An Early Look at Surfside

Photograph by Sara Levine.

Like New Yorkers with their bagels (and pizza, and delis . . .), transplants from the West Coast are always pining away for their beloved Baja-style fish tacos. Now they have a new place to try. Chef David Scribner isn’t from Mexico or even SoCal—he’s a Washington native who graduated from Saint Albans—but his barely three-week-old Glover Park restaurant, Surfside, is serving up fresh two-ply tortillas stuffed with grilled fish of the day. Loaded with black-bean-and-corn salsa, avocado, cabbage, and a zippy cilantro-lime sour cream, the “Maui” tacos are an early menu highlight at the surfer-inspired seafood spot.

Outside, the former Apollo Market that now houses Surfside has been painted a bright blue that feels more beach town than nation’s capital. The interior is airy and sunny, decorated sparingly with blond wood, exposed brick, and a seascape mural. Every dish here is named after an enviable vacation destination: flank-steak fajitas are Cabo San Lucas; shrimp tacos with pineapple-jalapeño salsa are Nevis; Fiji brings a sort-of burrito filled with grilled vegetables.

Similarities to Tackle Box, the faux-weathered New England-style seafood “shack” just down the road in Georgetown, are few. Despite the “surf” in its name, only about half of Surfside’s menu comes from the water—there are lots of options with chicken and steak.

Written colorfully on chalkboards overhead, the roster of dishes is split into beach-themed categories, seemingly based on the strength of your appetite: two-taco plates are “waves,” “hurricanes” are more substantial burritos and quesadillas, “typhoons” are large entrée salads, and entrées with sides are “cyclones.” On a recent Sunday evening, the place was filled with families ordering quesadillas and tacos from the selection of “ripples” (a.k.a. the kids menu). The only appetizer is the chunky, citrusy guacamole. It’s very tasty, but charging $8.95 for a tiny cup with a pile of chips? Way too steep.

In line with the laid-back, beachy theme, there’s no table service at Surfside—you order at the counter and wait until your name is (quickly) called. The food is served on ceramic plates, a step up from Tackle Box and most other counter-service spots. Once you have your food, head for a table downstairs or, even better, up on the lovely roof deck. With a nice breeze and a view of Glover Park below, it seems an ideal place to enjoy Surfside’s not-too-sweet margaritas. Unfortunately, you’ll be stopped if you try to go upstairs with one—the owners are still waiting for liquor-license approval for the deck. For now, chow down on those fish tacos outside, then visit the bar in back for a ’rita or two.