By David Nelson | Introduction by David Perloff
University Heights." src="http://www.pacificsandiego.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/31.jpg" alt="Sausage board at S&M Sausage and Meat in University Heights." width="580" height="435" />
As the city's restaurant-and-bar scene reaches a rolling boil, certain San Diego proprietors are trying to carve out new niches - like S&M, the new sausage-and-meat retreat that's been giving University Heights a culinary cutting edge since November. Other operators are cooking up quirkier ways to woo America's Finest humans. Case in point: no longer relegated to county fairs, fried Oreos and their artery-clogging cousins the double-donut-triple-burgers have staked a claim to Clairemont in the form of Chicken Charlie's FryBQ.
The times, they are a changin'. La Jolla's Strip Club has morphed into Draft Republic, PB's Moondoggies is becoming Backyard Kitchen & Tap, and downtown's Marble Room will soon be reborn as the high-style, roof-free Rustic Root.
While many operators are adapting to and localizing booming trends - adding lines of craft beer tap handles where, for example, a so-so sushi joint once stood in Pacific Beach (see Iron Pig Alehouse in the alphabetical list below) - others are wondering what new design elements will ultimately replace today's craze for reclaimed wood and old fashioned incandescent light bulbs. A visit to the new Kettner Exchange in Little Italy may provide some on that front... or at least on the waterfront.
As for which nostalgic trends may become cool again, check out the repurposed 1964 Airstream trailer now serving as a gleaming, industrial portal into the bustling kitchen at the new OB Warehouse. Then take a peek inside the 32 bars and restaurants showcased here, all of which have opened since October or are coming soon. Their arrival is key to the city, providing dozens of new sites to be scene.
Backyard Kitchen & Tap (opening early 2015)
From the group behind the Union Kitchen & Tap locations in Encinitas and the Gaslamp comes Backyard Kitchen & Tap (formerly Moondoggies), which will further up the ante at the beach with cabanas, living walls and fire pits.
832 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach
Bayside Landing (opened in November)
Crown Point's newest hangout (formerly Big Kahuna's) keeps the good times flowing with sports on big screens; crafty beers and cocktails behind the bar; and sandwiches, pizzas and salads on your table.
3780 Ingraham St., Crown Point
Bracero: Cocina Mexicana de Raiz (opening early 2015)
Famed Tijuana superstar chef Javier Plascencia will present "modern Mexico cuisine" in a two-level eatery with casual and high-end dining and a bar devoted to craft tequilas and mezcals.
1450 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
Café Gratitude (opening early 2015)
Fans of 100-percent organic plant-based fare are poised to sing the praises of this Little Italy newcomer, of which Jason Mraz is a partner.
1980 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
Coastera (opening early 2015)
Where the now sunken Reuben E. Lee restaurant-boat once bobbed at the southern tip of Harbor Island, an immense restaurant/drinkery/event space will soon rise to serve the upscale cuisine of Mexico City's sophisticated neighborhoods under the supervision of chef Deborah Scott and the Cohn Restaurant Group. This one's gonna be a big deal.
880 Harbor Island Dr., Harbor Island
Chicken Charlie's FryBQ (opened in October)
If it's "totally fried," it's totally on the menu at Claremont's audacious temple of deep-fat cooking. Specialties like Fried Oreos and the Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger (stacked on donuts instead of a bun) typify eats imagined by the popular California county fair vendor.
5407 Balboa Ave., Ste. 460, Clairemont
Crushed (opened in October)
Crushed (formerly Ciro's Pizzeria & Beerhouse) brings tapas to PB, serving them with mimosas, select wines and a brunch menu (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) of creative pancakes and omelets.
967 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach
Double Standard Kitchenetta (opened in December)
Clever furnishings at Double Standard (formerly The Counter) provide an inviting setting for Chef Christotel Tan's high-style menu highlighted by slow-roasted lamb neck and, perhaps inevitably, roasted bone marrow-spinach gnocchi.
695 Sixth Ave., East Village
Draft Republic (opened in November)
More than three dozen mostly local beers flow at Cohn Restaurant Group's Draft Republic (formerly La Jolla Strip Club), a new Golden Triangle joint that's jumpin' with billiards, ping-pong and innovative gastropub fare from chef Mike Camplin.
4282 Esplanade Ct., University City
Dunedin (opening early 2015)
Aided by the on-the-way Dunedin, a sibling of the New Zealand-inspired Raglan Public House (Ocean Beach) and Queenstown Public House (Little Italy), 30th Street in North Park continues to build its rep as a leading restaurant row. This new spot from the team behind Bare Back Grill will have a similar vibe to the group's other kiwifocused venues plus an expanded menu.
3501 30th St., North Park
Firehouse American Eatery + Lounge (reopening early January)
Slated for an early-2015 unveiling, PB's reimagined Firehouse American Eatery + Lounge will sport burnt wood as a theme-supporting design element, heating up the beach scene with rooftop DJ beats and an upscale casual menu of new and old favorites like filet mignon with blue cheese hash.
722 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach
Garage Kitchen + Bar (opened in December)
Two-story joints seem to be a major trend in 2015, including this comfy new affiliate of (and located adjacent to) The Shout! House dueling piano bar, with which Garage will share chef Brent Hersant's gifted kitchen.
655 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
Iron Pig Alehouse (opened in October)
A few doors west of Ingraham Street in Pacific Beach (at the former site of Haiku sushi), Iron Pig is billed as "a modern BBQ joint," pairing an extensive craft beer program with succulent, wood-smoked beef, pork and poultry.
