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Business

Fish Tacos Replace Burgers’ Popularity at Char West on Stearns Wharf

Schools of Stearns Wharf visitors have made fish tacos the number one choice at Char West, an eatery formerly and primarily known for its hamburgers.

"It's very healthy," said Francisco Aguilera, Char West owner, referring to the new menu item. "We use a grilled 6-ounce tilapia filet, our special pico de gallo, and cabbage."

The fish tacos star status isn't just about healthier eating options. Aguilera notes that Char West's business is up 15 percent from one year ago. He credits a strengthening economy and the lack of rain, because customers are more likely to visit Stearns Wharf on a sunny day.

"It's a short-term benefit," he said of the nearly nonstop perfect weather. "In the long term it's bad because food and water prices will go up and the number of tourists will go down."

Char West's other seafood dishes — traditional fish and chips along with the clam chowder bread bowl that is reserved for cold and cloudy days — remain often ordered lunches.

John Williams opened the first Char West restaurant on State Street in 1975. The Stearns Wharf site opened in 1980. Four years later, Aguilera began working as a dishwasher at East Beach Grill, also owned by Williams.

In true Horatio Alger style, Aguilera worked his way through the restaurant ranks and purchased Char West, East Beach Grill and Great Pacific (also located on the wharf) from Williams upon his retirement in 2007.

"I never feel like the boss, I feel like co-workers," Aguilera said. "We are working together to serve our customers."

Open seven days a week, Char West is located at 221 Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara. The phone number is 805.962.5631.

— Jennifer Goddard Combs is a publicist representing Char West.

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