Open just a couple of months, Tackle Box in Corona del Mar is sort of the snack shack of dreams. In the former seasonal concession stand on the state beach, “Top Chef” season 11 contestant Brian Huskey has created a quick-serve restaurant with breakfast, sandwiches, and sides that could become as much a destination as gorgeous Big Corona itself.
Working with his brother Andrew, whose title is prime mover, and partner Ed Lee of Wahoo’s fame, Huskey sees multiple-unit expansion potential for the Tackle Box model. No timeline for that, yet—for the moment, he’s busy in the restaurant kitchen, making everything from scratch.
The remoulade sauce on the fried catfish sandwich ($12), for instance: I wasn’t too gutted when it became clear that the lobster roll I’d planned to try is only available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, because I’d already spotted the catfish. Served on a potato roll that’s made especially for Tackle Box by Dean Kim’s OC Baking, the crisp-coated fillet and piquant sauce topped with cold, shredded lettuce, recalled the flavor profile of a New Orleans catfish po’ boy in a very good way. On the side, buffalo cauliflower ($9): fried florets tossed in a not-too-hot sauce, kind of like the Manchurian cauliflower you find in some Indian restaurants. But Huskey was seriously going for the wing effect—the cauliflower is even brined in buttermilk.
Unlike its predecessor, Tackle Box is a year-round restaurant. (Closed Mondays, though.) Real-deal chicken wings are likely to make an appearance this fall, along with game-day chili, to accompany football on the soon-to-be-installed patio television. And another nice off-season lagniappe: Tackle Box customers get 2 hours’ free parking, Labor Day to Memorial Day.