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Outside the Box

With his Tackle Box dining concept, Brian Huskey’s setting a new bar for beach concession food.

CONCEPT KING
With his Tackle Box in Corona del Mar, Brian Huskey gives new meaning to beach grub.

He calls it a grub shack, but what Brian Huskey’s dishing out at his Tackle Box concession on the beach at Corona del Mar is the kind of food you’d find on a lunch menu at a destination restaurant. There’s the poke, laced with a light citrus dressing and layered with texture, with fresh salmon that melts in your mouth, velvety bits of avocado and crunchy rice crisps. His lobster roll (served only on weekends) is brimming with sweet, tender morsels of Maine seafood cradled in custom-made bread blackened by squid ink. And the chowder chicharrón—his New England-style clam chowder, with its bits of bacon, blankets crispy pork rinds like a thick, rich gravy. That’s just a sampling. Does it sound like beach concession food to you? Evidence of his success: Business is still going strong among locals, despite shortened winter hours (the joint is closed Monday, and open 11am to 3pm for Taco Tuesday, and 9am to 5:30pm Wednesday through Sunday). “If the locals can stand behind us, it’s only a matter of time before the floodgates open up,” says Huskey, whom some may remember from the early days of Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge. “But that doesn’t happen overnight.” None of it should come as a surprise, considering his recent history—he landed among the final five culinary artists in Top Chef: New Orleans. So how did he end up in Orange County? “Ed Lee [of Wahoo’s] has the master lease there,” he says. “He asked me, ‘If you had a beach shack on the sand, what would you do with it?’” Good answer.