The Marine Room

With its proximity to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, The Marine Room restaurant has become a classic, well-loved landmark in San Diego County. Did you know its history starts way back in 1916?

Advertising illustration for La Jolla Vista, 1924

Advertising illustration for La Jolla Vista, 1924

It was established by Scotsman Captain Peter McDowall Hannay (1872-1943) as The Spindrift Inn, a four-bedroom roadside inn and restaurant overlooking Spindrift Beach, now La Jolla Shores. Hannay was a retired captain of the Scots Territorial Guard. He and his wife Margaret settled in ‘La Jolla Vista,’ establishing the Inn as a rendezvous for travelers, writers and stars visiting from Hollywood, and as a cultural and social center for locals. They were known for their chicken dinners and very local seafood — their lobster salad used California spiny lobster just ‘a stone’s throw’ from the Inn!

In 1935, The Spindrift Inn was purchased by Frederick William Kellogg, who also bought the adjoining La Jolla Beach & Yacht Club – now the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

First Marine Room ad

First ad, San Diego Union, 30 May 1941

Kellogg planned to change The Spindrift Inn into a restaurant, but died on a trans-Pacific cruise to Japan in 1940, before the remodel was completed. Instead, his son, William Scripps “Bill” Kellogg, resumed work and finally opened the restaurant under its new name, ‘The Marine Room.’ Its “soft” opening was on May 26, 1941, and preview dinners were held for La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club members, friends and family until the grand opening, May 29, 1941. The opening day menu featured fresh lobster a la Newburg in the shell for $1.35, rainbow mountain trout sauté amandine for $1.25, and martinis for 35 cents!

From 1940 until he retired in 1973, Bill Kellogg directed operations of La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, the Sea Lodge Hotel, the Playa del Oro Apartments, the F. W. Kellogg Building, 20 championship tennis courts and The Marine Room restaurant. The properties are still held by the Kelloggs and run by fourth generation family members.

View of Marine Room and La Jolla Beach Club apartments, late 1930s.

View of Marine Room and La Jolla Beach Club apartments, late 1930s.

The Marine Room quickly became famous for pounding surf creating dramatic displays outside the original, single-pane windows. However, these windows were no match for the strong surf, so the room was boarded up during winter storms.

When the Spindrift Lounge was added in 1948, the original glass was replaced with thick tempered glass which much better withstood the ocean’s constant assault. The restaurant was marketed as The New Marine Room.

Brochure cover art for the "New Marine Room," 1949

Watercolor illustration by La Jolla artist Laurence W. Harris (1908-1997), “New Marine Room” brochure, 1949.

Spindrift Room, opening party

Spindrift Lounge, opening party

The Marine Room, bar, 1953

The Marine Room, bar, 1953

Marine Room ashtray

“The sparkling foam from crested waves, illuminated at night, dashes against plate glass windows with breath-taking effect.”
Having a few drinks at The Marine Room during high tide, 1950.

Having a few drinks at The Marine Room during high tide, 1950.

“Cuisine of the ‘New Marine Room’ which is open for both luncheons and dinners, compares favorably with other world famous restaurants. A varied menu offers moderately priced full course dinners, or a la carte specialties designed to please the most exacting gourmet. Only the finest wines and liquors are served. No trip to La Jolla is complete without a visit to the ‘New Marine Room.’”
The New Marine Room dining room and bar, 1950

The New Marine Room dining room and bar featured murals of mermaids and sea life by New York artist Walter Kumme, 1950

A major series of storms hit San Diego during the El Niño conditions of 1982 and the waves broke their way in, flooding the The Marine Room. After a nine-month remodeling project the restaurant reopened.

Still operating today, The Marine Room is widely known for its wide ocean views, long heritage of fine dining, extensive wine selection, and of course, its famous high-tide brunches. Executive Chef Bernard Guillas, Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver and their team have introduced a ‘culinary renaissance featuring seasonal dishes mixed with the signature seafood bill-of-fare’ for which the restaurant has become famous.

Recipe: Marine Room Lobster Bisque

Here is the recipe for Maine Lobster Bisque with Enoki Mushrooms and Apricot Brandy, by Executive Chef Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room, La Jolla, California. Chef Bernard’s recipe calls for Maine lobster, but if not available you might use California spiny lobster. (Just don’t let him catch you!) For more recipes by Chefs Bernard and Ron Oliver, see their cookbooks, Two Chefs, One Catch and Two Chefs, One Pan.

The Bisque

Marine Room Lobster Bisque, 20162 lobsters, 1 1/4 lbs each, steamed, chilled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped leek, white part only
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/4 cup apricot brandy
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
1 quart vegetable stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon lobster base
sea salt, to taste
pinch cayenne pepper

Remove shells from lobster. Cut tail meat into medallions. Reserve with claws. Coarsely chop lobster shells and head. Pour olive oil into large, heavy kettle. Brown celery, onion, and leek over high heat. Add lobster shells. Cook 5 minutes. Stirring constantly. Flambé with brandy. Add garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and flour. Cook 2 minutes mixing well. Add wine, thyme, bay leaf and vegetable stock. Stir. Bring to boil. Simmer at medium heat 45 minutes. Strain through fine sieve pressing on solids to attain maximum extraction and flavor. Return mixture to pot. Bring to boil. Add heavy cream. Cook 5 minutes. Season with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Place soup in blender and process to smooth.


1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 package enoki mushrooms
lobster medallions reserved from above

Place enoki mushrooms on base of soup plate. Pour in lobster bisque. Garnish with lobster medallions. Sprinkle with chives. Serves six.

Bon Appetit!
Executive Chef Bernard Guillas

Copyright 2003 by Bernard Guillas.


The Marine Room Lounge, in 1950 and in 2015.

The Marine Room Lounge, in 1950 and in 2015.

‘a retired captain’ “Peter McDowall Hannay,” obituary, San Diego Union, 31 Aug 1943.

‘lobster salad’ “La Jolla Vista: the place of ‘better homes’,” San Diego Union, 1 Jan 1924.

‘four-bedroom roadside inn’ “About Us,” The Marine Room, website, <>.

‘Kellogg directed operations’ “William S. Kellogg, 88; Developer of Beach, Tennis Club,” obituary, Los Angeles Times, 21 Oct 1985.

‘until he retired’ “About Us,” La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, website, <>.

‘sparkling foam’ and ‘exacting gourmet’ “The New Marine Room,” advertising brochure, 1949.

The Marine Room in storms 1949-2016

4 thoughts on “The Marine Room

  1. I was a young 26-something police officer from the San Diego Police department that went into the marine room when el nino driven waves busted out the waterfront windows. There was a different ambience when the restaurant’s carpet was once covered with layers of deep sand. That was 45-years ago. Born and raised in La Jolla, I remember the grandeur of the marine room and its appointments. R. C. Resch

  2. I worked at the Marine Room when the waves came crashing in. We had just cleaned up from the business day and sent everyone home for the night. I was called early the next morning, to come, see what had happened! I didn’t get any pictures, but, I did collect some of the window pane from the break! I don’t remember the day or month, is that in one of the articles from that time? I enjoyed my years working there , one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places to work.

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