During our time in Dana Point, CA, we were looking for a place to get something to eat for lunch. We had driven by a sort of funky looking place called The Shwack Beach Grill in the Del Prado Lantern District along the one-way (southbound) Del Prado Ave. in Dana Point. (see map) We had read that they had fish tacos and we decided to go there and give them a try.
The funny thing about The Shwack, it's not on or even really near the beach at Dana Point. But owner Max Fisher - who is a surfing aficionado - wanted sort of a beach theme for his restaurant that he opened in 2011. The only problem was that Fisher was a general contractor and hadn't run his own restaurant before. Fisher's father had been a corporate chef who decided to open his own restaurant - Cosmo's Italian Kitchen - in 1998, but that was the only connection to a restaurant that Max Fisher had. Fisher wanted a place that sold good natural foods, offered a large number of craft beers, and had the feel of a beach shack.
A former Starbucks location came open in 2010 and Fisher leased the site and began to build out his restaurant. He used wood paneling and tile on the walls and in front of the bar, used distressed wood for his table tops, and decorated the place with surf boards and surfing-related items. When he opened the doors in July of 2011, he called his place The Shwack - sort of a cross between "shack" and "schwack", the term surfers use for the sound of a surfboard hitting the water.
They were working on Del Prado in front of The Shwack, so we found a parking spot behind the building and went in. Initially, Cindy was a little apprehensive about eating at the place. Quite frankly, we didn't exactly know what it was all about, but I think she was thinking the place would be a little more of a sit-down/server place. But The Shwack is an "order at the counter" place with the menu on a chalkboard. Cindy was hungry and I was getting exasperated and I said that we could just walk and find something else. We started to walk out of The Shwack before she finally said, "That's OK. We'll eat here." I'm glad we decided to stay...
The Shwack serves naturally raised, hormone free ground beef for their burgers. They feature chicken sandwiches with hand cut breasts from naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic free chickens. They have a number of salads and healthy foods such as an ahi tuna burger, a veggie burger, and a ground turkey burger. They also feature a number of eclectic appetizers - or "Shwackatizers" - on the menu. The Shwack also serves breakfast and has a limited dinner menu in addition to the burgers, sandwiches and tacos.
But we decided to try the Shaka fish tacos - they also had steak, pulled pork and chicken tacos on the menu. The fish tacos featured a house-made sauce (Shwack sauce) that had a little spicy kick to it, as well as an avocado cream sauce, pico de gallo and shredded cabbage on the side. That's what we both ordered. To my surprise - and delight - they also had Kona Big Wave Golden Ale 22 ounce bottles of beer. I'd heard from a friend who was out in Hawaii a year or so ago that they had the 22 ounce bottles, but I had never seen them. Until now.
We initially sat outside under an awning over the patio that faced Del Prado Ave., but cool winds off the ocean coupled with the unusually cool weather they were having at the time in Southern California (the temperature never got above 70 degrees F the whole time we were there) forced us back inside the small dining area at The Shwack.
It wasn't long before our tacos showed up at our table. The fish was chopped into chunks, seasoned and grilled. Pico de gallo, the Shwack sauce and the avocado cream sauce was mixed in with the fish. The shredded cabbage was on the side that I eagerly added to my tacos.
The combination of the Shwack sauce and the avocado cream sauce was a marriage between a spicy and a cooling, smooth taste. The fish was light and tender, moist and not fishy in taste. The pico de gallo featured fresh chopped onions, cilantro and tomatoes. The cabbage was very fresh and went well with the multiple tastes on the taco. These were very good fish tacos.
Cindy was happy with her fish tacos. Any apprehension that she had going into the place completely disappeared with her first bite. She gets a little owly if she hasn't had any food and we'd passed up a number of restaurants before we went to The Shwack, much to her consternation. It must have been fish taco divine intervention that guided us to have lunch at The Shwack. I was also very happy with the fish tacos I had. I liked the funky decor, the casual setting and the large selection of craft beers they had. It was a surprisingly good meal at a surprisingly nice place.