The Ocean Beach pier in San Diego reopened this summer after having been closed for some badly-needed repairs. And when that happened, I was anxious to try out the restaurant on it, a classic-looking casual joint called the Walking On Water Cafe. Gotta love the name, right!
And so, on a Friday, I put on my flip flops and made by way to “OB” as locals call it. At a mile long, the OB Pier is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast and it in itself is an attraction. With a little restaurant on it, that makes it an even more desirable place to visit.
The Walking On Water Cafe – formerly the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe – has colorful cutouts for silly social media photos and a small beach store next to it. The place is overflowing with character and I love places with character. Here are my thoughts of the cafe, what I had to eat and the overall experience of it.
What I Expected From Walking On Water Cafe
By the looks of it – an old wooden restaurant in a beach town – I expected it to be like a place I used to frequent on the small wooden (and hidden to many) pier in Redondo Beach a couple hours to the north called Polly’s.
And that is a classic breakfast place with character as full as the customers after they leave there. I was looking forward to having a big, fat omelette with meat and veggies, a large heap of hash browns and slices of toasted bread. There would be so much of it I would have enough left over for a second meal the next day.
I was anticipating to spend $15-17, including iced tea. Places like this typically don’t serve any alcohol and that’s fine because I came for an omelette, not drinks.
I also expected it to be a cloudless, sunny day in OB. After all, it was the middle of July. June Gloom, tho, forgot to check the calendar that day.
What I Got At Walking On Water Cafe
The place has character, that’s for sure. More of it than I expected, which was great. Outside is the kind of sign you see in the Caribbean pointing distant locations but here it’s the restaurant’s menu items. Next to that is an Icee character polar bear, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. Inside, classic wooden tables brought to mind being inside a boat, as did the views of the pier and Pacific Ocean out of the big windows. There’s also a chalk wall, which I thought was really cool.
What I got on the menu was more Mexican than breakfast. There were only three omelette choices: lobster (that’s not a good fit with eggs if you ask me), a meatless Mexican one and a cheese omelette.
Mainly there were nachos (not for breakfast in my book, even tho it was lunch time), fish tacos, a burger plus a fish and chicken sandwich. There was also clam chowder either alone in a bread bowl or served with a taco, and fish and chips.
The clam chowder caught my attention and right then and there, I should have pivoted and gone in that direction. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my eating out career it’s to order what the restaurant specializes in and it was apparent the Walk On Water Cafe does Mexican and comfort seafood. But I was determined to have an omelette on this day.
And that turned out to be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
When the food came, I was a bit surprised to see it was served on a paper plate with plastic utensils. Hey, I didn’t expect anything fancy but it was a bit surprising not to have it on a regular plate with stainless steel fork and knife. Guess they don’t like to do dishes! Really it doesn’t matter as long as the food is good.
And the omelette was, well, let me put it this way: it’s not the best thing they do at Walking On Water Cafe. At least I hope not. I ordered it with ham (at a whopping extra four bucks; it was in squares so small I couldn’t even taste it) and bell peppers. They had no mushrooms. About all I could taste was the cheese. It did come with breakfast potatoes and toast and the potatoes included something I had never before seen – they were topped with salsa!
It turns out the salsa, which was freshly chopped, was without question the star of the menu. “Ahh,” I said to myself, “that’s why 3/4 of the menu is Mexican food.” It’s a good thing the salsa pretty much hid the potatoes because they were dry and didn’t seem to be fresh.
I later asked my waitress, with the nautical name of Marina which seemed appropriate for a place on a pier, about the menu. She said I should have the fish & chips, the mahi or lobster tacos and that the chowder is excellent. “We make it here,” she said, beaming with pride.
My tab was $18.44, including $4 for the ham and $3 for bottomless iced tea, which was a little more than I expected or really wanted to pay. There must have been an additional $1 for the green peppers. The Maui taco and clam chowder combo is $14, by the way. So with tea is would be $17 plus tax and tip.
Walking On Water Cafe has been run by the same family since 1993. The name changed in 2009.
Overall Thoughts Of The Walking On Water Cafe
The setting is hard to beat. It’s so nice to sit on the pier with a view of the ocean, knowing the waves are rolling right under your okole. The people watching is good, too, for those into that kind of thing (which I am, sometimes).
Were it a nice sunny and typical San Diego day, I probably have stayed there until I was hungry again and had the maui taco and chowder combo.
That would have been quite soon, too, because I was starting to get hungry less than two hours later.
So don’t order the omelette. Go for what Walking On Water does the best. That’s true for any restaurant, too. I’ll go back and try those items because I’m curious and really like its character.