It’s risky business tweaking the concept of an established restaurant, let alone changing its name altogether. But that’s where SOHO owners Patrick Chan and Sean Daniel decided to place their bets. The pair doubled the former space of Kearny Mesa’s Nolbu; hired a chef who’s originally from Laos and Thailand to integrate Pan Asian options alongside a handful of favorites from the formerly Korean-centric menu; expanded from eight to 24 taps of interesting, regional brews; and scored a full liquor license, with Chan, a San Diego native, curating a neat list of spirits destined for classic cocktails, and plenty of quirky ones, too.
SOHO is a gastropub, meaning that it’s a comfy spot with equally thoughtful attention paid to the food and drink. It’s a concept that’s been played out, used and abused all over town - and in trendy neighborhoods across the U.S. for that matter - which makes a trip to SOHO all the more mind bending, though thankfully one with a tasty, not dizzying, ending. SOHO is nestled in a Kearny Mesa strip mall, and unlike the foodie region of North Park, you won’t run into the usual burger and mac n’ cheese groupies here, and prohibition era costumed bartenders are refreshingly amiss, too. Though there is some sausage on the menu, it’s seasoned with lemongrass... so, it’s all good.
Chan, 29, got into the business of opening a “passion project” as he calls it, two and a half years ago with Nolbu. Now, he’s part of a growing community of young entrepreneurs in town, focused on community building and actively supporting each other. He said it might take a few years for more young business owners to set up shop in Kearny Mesa, but points to places like Common Theory, and his own, as signs of progress. Eventually Chan would like to see pub crawls and more collaboration between businesses in the area.