Since it opened two months ago, 508 Tavern has been drawing a strictly hometown crowd for its beer, wine and award-winning Korean-style tacos.
That’s just fine with Shelly Kentner, 29, a Vista native who opened the pub May 5 with her boyfriend and partner Hector Estrada, 36.
“We’re not trying to be anything other than a place where local people can come and hang out and feel like home,” said Kentner, who attended Roosevelt Middle School and Vista High before following in her family’s footsteps in the hospitality trade.
In 1919, her grandfather Edward Kentner Sr. bought the 1887 Queen Anne-style mansion at the corner of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive and turned it into the Twin Inns restaurant and hotel (today, the ornately decorated building houses a surf shop and the Land & Water Company restaurant). The Kentner family sold the building in the mid-1980s and Shelly’s father now runs a sheet metal fabrication business. He custom-made 508 Tavern’s sleek, industrial-looking tap system.
Shelly Kentner has worked as a bartender at several North County locations over the past six years. She spent five years at Harrah’s Rincon Casino, where she met Estrada. She was also an opening bartender at the Urge Gastropub & Whiskey Bank in Oceanside and also did stints at the Grand Avenue Bar & Grill in Carlsbad and Local Tap House in Oceanside.
Estrada, who grew up in Valley Center, also has a long history in the bar trade. Last year, they decided to open their own place. The 35-seat 508 Tavern has opened in the 1,100-square-foot space formerly occupied by the Tortas El Rey shop. There’s a bar, table seating and a patio that faces South Santa Fe Avenue.
The pub has 12 beers on tap, including several made by local brewers, including Mother Earth, Booze Brothers, Belching Beaver and Alpine Beer Company. There are also a couple of major label beers, like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors Lite, to broaden the bar’s appeal to all ages, tastes and budgets. There’s also bottled beer and wines by the glass.
The menu was developed by Kentner and Estrada in collaboration with chef Abel Ramirez. It features spiced-up pub fare like buffalo chicken nachos, chorizo cheesy fries and calamari with sriracha ranch sauce. There are also sliders, salads, avocado toast and stuffed fried olives. The top-seller is the Spicy Korean BBQ Tacos, which were adapted from a Kentner family recipe. Last week, the tacos - made with marinated flank steak, Asian slaw and ginger soy glaze - won first place at the Taste of Vista event.
Kentner said she’s had a lot of support from longtime Vista residents who are happy to have another family-run restaurant downtown. She said they’ll need all the support they can get this fall when the next phase of the city’s Paseo Santa Fe redevelopment project begins on the street and sidewalks in front of her business.
“We’re happy we opened early enough to try and build a business of loyal customers who can see us through until the road work is done,” she said.
Hours: 12:30-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Sundays. 12:30-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Closed Mondays.
Where: 508 S. Santa Fe Ave., Vista