Side-by-side eateries open in San Marcos

Most restaurant companies don't open a new location too close to an existing one to avoid cannibalizing its business. But a new twin-eatery concept that opened this month in  San Marcos  is making its own rules.

Stella Public House, a farm-to-table restaurant and bar, and Halcyon, serving coffee, brunch, lunch and cocktails, are operating in side-by-side locations in the Block C project of the new North City mixed-use development near Cal State San Marcos.

Lindsay Ford, regional manager for Texas-based Zebo LLC, said the dual concept has been successful in other markets because each eatery has its own distinct products and style.

"We feel our brands will develop a wave of visitorship that flows between the different spaces," said Ford, an Oceanside native. "I grew up in North County, with San Marcos Restaurant Row. North City is the next generation of San Marcos with a craft strip of brands. It's exciting to watch."

The company introduced Halcyon in Austin 15 years ago. Ten years later, it opened its first Halcyon-Stella combo in San Antonio. A second dual location opened three years ago in San Diego's  East Village .

While the San Diego location of Halcyon has thrived, the company relocated Stella to San Marcos this month and replaced its former East Village location with a third concept, B-side Bar, which includes an arcade of old-fashioned games. Ford said East Village's evening-hours demographics right now are better suited for the bar crowd.

Halcyon, which seats 100-120 people at indoor and outdoor tables and a coffee bar and lounge, serves brunch, sandwiches, salads, pastry items, smoothies, gourmet coffee drinks and espresso cocktails.

Stella Public House seats 120-140 at indoor and patio tables and will soon add two private 20-seat dining rooms with roll-up garage doors for patio access. Stella specializes in wood-fired pizzas, small and share plates, salads and desserts.

Dinner is being served now. Lunch and brunch service will be added in a few weeks as the kitchen staff breaks in its ovens, which are now burning red oak at up to 725 degrees Fahrenheit. Until the chefs have perfectly balanced the oven's heat and humidity, they're holding off on introducing heavier entree items like steaks, Ford said.

Both restaurants offer a happy hour from 4-6:30 p.m., as well as cocktail service, but beverage manager Matt Paramo said he's worked hard to distinguish the bar offerings at Halcyon and Stella.

Stella has 24 beer taps (just 10 are now operating, until business ramps up) as well as wine and eight Prohibition-style classic cocktails mixed with house-made fruit liqueurs and infusions. Once brunch is launched, Paramo is planning to offer flights of mimosas.

Halcyon's bar program is more modern and cutting edge, including cocktails made with espresso and cold-brew coffees and quirky twists on favorites, like a mule with jalapeno-infused gin and whiskey with almond milk and chai tea powder.

Since opening two weeks ago, the restaurants have drawn a cross-section of visitors, including college students, families with small children and older couples. Zebo co-owner John Long said he's excited about the potential for North City.

"We set our intention to become a community gathering place and we've done just that," said Long, co-owner of the venues. "The vision of the North City project is exciting to be part of."

Halcyon & Stella Public House

What: Sister eateries. Halcyon serves coffee, cocktails, lunch and brunch. Stella is a full-service, farm-to-table rustic Italian restaurant and bar.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Fridays, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Where: Block C at North City, 250 N. City Drive, San Marcos

Online: halcyoncoffeebar.com and stellapublichouse.com

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