Fired up: Six hot new restaurants enter the San Diego dining scene


San Diego recently welcomed “eatertainment,” flash-frozen ice cream, hard kombucha and more to the dining scene.

Punch Bowl Social

East Village

One of the largest “eatertainment” projects in San Diego history, this restaurant, bar and gaming center in East Village can feed up to 1,000 people or host eight events simultaneously. Open since June 9, the 23,500-square-foot Punch Bowl Social venue is the Denver-based chain’s 14th since 2012.

The made-from-scratch menu by two-time James Beard Award-winning chef Hugh Acheson has an all-new mix of Tex Mex-inspired dishes and shareable platters, as well as Acheson’s signature gluten-free fried chicken and superfood grain bowl. The venue has three bars that specialize in craft cocktails and spiked punch bowls, as well as 30 specialty non-alcoholic drinks, juices and shakes.

Despite the vast size of the two-story venue, the space is compartmentalized into individually themed rooms where visitors can dine, drink, sit around a fire or take part in activities that include bowling, Ping-Pong, shuffleboard, darts, corn hole, bocce and karaoke.

Punch Bowl Social was constructed inside the long-shuttered 1920s-era Coliseum Athletic Club. Elements of the old boxing gym — reconditioned VIP and bleacher seating, boxing bells and stylized ring ropes — can be found throughout the building, which has a wildly eclectic design mix of mountain lodge, Victorian, industrial and mid-century modern elements.

For the full dish on Punch Bowl Social, read more here.

1485 E St., East Village, 619.452.3352,

The Punch Bowl Social located in the East Village of downtown, San Diego, features unique drinks like the “It’s Always in the Banana Stand.”

Project Bar & Grill


On June 1, the former Brew Project changed its name to Project Bar & Grill to help distinguish itself as more than just one of San Diego’s ubiquitous breweries. While its 24-tap beer program is still a centerpiece at the four-year-old venue, the new name emphasizes the restaurant’s craft cocktails (including CBD Vodka Lemonades on draft) and its dinner menu, featuring gourmet burgers, wings, salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. It also serves a traditional weekend brunch menu.

3683 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest, 619.795.7890,

Cauldron Ice Cream

Kearny Mesa

The Orange County-based gourmet ice cream shop opened its first San Diego County location on Convoy Street in early June. Cauldron serves made-to-order ice creams where the ingredients are flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen while the customer waits, then served in rosebud-shaped scoops in a bubble waffle cone with toppings. Signature flavors include s’mores, milk and cereal, sea-salted caramel crunch and Earl Gray lavender. The fast-expanding 3-year-old company is also planning future locations in coastal and central North County.

4646 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa,

JuneShine Hard Kombucha

North Park

A new startup in North Park’s Brewery Igniter project is JuneShine, a hard kombucha bar. Founded by friends Forrest Dein and Greg Serrao, JuneShine is brewing in-house and serving alcohol-infused organic kombucha, a bubbly fermented tea that’s known for its healthful qualities. Its current flavors, brewed from honey and green tea, are honey ginger lemon and blood orange mint. It’s available on tap at the bar and, soon, in cans at other locations.

3052 El Cajon Blvd., North Park, 619.501.8311,



In March, MO’s Universe Group opened this indoor/outdoor restaurant and cocktail bar at the Eitol Towers mixed-use development. MO’s owns several local gay-friendly restaurants, including Urban MO’s, Gossip Grill, Baja Betty’s and Hillcrest Brewing. The Mediterranean-inspired menu by Maryjo Testa features dishes such as grilled Spanish octopus, spicy Moroccan chicken tagine and tableside-prepared poke and hot stone-grilled steaks. The name is an homage to the area’s LGBTQ community and the restaurant’s unusual courtyard/poolside location.

1642 University Ave., Ste. 100, Hillcrest, 619.888.8623,

The Pioneer BBQ

San Carlos

Carnitas’ Snack Shack co-founder Hanis Cavin has teamed up with chef Willie DePasquale of Moceri Produce to open this new chef-driven barbecue eatery in San Carlos. The restaurant’s consulting BBQ pitmaster is Ivan Munoz of Moonshine Flats and David Cohn of the Cohn Restaurant Group is an investment partner in charge of overhauling the former McCarter’s restaurant space. Specialties of the house, which opened in mid-June, are brisket, ribs, chicken and burgers, plus a mix of local beers.

8622 Lake Murray Blvd., San Carlos, 619.825.7787,

7 Mile Kitchen


As part of the expansion of the newly refurbished Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, this new poolside restaurant and bar opened in mid-June. Chef Gil Manipon oversees a menu of Neopolitan-style wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers, entree salads, pastas and appetizers. The outdoor bar overseen by mixologist Steve George serves fruit and floral-infused cocktails. There’s also a gelato bar with custom flavors from EscoGelato.

At the Sheraton Carlsbad, 5420 Grand Pacific Dr., Carlsbad, 760.827.2514,