Most restaurant owners approach the business with a carefully plotted five-year plan. But for Leucadia residents Jamie and Marie Brawn, the road to opening their first restaurant — Homestead in Solana Beach — took a lot of unexpected twists and turns.
Their 6-month-old restaurant, which took over the former Lockwood Table space in the Cedros Design District in November, was the long-resisted outgrowth of their Root Cellar Catering Co., which itself grew from their now-shuttered special events company.
The menu at Homestead has also been a laissez-faire creation. The Brawns’ sons — 10-year-old Aiden and 7-year-old Brady — have food allergies, so by necessity over the past decade they’ve perfected a variety of gluten-free dishes at home. One of their sons’ favorites, gluten-free brown butter waffles, is now Homestead’s top-selling breakfast item. The lunch menu star is the gluten-free chicken pot hand-pie, which Jamie came up with on a whim one day when he had some leftover dough.
“The menu has just sort of evolved,” said Marie Brawn, 38. “We eat out a lot and have lots of friends in the restaurant industry, so we just wanted to create the kind of place where we’d want to go.”
The Brawns have spent their whole careers in the hospitality industry. Jamie, now 42, worked as a bartender for Jake’s Del Mar and Pacifica Del Mar. Marie started out as a hostess, and later, a bartender and events planner, at Pacifica Del Mar and Jimmy O’s. They met in 2005, married and soon combined their talents in Connected San Diego, a special events venture where they coordinated local parties for out-of-town clients.
For these parties, the Brawns would book venues, plan menus, buy all the food and then hire a chef to cook everything. Then, one day in 2008 a chef canceled at the last minute and Jamie, an aspiring but not professionally trained chef, stepped in and pulled the menu off without a hitch.
“He loved it and the light bulb went on in his head saying, ‘I want to do this.’ That was the beginning of Root Cellar Catering,” Marie said.
For a few years, the Brawns ran both their special events and catering companies until Root Cellar became so successful they decided to focus on it alone in 2012. Now based in a 3,500-square-foot commercial kitchen and storage building in Mira Mesa, Root Cellar hosts events all over Southern California. Recent bookings include the “Captain Marvel” movie premiere party in L.A., a Pepsi All-Star Block Party and several food design projects for Cuisinart.
Over the years, many of the Brawns’ catering clients encouraged them to open their own restaurant, but they resisted the temptation because with their catering business and two young boys, they didn’t think they could handle the stress of running a restaurant, as well. Now they wonder why they waited so long.
“Running the restaurant has been a piece of cake compared to catering,” she said. “All the food is onsite, there’s no lugging everything to venues or open fields. We prepare food when it’s ordered and there’s no food waste. It’s been the easiest thing we’ve ever done together.”
Homestead took over the 48-seat Lockwood Table space left vacant last June when its owner decided not to renew her lease and moved out of state. The 9-year-old café was known for its farm-to-table menu, lavender lattes and housemade walnut butter. In homage to Lockwood Table, the Brawns have created their own whipped walnut butter and they serve lavender syrup by request with their coffee drinks.
Homestead’s menu is relatively small, highly seasonal and locally sourced. Breakfast items include avocado toast, egg dishes, breakfast burritos and bowls, smoothies, pastries and coffee drinks. The lunch menu features organic salads, sandwiches, wraps and hand pies with numerous vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Braised beef short rib, the dish Root Cellar is best known for, has been incorporated into several dishes.
Still to come is Homestead market, where customers can buy grab-and-go menu items, produce and specialty items, as well as artisan home goods and personal products made by local artisans, like the Oceanside companies Mr. B’s and Under Luna.
Marie said she and her husband are grateful for the suggestions and constructive criticism they’ve received from customers as Jamie continues developing new recipes for the menu.
“We’ve been welcomed with open arms,” she said. “There’s not a lot of craft food restaurants in Solana Beach, so our customers have been really helpful in coming to us with their ideas as we work things out.”
Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
Where: 346 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach
Phone: (858) 209-0149