Trust, Fort Oak owners to open a Hillcrest steakhouse, convert Brooklyn Girl into a bakery, Italian eatery
The Trust Restaurant Group will open Cardellino, an all-day eatery in the Mission Hills space that housed Brooklyn Girl, and convert Hundred Proof into the retro, mid-century steakhouse 4130 West.
The team behind two of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in San Diego — Trust and Fort Oak — is adding two more ambitious, chef-driven neighborhood eateries to its portfolio, turning the now-closed Brooklyn Girl space in Mission Hills into an all-day eatery and bakery, and converting their faltering Hillcrest cocktail bar into a retro, mid-century steakhouse.
Riding the success of the lauded, 7-month-old Mission Hills woodfire-fueled restaurant Fort Oak and the continued popularity of Trust, which opened in 2016, Trust Restaurant Group owners chef Brad Wise and general manager Steve Schwob are branching into new culinary territory while staying in the same neighborhoods.
Cardellino, or Goldfinch in Italian, is expected to open in January in the sprawling, 4,800-square-foot Goldfinch Street site that housed Brooklyn Girl for seven years until its sudden closure on March 31. In an interview earlier this week at the restaurant, Wise and Schwob said they acquired the space and all of its contents essentially for free, paying just $100,000 to cover the cost of the liquor license. The pair declined to disclose how much they’re spending on their two new ventures.
A little more than a block away from Fort Oak, Cardellino’s multi-concept format — with an elevated Italian-American style restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, a bar, bakery, grab-and-go retail area, ice cream walk-up window and small wine shop — won’t cannibalize the customer base from its sister property, the partners said.
“It will have a casual, everyday approach that will offset Fort Oak, rather than compete with it,” said Schwob.
Wise agreed. “There’s enough people in Mission Hills for everyone,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Trust group will close its under-performing Park Boulevard cocktail bar Hundred Proof on Friday and spend the next 60 days remodeling it into a mid-priced, neighborhood steakhouse that will have a classic-cool feel and be called 4130 West. Hundred Proof, located about six blocks north of Trust, had gone through a revamp less than a year ago. Lunch service was eliminated and the mixology program was overhauled and strengthened, most notably in the hiring of former George’s at the Cove’s star bar director, Stephen Kurpinsky. The hoped-for boost in business, however, wasn’t enough to sustain it.
“We’ve come to realize we do restaurants well, not bars,” Schwob said.
There have been a succession of failed restaurants over the past decade at 4130 Park Blvd., but the partners said the re-imagined concept, with its old-school menu and hip, retro design, will fill a niche for a relaxed neighborhood steakhouse. 4130 West’s price point will fall, they said, in between such legacy locales as South Park’s Turf Supper Club and the Red Fox Steakhouse and Piano Bar in North Park, and ultra-luxe showcase steakhouses like Little Italy’s Born & Raised and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, on the downtown San Diego bayfront.
“It’s our take on the throwback, mid-century feel with food and cocktails,” Wise said. “It will be comfy, cozy and have a fun vibe. There’s nowhere really like it in a neighborhood that’s chef-driven, except maybe for Cowboy Star” in the East Village.
“It’s a tough location,” Wise added. “We were told more development was coming to (the area), but it’s just happening now.”
The bar at 4130 West will have a smaller footprint, while more tables and booths are being added; it will seat 87 inside and 12 outside. The steakhouse will have a small beef dry-aging room and serve such Rat Pack-era fare as oysters Rockefeller, crab Louis, fettuccine Alfredo and shrimp cocktail. A wood-fired log broiler will give 4130’s steaks, seafood and vegetables the signature smoky flavor profile that’s become associated with Wise’s cooking.
Wise said Cardellino’s dinner menu will feature about 10 pizza varieties, a dozen pastas and other dishes inspired by traditional Italian-American recipes from the East Coast, where he grew up, such as meatballs, antipasto plates, ravioli with red “gravy” and linguine with clams.
“It won’t be hard-core Italian,” Wise said. “It will be Italian-ish.”
Executive pastry chef Jeremy Harville’s on-site bakery will sell a revolving selection of 30 to 40 desserts and pastries, including savory varieties, as well as supplying the artisan bread for the Trust group’s four restaurants. The expanded facility will also allow the Trust group to sell at wholesale the Parker rolls, boules, baguettes and rustic loaves that its come to be known for to such high-profile county eateries as Kettner Exchange in Little Italy, JRDN in Pacific Beach, A.R. Valentien in La Jolla and chef Travis Swikard’s upcoming East Village restaurant, Callie.
Acquiring the Brooklyn Girl location made good business sense, the partners said, because they had outgrown their baking and prep space and developing the new site is less expensive than renting a commissary kitchen.
Tailoring the eclectically designed Cardellino to its surrounding neighbors in Mission Hills, it will have a 16- to 18-seat private dining room that can be used for meetings — a direct request from area businesses, Wise said. Other features lend themselves to the bustling, walkable district, including a grab-and-go counter with items for breakfast, lunch and dinner, an extensive coffee bar and a sidewalk-facing ice cream window on Goldfinch called Mr. Trustee (complete with typography that gives a nod to East Coast soft-serve cult favorite, Mister Softee).
Mr. Trustee will serve eight to 12 ice cream flavors and two soft serves, milk and a rotating flavor; original and French toast cones will be made in the bakery.
Cardellino’s modest wine shop will come courtesy of what the partners call “a dream liquor license” that allows for off-site retail sales. The selection will mirror Trust and Fort Oak’s global wine lists that concentrate on quality bottlings from small producers. Diners at Cardellino will able to buy a bottle to drink at the table at the retail price, plus a $15 corkage fee.
Wrap-around patio space that previously went unused at Brooklyn Girl will also be part of the development project. Cardellino will seat 150 inside and 26 outside.
Schwob quashed any talk of the Trust group’s rapid growth spurt continuing.
“We’re very hands-on, so to have four unique and distinct restaurants is the sweet spot for us,” he said.
“This place is everything we’ve ever wanted,” Schwob said of Cardellino. “We went from planning to have three concepts on five years to four concepts in four years. But we had to do this — it’s the time and the opportunity.”
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