The Lion's Share: Owner Tells All

The Lion's Share is San Diego's newest craft cocktail lounge that serves thoughtful spirits and hearty California cuisine in a warm setting just off Harbor Dr. on Kettner Blvd. Operating partners Hassan Mahmood and Roy Ledo had a simple vision from day one: to create a bar/restaurant that is entirely owner-operated. A place where they can live, work and play. The Lion's Share brings their spin on Aesop's fable to life in downtown's Marina District.

The cocktail program is clean and simple, and the menu features a mix of new and classic cocktails presented with playful names, descriptions and fable-inspired illustrations (pictured). Stand-out spirits include the Federal Buffalo Stamp, made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, lemon, ginger root and maple syrup; Papa Hemingway, made with El Dorado Rum, Maraschino, lime, grapefruit and orange bitters; and Monks Gone Wild, a blend of Strawberry Infused Primm's, Green Chartreuse, lemon and ginger beer. All featured cocktails are priced at $11.

Hassan and Roy teamed up with Chef Lhasa Landry to create an inventive menu of upscale bar bites and classic entrees that engage game meats. Starters range from the basic Cheese and Charcuterie Plates, Potato Puffs and French Fries, to Antelope Sliders and the Exotic Sausage Sampler. For a more hearty meal, entrees include Grilled Whole Branzino, Pan Seared Bandera Quail, Bourbon Glazed Wild Boar Ribs, and "Our Burger Animal Style" - Paso Robles grass fed beef topped with wild boar bacon, fried duck egg, smoked cheddar and crispy shallots. Starters range in price from $6 to $16, and entrees are priced between $14 and $28.

Get to know The Lion's Share and the real story behind it in this week's Industry Spotlight.

DiscoverSD: Tell us about the team behind The Lion's Share. Hassan Mahmood: The Lion's Share is managed by two operating partners: Hassan Mahmood & Roy Ledo. Hassan has his roots based in the East Coast.  He moved here three years ago with the concept and the plan, and met Roy while slinging drinks at La Puerta. Him and Roy shared the same fundamentals about hospitality and product, and they gravitated into a friendship and partnership. Roy has spent the past few years in San Diego working at popular spots such as The Hard Rock, La Puerta, and Fleetwood.

DSD: What was your motivation for opening The Lion's Share in San Diego? Has: The concept was drawn by four friends and bartending colleagues in New Brunswick, NJ.  It was meant to be a bar/restaurant that was entirely owner-operated.  They just wanted to live, work, and play in paradise, and San Diego was the closest that came to it! (Hassan had previously   visited college friends and San Diego, and fell in love).

DSD: How did you find the location? Has: We were looking for a building that had the characters of exposed brick and a warm feel.  Once we were introduced to this location, we fell in love with the neighborhood aspect of the place.  The location had a warm feel and it seemed that the neighborhood would welcome a place they could frequent and call their second home.

DSD: What is the story behind the name? Has: The Lion's Share is a timeless story, but most well-known as one of Aesop's fables.  It is based upon a lion that goes hunting with a fox, a jackal, and a wolf.  They take down a stag and the lion has them quarter it in four parts.  The lion essentially takes up all the parts to himself, and the moral of the story is driven upon that.

DSD: Did you work with an interior designer? And/or what is the vision for the atmosphere? Has: We had retained a designer from one of the most creative design groups in San Diego.  He brought a face to the story, but the implementation was a collaborative effort through him, ourselves, and two other boutique designer and branding firms.

DSD: Tell us about your craft cocktail program.

Has: It is simple - the goal is to make a great drink, with fresh ingredients, in a manner that is not intimidating, but welcoming.  The menu is driven by some original drinks we have tried to perfect over   the years, and with the help of other San Diego cocktailers.  We also take on some classic cocktails that we have learned to appreciate over the course of our experience working and being patrons at other great cocktail places.

DSD: What are your favorite cocktails on the menu? Has: Two that we are very proud of are: The Buffalo Stamp - (Love the simplicity of it) Buffalo Trace Bourbon Fresh Lemon Juice Vermont Maple Syrup Fresh Ginger Root Monks Gone Wild - (It's a marriage of spirits with secret recipes) Strawberry-Infused Pimm's Green Chartreuse Lemon Juice Ginger Beer

DSD: Tell us about the new chef and menu. Has: We were lucky to meet Lhasa Landry, who had most recently worked at  Red Velvet.  Her experiences also include Cafe Chloe, Blanca, and Starlite. It's a California-driven menu that calls for fresh local ingredients and elements of sustainability. It's more than just upscale bar food, and we are featuring an exciting twist of classic plates made with game meats.

DSD: How about entertainment? Will there be a DJ booth and/or any special entertainment? Has: Only iPods with sweet music!  The Lion's Share is meant to be a social  gathering which promotes community through food and drink and simple conversation.  Therefore, we stayed away from television and loud music.

DSD: How will The Lion's Share be different from existing craft cocktail bars in San Diego? Has: San Diego is on a movement that is starting to spring up some great cocktail bars.  From our standpoint, the more places to get a good drink, the better for the whole world.  Our guests have said that we are very warm and welcoming.  It's up for everyone else to decide how we are different.  The only thing I can say is that we sure have the most fun doing it.

DSD: What days / nights are you open, and will that change into the New Year? Has: We are open daily for operations from the hours of 4 pm to 2 am.  Food  is served nightly until midnight.  We hope to expand into lunch hours in the future few months.

DSD: What new nightlife trends do you look forward to seeing in 2012? Has: I hope that mass public start to appreciate the mass amounts of talent spread throughout San Diego and isn't afraid to travel from neighborhood to neighborhood.  I also hope for better public   transportation and increased cabs.

DSD: When you're not working, where can we find you in San Diego? Has: We have been working a lot lately but our favorites include Starlite, Bankers Hill Restaurant, Farmhouse Cafe, Fleetwood, Cafe Chloe, Cowboy Star, Counterpoint, Small Bar, and many more,  We love to eat & drink!

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Source: DiscoverSD

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