By Kyle Hall / Photos by David Olender and Sara Norris
Restaurant and bar proprietors countywide have been pulling out all of the stops to get their doors open before all the tourists show up. From maple bourbon-glazed donuts to an urban winery to bars in grocery stores, their additions to San Diego’s dining and nightlife scene are as eclectic as they are enticing. Here’s a list of fresh new spots (some of which haven’t even opened yet) to check out before Arizona arrives.
The Bier Garden of Encinitas
641 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas
760.632.BIER (2437), drinkbier.com
Despite the spelling of its name, this new Encinitas beer-haven skews far from typical German beer halls by serving craft cocktails and gastropub-y fare. Ensuring nobody can accuse it of false advertising, the bar also features 32 taps, all of which are reserved for local brews.
Amaya La Jolla
1205 Prospect St., La Jolla
Formerly a well-kept secret at The Grand Del Mar, Amaya has spawned a clone in La Jolla, where executive chef Camron Woods is preparing the most popular items from the original Amaya, plus a handful of his new creations. While The Grand is known as being pricey, Amaya’s mains average about $30; its staggering, 300-label wine list includes nothing over $100-a-bottle. Starting June 3, the La Jolla location will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
4657 Park Blvd., University Heights
Coming soon to the Hillcrest near you (late June or early July), American voodoo will serve a seasonal “Americana” menu of regional specialties from across the nation in a reclaimed wood- filled interior interspersed with oddities the joint’s filmmaker-owner gathered over the years with his friends.
3926 30th St., North Park
“It’s a grass-fed burger and cocktail joint,” says Hubcap owner Jay Porter of his new spot in north Park. The mastermind behind The Linkery, Porter shut the doors to his former Baja Med project (El Take it Easy) in April, adding steel to the once wooden façade and installing new tabletops, two of which fold down onto a street-side patio.
“The Southern California-style burger is a low-brow thing,” says Porter, “but it’s become such a popular item and lasted because it’s so delicious.”
While its roots may not be fancy, the Hubcap Burger elevates itself by sitting atop a sesame seed bun (from San Diego’s Sadie Rose bakery) with housemade mayo, pickles and Cheese Fluff — 50 percent sharp cheddar, 25 percent cream cheese and 25 percent bleu cheese.
In addition to the namesake burger, the menu also drips with a double burger, a spicy grilled cheese sandwich and a burger for vegetarians who should consider themselves warned — all of the fryers are filled with pig fat.
Bertrand At Mister A’s
2550 Fifth Ave. #12, Bankers Hill
Mister A’s is now offering weekend brunch, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m, for the first time in its 48-year run.
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
2215 India St., Little Italy
(coming soon), ballastpoint.com
Ballast Point will hit Little Italy this summer with a new, five- barrel brewery that will focus on experimenting with new styles. The theme/style of the 9,000-square-foot space’s restaurant has yet to be revealed.
Bite of Boston
4651 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach
Bite of Boston’s third San Diego location is opening in June in Pacific Beach. Ingredients flown in from new England will help keep specialties like Maine lobster rolls and clam chowder as authentic as possible.
Queenstown Public House
1557 Columbia St., Little Italy
The crew behind Bare Back Grill (Pacific Beach and Gaslamp) and Raglan Public House (Ocean Beach) have transformed a funky Little Italy cottage into Queenstown, their second kiwi-themed Public House. While the menu is similar, the interior design by Michael Soriano sets the space apart with eclectic accents like sheep standing on the ceiling.
Carnitas Snack Shack
2632 University Ave., North Park
The walk-up eatery has a remodeled outdoor seating area and is now serving local beer.
Casa Sol Y Mar
12865 El Camino Real, Del Mar
The Bazaar Del Mundo Restaurant Group has popped open another casa in Del Mar Highlands Town Center to go with their other casas: Casa de Bandini (Carlsbad), Casa de Pico (La Mesa) and Casa Guadalajara (Old Town).
Cucina Enoteca Del Mar
2730 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
(coming soon), cucinaenoteca.com
Because building one restaurant at a time is for amateurs (see Fish Public entry), Tracy Borkum is also working on her third CUCINA iteration, slated to hit Del Mar’s Flower Hill Promenade in August.
631 B St., Gaslamp
This first-of-its-kind-in-S.D. gourmet donut shop is churning out a daily changing menu of masterpieces like the Elvis donut (banana crème custard with a peanut butter glaze), maple bourbon donuts and blueberry donuts with Meyer lemon glaze. They open early, and close when they sell out, so plan accordingly.
4055 Adams Ave., Kensington
After making a name for herself with CUCINA urbana in Bankers Hill and the former Kensington Grill, Tracy Borkum has closed the latter and will soon reopen it as an affordable seafood joint with a “nantucket-inspired” interior slated to open this summer.
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
5985 Santa Fe St., Bay Ho
Karl Strauss’ main brewing facility is currently constructing an onsite tasting room slated to open in late July.
The New Yorker
535 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
The New Yorker’s rocking 18 taps, craft cocktails, traditional new york-style pies and off-kilter pizzas like the El Mexican, made with beans (instead of red sauce), cheese, chorizo, jalapeños, sour cream and cilantro. In true NYC fashion, they’ll be slinging slices until 4 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and they deliver.