1520 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach
Karina's Mexican Seafood (opening in January)
Scores of ceviches and other mariscos (Spanish for "seafoods") set the stage for the new Karina's Downtown (formerly Chaplos), where the famous Karina's Girls are sure to spice-up this new hotspot for top-quality Mexican fare as they have at the existing Karina's locations in Chula Vista, National City and El Cajon. (Attend the exclusive grand opening event on Thursday, January 29)
925 B St., Downtown
Kettner Exchange (opened in October)
Named after William Kettner, the influential congressman who steered the Navy to San Diego, this two-story, multidimensional restaurant/bar/lounge and design masterpiece has been drawing huge crowds with "progressive American" fare by chef Brian Redzikowski.
2001 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
Le Parfait Paris (opened in December)
The Gaslamp's cute new patisserie/boulangerie dishes admittedly costly but beautiful-to-behold French pastries that soothe souls, as do savory quiches and sandwiches built on house-baked baguettes.
555 G St., Gaslamp
Mezè Greek Fusion (opening in January)
Hookah up with friends when the Gaslamp's sprightly Greek fusion phenomenon moves around the corner to considerably larger, stylishly decorated quarters (formerly Gang Kitchen) on Sixth Avenue. Brunch, dinner and parties are all on the menu.
345 Sixth Ave., Gaslamp
Nomad Donuts (opened in November)
North Park's new vendor of doughy treats spices traditional American dunkers with "exotic flavors, textures and general snazziness," offering an evolving, globally inspired menu that features biscotti and coffees, too.
4504 30th St., North Park
OB Warehouse (opened in November)
Global Cuisine inspires this vast second-floor eatery in Ocean Beach (formerly Portugalia), sporting over-the-top industrial décor - characterized by "repurposed" elements like the sawed-in-half 1965 Airstream trailer serves as the window into the kitchen - and chef Amiko Gubbins' Morocco-spiced flatiron steak.
4839 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach
Oceana Coastal Kitchen (opening early 2015)
At 8,200 square feet, this new Catamaran Resort eatery (formerly Atoll) from the design team behind The Lodge at Torrey Pines massively and handsomely showcases the chef-driven cuisine of Lodge alumnus Steven Riemer.
3999 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach
Pan Bon (opening in January)
One of two expansive eateries opening in Little Italy's Ariel tower, Pan Bon expands upon the bakery brothers Giancarlo and Luciano Anselmi opened in Verona, Italy. Options will range from grab-and-go foods to a cafe and a more formal dining area.
1450 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
Pillbox Tavern & Grill (opened in October)
Located above a famed beach break in Solana Beach, this "retro-modern" bar/restaurant (formerly Sushi Solana) cooks up inspired Coastal American cuisine like BBQ Baja chicken salad and a mahi sandwich dressed with mango slaw.
117 W. Plaza St., Solana Beach
Pop's Liquor Cabinet (opened in December)
Billed as San Diego's smallest bar (it seats about a six-pack of patrons), Pop's Liquor Cabinet (formerly Broberto's) is where you make friends the old-fashioned way - over simple drinks in a no-frills but comfy setting.
540 F St., Gaslamp
Ritual JuiceBox (opened in December)
Casual and holistic, this Uptown District destination offers an entirely plant-based menu focused on raw foods, superfood salads and sprouted wraps. "Deep Detox" with a blend of fermented hibiscus, cold-pressed beet juice and spices.
1080 University Ave., Ste. H-107, Hillcrest
Rustic Root (opening early 2015)
The Gaslamp will boast a second-level, open-ceiling restaurant when Rustic Root (formerly Marble Room) opens adjacent to the new and popular Don Chido on Fifth Avenue. Chef Antonio Friscia, who also helms Chido, will use local ingredients to create traditional yet one-of-a-kind "Rustic American" dishes for the project.
535 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
S & M Sausage and Meat (opened in November)
From Scott Slater of Slater's 50/50 burger, University Heights' "Sausage & Meat" (formerly Babbo's Bar & Grill) cruises the wild side with suggestive décor, a porky menu, exotic sausages, a full bar and hard-to-find craft brews.
4130 Park Blvd., University Heights
Sirena Gourmet Latin Seafood Restaurant (opened in October)
Helping Little Italy's rockin' restaurant row continue to sizzle, Sirena (Spanish for "mermaid") enchants diners with the Chile-inspired cookery of chef Jaime Chavez, whose stylin' plates breathe Latin flare.
1901 Columbia St., Little Italy
Stake Chophouse & Bar (opened in October)
Talented chef Tim Kolanko has moved into Coronado's newest luxury address, luring big spenders with deluxe shellfish platters and Japanese wagyu New York strips priced by the ounce.
1309 Orange Ave., Coronado
Stella Public House & Halcyon (opened in November)
This unusual concept pairs a coffeehouse/cocktail lounge (Halcyon) with a farmto- pizza/craft beer taproom (Stella Public House) under one new roof in the ever-expanding East Village.
1429 Island Ave., East Village
The Backyard (opening early 2015)
In the historic Navy firehouse at Liberty Station, The Patio Restaurant Group is opening a neighborly place (with room for 300) with a "backyard party" theme and a menu of pizzas, and grilled and smoked items by chef John Medall.
2855 Perry Rd., Liberty Station
The Rabbit Hole (opened in December)
Normal Heights' new man cave-style bar/eatery (formerly Heights Tavern) serves up Normal Nachos (topped with brisket, pork belly or lobster), ground-rabbit sliders (spiced with habanero chutney), live music and DJs. For some reason, women have been flocking to the place, too.
3377 Adams Ave., Normal Heights
The Local (reopening early 2015)
Downtown's The Local "eatery and drinking hole" will soon be offering locals another reason to drop in - a brand-new on-site brewery to be overseen by Robert Masterson, who will create a line of craft brews to accompany the remodeled venue's already solid menu.
1065 Fourth Ave., Downtown