Landmark Carlsbad restaurant has closed, but chef has more in the works

Chef/owner Rob Ruiz filets fish at his The Land & Water Company restaurant in Carlsbad Village in this October 2018 photo.
Chef/owner Rob Ruiz prepares fish at his The Land & Water Company restaurant in Carlsbad Village in this October 2018 photo. He closed the 6-year-old restaurant on Oct. 12. (Eduardo Contreras /The San Diego Union-Tribune)
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Chef Rob Ruiz closed The Land & Water Co. in Carlsbad Village on Saturday, but plans to open new restaurants in San Diego and North County


The Land & Water Co., chef Rob Ruiz’s acclaimed seafood restaurant in the historic 1887 Queen Anne mansion in Carlsbad Village, closed its doors Saturday after six years in business. The closure will be a brief respite as he prepares to open two new restaurant ventures.

In early December, he plans to host the grand opening of his previously announced The Hold Fast, a sushi hand roll shop in San Diego’s Liberty Public Market that will only serve seafood caught by local fishermen. And in early 2020, he hopes to debut a new restaurant, potentially in the Carlsbad area, that he describes as a new and improved version of Land & Water.

“It will be a version of everything we do, but on steroids,” he said on Monday.

The closure of Land & Water Co. does not impact Ruiz’s speakeasy, The Charles Kenneth, which continues to operate in the restaurant’s basement near the corner of Carlsbad Boulevard and Carlsbad Village Drive.

Ruiz said that since he opened Land & Water in May 2014, he has learned a lot as a chef and business owner but added that it’s “time for us to grow ... All that we learned in the last six years has led us to a new level in our food.”

Ruiz, 42, grew up in Oceanside, then moved to Hawaii at age 17 and trained there in French and Japanese cooking and sushi techniques. He returned to San Diego in 2005 and spent nine years working at local sushi restaurants. Frustrated at the rampant mislabeling of seafood in the sushi industry, Ruiz in 2013 introduced QR source codes printed on edible squares of rice paper that Harney Sushi diners could scan to find out the type of fish they were eating and where it was caught.

In 2014, he opened Land & Water Co., where all of the seafood, land proteins and produce were fully traceable, sustainable and organic and its food waste was recycled in an onsite composting program.

In 2016, Ruiz was one of 12 honorees to receive the international Ocean Award for his sustainable seafood practices from the Blue Marine Foundation and Boat International. The award recognized Ruiz’s efforts to save Mexico’s near-extinct vaquita porpoises and to promote the sale of Mexican shrimp caught without the (now-banned) gill nets that were entangling vaquita.

And in November 2018, Ruiz became the first chef and restaurateur in San Diego County to be certified by the James Beard Foundation for his sustainable seafood program.

Chef Rob Ruiz displays a sushi hand roll like the ones he plans to serve at The Hold Fast, a booth serving fresh-caught San Diego seafood that will open this fall in Liberty Public Market at Liberty Station.
(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Ruiz announced plans for The Hold Fast in 2018, saying it was an idea he’d been developing over four years to preserve overfished ocean species, promote safer fishing methods and protect the livelihoods of San Diego’s dwindling commercial fishing industry. The booth at the Liberty Station food hall will sell bite-size, portable sushi wraps as well as gourmet yakitori bites. The menu will change with each day’s catch.

Construction on The Hold Fast should be complete by Nov. 15, with an anticipated soft opening during Thanksgiving week.

Meanwhile, Ruiz said he’s also working on plans for another new restaurant in North County, which he said will share the philosophy of Land & Water, offering sustainable fish and all-natural land proteins and produce.

“We’re super thankful for all the opportunities we’ve had to take care of Carlsbad for six years but we’ll be back with something that’s bigger and more independent,” he said.

The closure of Land & Water came as a surprise to diners, who learned via Instagram and Facebook on Saturday morning that Oct. 12 would be its last day of business. He was gratified by the large turnout of customers who showed up in the final days to see the restaurant off.

For updates on the Ruiz restaurants, visit