On Monday evening, 3 LB Restaurant Group opened the 1-acre project, which incorporates a restaurant, three bars, a brewery and barrel room, an eight-lane bowling alley and two private dining rooms in a 21,000-square-foot warehouse-style building. Wrapped around it on two sides is a 12,000-square-foot fenced patio and beer garden with two bocce courts, oversized table games and dining tables with built-in fire pits.
Known as Urge Common House, the project at 255 Redel Road is the first commercial piece of the long-in-development North City project, which will eventually cover 200 acres north of Cal State San Marcos with apartments, offices, restaurants, shops, hotels and other mixed-use buildings.
Urge has opened next door to the The Quad, the student housing apartment complex that ushered in North City in 2014.
Coming up next is a multilevel parking garage near Urge and two more restaurants in the ground-floor retail spaces at the Quad: Halcyon, a breakfast eatery and coffee bar, and Stella Public House, which serves rustic Italian cuisine, craft beer and cocktails.
Urge Common House is the fifth and largest North County project for 3 LB, a three-way partnership of Grant Tondro and brothers Zak and Nate Higson.
The company was started 10 years ago by Tondro and Zak Higson, who became close friends when they worked together in their 20s as wine specialists for Vons. Although Tondro moved on to banking and Higson became an accountant, they never gave up their dream of one day opening their own wine bar.
In 2006, they wrote up their business plan and a year later opened The Barrel Room Vintage Wine Bar, a wine bar and bistro in Rancho Bernardo. It was an instant success. Three years later, they leased another space in the same shopping center for their first Urge Gastropub, which was one of North County's first craft beer-on-tap restaurant/bars.
In 2012, they opened Brothers Provisions, also in Rancho Bernardo, which is an artisan market selling house-made charcuterie, gourmet coffee, sandwiches and pizza. And in late 2015, they opened Urge Gastropub & Whiskey Bank in Oceanside.
The Oceanside location also includes the 101 Proof speakeasy club and Mason Ale Works, a brewery that makes four craft beers: Charley Hustle red IPA, Jambi West Coast IPA, Cash imperial coffee stout and Willy Time white ale.
Originally, Urge Common House was going to be built inside the former Bally's gym in Vista. But when that deal fell through three years ago, the North City developers approached 3 LB and offered them a building site in San Marcos. Higson said he and his partners much prefer the mixed-use community concept and are excited for the area's future.
Urge Common House, which Higson calls "the monster," is a natural evolution of the company's ever-evolving business. It's also a reflection on how the public's tastes are changing when it comes to eating, drinking and congregating, he said.
"We saw that the dining industry was going in different directions," Higson said. "We're trying to create a space where people can gather with friends for whatever they want to do. It's an everyday, every person kind of place where people can go to play bocce, do bowling, have a drink or maybe have dinner if they want."
One of the most unusual features of Urge Common House is the glitzy bowling alley, which has its own cocktail bar specializing in white Russians, the favored drink of "The Dude," the lazy bowling enthusiast in the film "The Big Lebowski."
The restaurant's menu is similar to that at the other two Urge locations, but Higson said they've added five flatbreads, including the signature barbecue bacon cheeseburger variety.
The 4,200-square-foot glass-walled brewery has a 15-barrel system with room for expansion. A canning machine has just been installed and should begin operation in a few weeks.
Higson said that since the doors opened Monday, business has been very strong. There's even been an unexpected number of families who have been drawn to the patio for picnic-style dining, bocce games and table games that include oversize Jenga and Connect Four as well as cornhole (bean bag toss game).
"It's been nice and reaffirming that we're going in the right direction," Higson said. "We were straight up welcomed into the community at large and we're really grateful for that."
Urge Gastropub & Common House
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays. 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays. 11:30 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays (kitchen closes one hour earlier).
Where: 255 Redel Road, San Marcos