‘Table Talk’: Anna of Starfish Eatery In Her Own Words

by on November 15, 2021 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

by Sal Mineo (@snackdiego)

Hi again, everyone.  We are so fortunate here in Ocean Beach.  Any day, any time (within reason, it’s still San Diego), an impressive collection of options to snack, sip, slurp, nosh, nibble, graze, guzzle – you get my drift – are within walking distance.

There are so many talented folks keeping us satiated, caffeinated and hydrated; and sure you may get friendly with a few of them at your regular spots, usually the front of the house hosts and servers.

I think it’s equally important to know those behind the scenes – the chefs, cooks, bakers, baristas, brewers, drink shakers, fry guys, taqueros, the list goes on – and sometimes they are all that plus they own the joint.  I hope to get to know some and share them with you.

Let’s get into some table talk with Anna Santos Hamilton, the chef\ owner of a relative newcomer to OB, Starfish Eatery.  As you’ll see though, it was somewhat fated.  Here’s Anna, in her own words.

How’d you get to where you are today – owning a restaurant in OB?

I was born in Manila, Philippines, moved to San Francisco at age 16.  In 1991, I moved to San Diego (Ocean Beach on Niagara by the pier) to be with my then fiancé; I now live in Bay Park.

My culinary background is mostly catering for private parties as well as private yacht catering.  During the lockdown of 2020, I cooked and delivered food for families in need and close friends.  Truth be told, I got “bored” and wanted a project so I thought of looking for a commercial catering kitchen.  Everyone was shutting down while I was looking to open up.

After a long search for the perfect kitchen, the Sunset Cliffs location seemed perfect.  It was the old “Pepe’s Italian”.  It had been vacant for quite some time and needed tons of work to get it up to code.  Finally made the decision to “go big or go home” and signed the lease then began the renovations. It was definitely a labor of love.

Was it smooth sailing to open up Starfish, or were there some challenges?

I have no experience working in the restaurant industry at all.  I just showed up in the scene like a wrecking ball. However, the journey to opening day was unbelievably smooth and just flowed.  The challenges were finding the right staff who share the same passion.

Why did you choose OB as the community for your restaurant?

I love OB and I stumbled into this location by a stroke of luck and I immediately fell in love.  It was surreal to be back in the same area, on Niagara.  I do remember going to the same location (Pepe’s back then) and ordering pizza.  Little did I know then that I was actually looking into my future.

A lot of folks may have an idea of what they think Filipino food is – but what is it to you and how does your food maybe differ from what preconceptions may be?

Filipino food is very diverse and is a melting pot of many different Southeast Asian and European cultures.  The Philippines was colonized by Spain for 300 years and has definitely influenced the cuisine’s evolution.

Most people are used to Filipino restaurants offering “prepped and ready” meals that they don’t have to wait for.  Starfish is NOT like that.  My vision for Starfish is to provide freshly made food using the best and freshest ingredients we can possibly find.  We very rarely use anything frozen.  This is partly the reason we “run out” of food near the end of the day, especially the famous lumpias.  They are made fresh regularly.

The menu at Starfish is what I call Philippine cuisine, reimagined.

What are some must-order items at Starfish for first timers?

Lumpia for sure, adobo and pancit, they are the classics.  For vegans, the “Simply Joey”, “Vegan Adobo” and “Veggie Lumpia” are definitely a must.

Can you share anything about yourself, outside of the restaurants – anything else you enjoy doing or are passionate about?

I love traveling the world and experiencing other cultures especially through their food.  It sparks my culinary creativity and I learn to appreciate flavors that I may not have ever tried before.  I am also a wine and champagne lover.  Visiting wineries is usually involved in my travel itineraries.

Other activities I enjoy are paddle boarding, skiing, vegetable gardening, karaoke (of course, I’m Filipino), chasing the Northern Lights, riding horses, taking care of dogs, raising hens (yes, it’s a thing).  I’m passionate about COLDPLAY, the band!

What are your top three favorite places to eat in San Diego?

Bay Park Fish Company, The Smoking Goat, Ortega’s Mexican in OB

Go check out Anna’s fresh take on Filipino food at Starfish; you’ll have yet another reason to not leave the OB bubble.

(Editordude: Also, see Judi Curry’s review of Starfish.)

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page November 15, 2021 at 11:04 am

Is Sal Mineo the writer’s real name or a nom de plume?


Frank Gormlie November 15, 2021 at 11:09 am

Nope, Sal is Sal’s true name. I had asked them immediately when he first contacted the Rag. Different generations, totally.


Sal Mineo November 15, 2021 at 11:43 am

That would be an interesting choice for a nom de plume, but nope just me Geoff. Both of my grandfathers were named Sal. Both of my grandmothers were Antoinette. So it goes in Sicilian families.


Geoff Page November 15, 2021 at 12:45 pm

Well, I had to ask because I didn’t think anyone writing a piece in The Rag would use a pen name. I wonder how many people today would remember Mineo the actor, probably only a few.


Frank Gormlie November 15, 2021 at 1:04 pm

Geoff, for our (dwindling) generation, Sal Mineo was a great actor. He met an untimely demise, I think (sure, I could have looked it up on google but …)


Sal Mineo November 15, 2021 at 3:43 pm

Tragic ending to his story indeed. I get asked about it all the time, definitely skews to a specific demographic, lol. I asked my dad if we are related and he always said no – but if you Google the actor he looks verrrry similar to how my dad looked at that age. I’d guess there’s a connection somewhere in the past.


Frank Gormlie November 15, 2021 at 5:37 pm

Ok, y’all made me do it: according to wikipedia: “On the night of February 12, 1976, the actor returned home following a rehearsal for the play P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. After parking his car in the carport below his West Hollywood apartment, the 37-year-old was stabbed in the heart by a mugger who fled the scene….Lionel Ray Williams, a young pizza delivery man with a long criminal record, was arrested. Williams was tried and sentenced in March 1979 to 57 years in prison for both killing Mineo and committing ten robberies in the same area.”


GML November 15, 2021 at 2:03 pm

I highly recommend trying Starfish if you haven’t before. Food is delicious and everyone is very friendly there.


Anna Santos Hamilton November 15, 2021 at 8:14 pm

Thank you! We do our best every day to make people smile. :)


kh November 16, 2021 at 10:53 am

Thank you the reminder, we love the food here. We’ll be back again soon.


Geoff Page November 16, 2021 at 11:15 am

I apologize to the Starfish Eatery for side-tracking the discussion., which was about the food. I will give it a try myself.

And, welcome to the menagerie, Sal.


Anna Santos Hamilton November 16, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Geoff, no worries. You’re all good. Come over and I’ll take care of you.


Geoff Page November 17, 2021 at 10:16 am

I’ll be happy to, thanks.


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