Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar Remodel to Begin Soon

Brigantine Coronado Perspective
Rendering of the Brigantine Remodel

The Brigantine restaurant in Coronado will undergo a $1 -1.25 million remodel this spring. The restaurant will be closed for about six weeks, starting February 18, 2016.

The last remodel was in 2004.

We Coronado locals love our ‘Brig’, so I knew you’d want the facts served up straight:

  • It is the older part of the Brig that will be remodeled. This older area, known as the catacomb area, is to the left of the current hostess station as you walk in the door. This area will be completely taken down.
  • The newer section will remain the same.
  • The separation between the bar and this older part of the restaurant will be removed.
  • The remodeled restaurant will have a light, open feel, rather than a dark, nautical feel.  A great deal more natural light will be coming into the building.
  • The front door and hostess stand will be moved away from its current location and moved closer to Miguel’s.
  • Replacing the older section, along with the opened up bar area, will be an “Exhibition Oyster Bar.”

I didn’t know what an “Exhibition Oyster Bar” was. So I reached out the Mike Morton, Jr., President of the Brigantine restaurants.  He assured me that I’d love this new bar format and he encouraged me to visit the newly remodeled La Mesa Brigantine to get an idea of what to expect.

Always happy to have an excuse to go out to dinner, my husband, Ken (ecoronado.com sports’ writer), and I took advantage of a break in the El Nino rains and headed out there on Thursday evening.

This is what the La Mesa Oyster Bar looked like: At first glance it looks like a traditional long, large bar with a nice marble top.  In La Mesa it is an “L” shape. The bar itself has a nice contemporary feel – one that you’d expect to find at a fine restaurant. However, what you actually looked at while enjoying your drink, depended very much on where you sat.

The left end of the bar had a traditional bar feel: mirrored walls, glassware, liquor, wine refrigerators, and beer taps all on display.

In the middle section of the bar, patrons watched chefs create fish tacos and the other bar specialties that the Brig is famous for. It was fun to watch small feasts appear before our eyes.

At the third end of the bar was the Oyster Bar. The Oyster Bar felt somewhat like a sushi bar. The staff shucked great piles of fresh oysters while patrons admired the presentation and happily gobbled them up. Quite a few patrons were enjoying champagne with their oyster delicacies.

Despite the champagne drinking, the bar still had the comfortable feeling of a local bar, just brighter, a little more festive, and four or five TV screens showing local sports.

Mike explained that the owners wanted to honor Coronado’s history as part of the restaurant remodel. Given that the new entrance is part of the El Cordova Hotel complex, their architect drew inspiration from a 1937 photograph of the old Cafe Cordova entrance.

1937 El Cordova Cafe inspires Brigantine Entryway 2016 remodel
1937 El Cordova Cafe inspires Brigantine Entryway 2016 remodel

Mike Morton, Jr. is not just president of the Brigantine restaurants, he is the son of the founders of the Brigantine restaurants: Mike Morton Sr. and Barb Morton.  For an interesting interview with Mike Morton, Sr. and a glimpse at the early history of the Brigantine Family of Restaurants, see this recent interview in San Diego Metro.

Mike Morton, Jr.  is excited about the remodel and what it will mean to Coronado.

Mike explained that “while tourists are a big part of the business, it is the regular season patrons that the Brigantine family appreciates and delights in seeing year after year.” Mike said that he wants Coronado residents to be proud of the updated Brig and he’s sure they will be pleased with the results.

Mike expressed the Morton family’s deep commitment to Coronado. Having been in Coronado since 1972, the Coronado community has always been special to the Morton Family. Mike said it has been their honor to support the Coronado Schools Foundation, the Military Ball and the Wounded Warriors Project. He spoke with pride about generations of families and extended families working at the Brig over the years.

Born in 1969, Mike explained that he himself has worked in every position in the Brigantine family of restaurants. After college, graduate school, and a corporate position at Jack in the Box, Mike returned to the family business in 2005.  When Mike Morton, Sr. was ready to retire in the summer of 2008, Mike Morton, Jr. took the helm.

The Brigantine family of restaurants has continued to have success under his leadership. They recently won a highly competitive bidding process to take over the Anthony’s Fish Grotto site on the downtown waterfront.

Given that this venue is just a ferry ride away, I asked Mike what we could expect at this new venue. He explained that it will not be just one, but a collection of the finest restaurants that the family has to offer.

He explained that this area will be known as Portside Pier. Portside Pier will boast a   Brigantine Restaurant, a Miguel’s, a Ketch casual (which will offer fast-order seafood), as well as a a small coffee and gelato shop. The dock space will be expanded to accommodate this restaurant experience. If you’d like to see a rendering of this new space and learn more about the project, check out this San Diego-Union Tribune article from November 2015.

So Brig lovers, go visit the old Brig at least one last time before the remodel, say goodbye to the old section, and then get excited about the positive changes about to take place at the Brigantine – truly one of the most familiar and loved restaurants on the Island.

The Brigantine is located at 1333 Orange Avenue.

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When not writing, Ann Marie teaches World History and Western Civilization at Grossmont College. A job she loves as much as she loves "island life".Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: manager@coronadotimes.com