Saffron expanding its Thai chicken to La Jolla


Saffron, an India Street staple for more than three decades, is expanding to La Jolla, where a new restaurant will open in June.

The planned 2,000-square-foot eatery, which will occupy a now closed Chipotle on Torrey Pines Road, marks the first new Saffron since former owner and founder Su-Mei Yu sold the restaurant to San Diego hospitality firm Karina’s, which has a number of its own restaurants in the county.

When Karina’s decided to take over ownership in 2016, the restaurant group said it planned to open a new Saffron each year, with the guidance of Yu, who remains a presence in the restaurant. While still passionate about Thai cooking, Yu no longer had the capital and energy to grow the business.

La Jolla seemed the next logical location considering it is where Yu lives and that so many customers had been requesting a move there, said David Contreras Curiel, a partner with Karina’s Group.

“I’m thrilled to expand Saffron to La Jolla,” Yu said in a written statement. “Customers have been asking me for years to add more locations, but I haven’t found the right opportunity until now.”

Curiel said the company is now looking beyond San Diego County and California for possible new locations, not only for Saffron but also for Karina’s Ceviches & More, which has a location next door to the Saffron on India.

Curiel said Monday that he was recently in Houston exploring the possibilities of opening a Saffron or a Karina’s — or both. The focus for now will be on fast casual outlets as opposed to full service restaurants

“We hear Houston is a great market and wanted to check it out and we really did like it,” he said. “We have close relationships with the malls where we have other restaurants, so we are exploring different territories and states. But we definitely have to make sure it’s the right move.”

There is also interest in more San Diego County locations, potentially in North County, Curiel added.

Building out the new La Jolla location is expected to cost about $250,000, Curiel estimates. The decor will mirror that of the existing restaurant, with its earth tones, dark flooring and generous use of brick accents. The restaurant will have an outdoor patio that will account for an extra 800 square feet of dining space.

While the traditional menu with such favorites as Thai grilled chicken, salad rolls and noodle dishes will remain, the restaurant group is looking at adding gelatos and ice cream specially made for Saffron, as well as wine on tap, Curiel said. He is also looking at incorporating the popular daily specials into the regular menu.


(619) 293-2251

Twitter: @loriweisberg