The Regal Seagull
996 N. Coast Hwy. 101, Leucadia
The crew behind The Regal Beagle in Midtown has extended their empire to north County. The Regal Seagull’s 24 taps pour a great selection of craft brews to wash down locally made artisan sausages, some of which are made with local beer.
Salt & Cleaver
3805 Fifth Ave., San Diego
A new sausage factory has arrived in Hillcrest, serving beers (draft and bottled, 50 total) and craft cocktails to wash down customizable sausages and predesigned numbers like a duck and bacon sausage topped with crispy duck confit, “bacon-aze” and orange marmalade called Duck, Duck, Pig — an item sure to make parolees nervous when ordered loudly. Vegetarians should try The Faceless — quinoa, asparagus, peppers and cauliflower wrapped in a cauliflower leaf on a housemade bun with citrus slaw and herb aioli.
Sea & Smoke
2690 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
Matt Gordon, chef/owner of Urban Solace in North Park and Solace & The Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas, is finally putting the finishing touches on his latest project, Sea & Smoke, an “American brasserie” in Del Mar.
1277 Prospect St., La Jolla
This adventurous new La Jolla sushi joint is rolling up whacked-out specialties like the Pimp’n Shrimp’n and I’m So Baked rolls.
The Snooty Asian
3925 Fourth Ave., Hillcrest
While waiting for their liquor license application to be approved, the folks at The Snooty Asian are serving a minimalistic menu of dishes sourced from several Asian cuisines, and will soon be adding a sushi bar.
Solterra Winery & Kitchen
934 N. Coast Hwy. 101, Leucadia
San Diego’s first “urban winery” has opened in Leucadia. Boasting 14 years of experience in winemaking, owner Christopher Van Alyea is sourcing grapes from SoCal and Baja to produce wines under the Solterra label, which are poured (along with his two other labels, Christopher Camron and Costa Azul) in the tasting room and adjacent Mediterranean tapas kitchen.
Southpaw Social Club
815 J St., East Village
Good Time Design continues its East village takeover by turning the stadium-adjacent former El vitral into Southpaw Social Club, signing Top Chef alum Rich Sweeney of R Gang Eatery (Hillcrest) to sling a “Southern barrelhouse-influenced” menu.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens Liberty Station
2816 Historic Decatur Rd. #116, Liberty Station
In early May, Stone opened the doors to a 40-tap, 100-bottle, 600-person-capacity sibling to its Escondido restaurant. To compete with the lush Escondido hideaway, the new Liberty Station location features a bocce ball court, an outdoor movie theater and a 10- barrel brewing system to make special editions for all the new taps.
3391 Adams Ave., Normal Heights
In 1999, a 23-year-old Nick Zanoni opened Thrusters, in Pacific Beach, while living in a back room of a tailor shop. This anecdote has absolutely nothing to do with his latest project, it’s just awesome.
A whole young-Zanoni’s lifetime later, he’s thrust open the doors of a new cocktail bar in normal Heights (he lives in a house now).
“It’s a tribute to late-‘70s, middle-class families,” says Zanoni, adding that he named the place after the sycamores surrounding his childhood home in Sacramento. Designed to evoke the antique-laden households common to the era, the cabin-esque interior is accented by a massive brass fireplace, guns, banjos, guitars and shloads of whiskey.
Drawing on experience he earned at Little Italy’s Craft + Commerce and East village’s noble Experiment, bartender Eric Johnson designed Sycamore Den’s cocktail menu to have something for everyone. “It’s focused on the Harvey Wallbanger era,” he says, referencing a popular cocktail comprised of vodka, Galliano and orange juice.
835 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
(coming soon), tokyo-playground.com
Taking over the spot that used to be George’s on Fifth and The Propagandist, a new, dual-level Japanese restaurant and dance club will be arriving in the Gaslamp this fall with waitresses dressed in sexified Japanese schoolgirl outfits. Classy.
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse
2150 Harbor Island Dr., San Diego
The 42-year-old Harbor Island landmark has undergone a $3.5 million renovation under the direction of late architect Graham Downes, and now features a new bar, lounge and outdoor dining deck.
7th Ave. Pub
711 University Ave., Hillcrest
Because the only thing missing from a Whole Foods visit is the opportunity to get crunk, the Hillcrest location has added a beer-and-wine bar with wait service and a food menu comprising selections from the store’s robust kitchen/deli counter.
Viva Bar & Kitchen
409 F St., Gaslamp
After shuttering the Gaslamp’s Red Light District, ASAN Restaurant Concepts is reopening the space in June, having rebranded the location with a Latin-fusion menu featuring shareable plates from a smattering of romance-tongued nations.
Wonderland Ocean Pub
5083 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach
A hundred years after the July 4, 1913, grand opening of Wonderland Park, another amusement landmark is set to make a splash in Ocean Beach. Wonderland Ocean Pub — the ocean-view brainchild of a team comprising hospitality wunderkind from The Local (Gaslamp), Bootlegger (East village) and P.B. Shore Club — will open its doors and disappearing window walls (at the former location of nick’s at the Pier) in June. Check it out for fresh seafood, cocktails and an á la carte grill menu.