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menus are eclectic but have an American-Hawaiian focus. Breakfasts include pancakes, omelets, skillet combinations and even low-fat and high-protein selections.

Lunch offerings are described "from the ocean, ""from the wind" and "not far from the ocean." There is a daily fresh fish, delightful halibut dipped in Foster's to make a great battered "fish and chips" and wok-seared scallops in a curry coconut sauce. Gourmet pizzas include a "Molokai" recipe, with luau pork and pineapple, and a "Bangkok" recipe made with grilled chicken and cilantro in a spicy peanut sauce.

Pork Luau is marinated for seven hours and presented beautifully, wrapped in banana leaves. The pork has the smoky flavor of "pulled pork" that is so popular on the islands. Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken is a large breast covered with nuts and fried, served with a ginger glaze and Hawaiian chutney.

The dinner menu includes an extensive sampler menu that can be most easily enjoyed by ordering the Longboard Sampler, with Jamaican Voodoo Chicken, Barbados Crab Cakes and Tempura Coconut Shrimp. Try the New World Chips made from tarot, plantain, lotus, potato and corn. The colorful basket of chips is very attractive. Entrees include the Big Kahuna Prime Rib, succulently prepared, and the Gidget Prime Rib, a smaller portion.

The bar is always a fun place to hang out, with a daily "beach party" that offers some amazing food discounts. It runs 2-6 p.m. inside or on the patio.

There is a story in the restaurant's literature about Buster, how he traveled the world working in restaurants and then made his fortune by digging out diamonds in South Africa. He then opened his own restaurant with the money. Well... It's a nice story.

Buster's Beach House prices are inexpensive to moderate. The food is good, the ambiance is fun, the views are sensational and the parking is convenient and free. Buster's is a winner. Hang 10! Buster's Beach House is located in Seaport Village at 807 W. Harbor Drive. Call (619) 233-4300 for information and reservations.


Rottenberg is editor of Dining San Diego Magazine and member of the California Restaurant Writers Association. Send comments to the editor@sddt.com. All letters are forwarded to the author and may be used as Letters to the Editor.

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