On South Central Avenue between East Fifth and Sixth, a brand-new Tesla pulls up in front of an ugly brick building. It is 11:30 a.m. on a Tuesday and the smartly dressed lunch breakers spill out of the car to join the throngs of hungry lunch-goers waiting in line under a a big red awning.
Passersby unfamiliar with the landmark seafood restaurant might wonder what this latest new eatery in the fashionable downtown Arts District could be. But Fisherman's Outlet is the furthest thing from new or trendy — and that's a big part of its appeal.
The casual restaurant and fish market has been serving Styrofoam cups of clam chowder and plates of deep-fried and charbroiled seafood since 1961. The food is nostalgia-inducing and straightforward. There is nothing innovative or chef-y about it. Yet for 55 years, its popularity has not wavered.
Who does this kind of food appeal to? Clearly, everyone. Businesswomen and -men in suits chat while carrying their bright red trays to shaded tables. Construction workers in hard hats and fluorescent orange vests chow down on Fisherman's Outlet's "Famous Giant Fried Shrimp."
Families with small children and millennials who otherwise might be concerned about Instagramming their dishes are just here to eat. Regulars say they frequently witness Mayor Eric Garcetti dining there. But Fisherman's Outlet isn't just a favorite of local politicians. There are also celebrities, actors and athletes who line up at its door, according to assistant manager Miguel Avalos.
The restaurant is open only for lunch, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and anyone in the mood for day drinking has the option of $3 mini bottles of Sutter Home wine or $3 cans of Budweiser (a tough choice, indeed). But the food menu is more extensive than you might expect from such an unassuming space. The vast selection of fried or charbroiled fish and shellfish, seafood salads and "cocktails" like ceviche, and soups like gumbo and lobster bisque makes ordering difficult.
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Opt for a fried "sampler" and a pile of crab cakes, shrimp and catfish comes with fries or rice, coleslaw and a choice of garlic butter, Cajun or teriyaki sauce. Those hoping for a healthier version can choose charbroiled skewers of salmon, scallops and shrimp. Ample free parking in a spacious adjacent lot, a line that moves quickly and hearty portions make this old-school eatery's enduring popularity a no-brainer.
529 S. Central Ave., downtown; (213) 627-7231, fishermansoutlet.net.