Blue-ribbon team behind Carlsbad’s new Black Rail Kitchen + Bar
Cohn Restaurant Group and revered chef Travis Swikard helped bring Grant and Jenny Gottesman’s vision to life
It’s not an understatement to say that Grant and Jenny Gottesman have cornered the dining market in Carlsbad: In late August, the Carlsbad couple opened their third restaurant in the Paseo Real shopping center at the corner of El Camino Real and Aviara Parkway.
Their first venture nine years ago, Tin Leaf Kitchen, serves a fast-casual lunch and dinner menu. Their 5-year-old Beach Plum Kitchen is a breakfast and lunch cafe. Now comes , a more upscale special-occasion dinnerhouse and bar serving Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
Grant Gottesman said he and his wife wanted to create something unique with Black Rail. By creating three distinct brands, they ensured that their restaurants wouldn’t cannibalize one another’s business. But more important, Black Rail is a concept that he said is filling an underserved niche in the La Costa area. It’s a large, sleek, date-night-for-adults restaurant with two bars and a large dining patio.
“We looked around to see what was missing in the trade area, and we saw an opportunity,” he said. “We thought we could bring a little more urban experience into the suburbs.”
To make Black Rail Kitchen a reality, the Gottesmans teamed up with some of the biggest names in San Diego’s dining community. David Cohn and Deborah Scott of Cohn Restaurant Group (CRG) signed on last year as partners in Black Rail. And its menu was developed by consulting chef Travis Swikard, a protégé of Michelin Star chef Daniel Boulud. Swikard, a San Diego native, will open his own restaurant next year in East Village.
Gottesman has been in the region’s restaurant business for 30 years, including 18 years with Karl Strauss and two years with CRG, where he helped open four Cohn locations, including 333 Pacific in Oceanside. In return, the Cohns have invested in all three of the Gottesmans’ restaurants and were generous in sharing their advice and contacts, including Swikard, who used CRG’s Coasterra kitchen to develop the Black Rail menu.
“We’re very proud of the work Grant and his team have done there,” Scott said of Black Rail.
Black Rail was built inside the long-shuttered Tuscany restaurant, which shared an underutilized patio with Tin Leaf. The large building has 5,500 square feet of space indoors and a 5,000-square-foot patio. The space is so large that one bar serves the dining room and one serves the patio on busy weekend nights. The restaurant is named for a marsh bird that’s native to Southern California, and the bird and its habitat can be seen in the chic, urban décor designed by Melissa Young.
The Mediterranean-inspired menu — which is being executed by the Gottesmans’ longtime company chef Moises Hernandez — has influences of the Middle East, Greece and Italy mixed with touches of California and Mexican cuisine. Some of Scott’s favorite dishes are the kale and walnut pesto flatbread, mussels and clams with smoked butter, casarecce pasta, whole branzino fish and Moroccan-braised lamb meatballs.
Gottesman said he’s been gratified by how busy the restaurants has been since opening, particularly the popularity of the new patio.
“We felt that if we did something unique and different enough from what was already out there, it would be well-received from the beginning. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response,” he said.
Lunch service was recently added Tuesdays through Fridays, but there no are immediate plans to add weekend brunch, since his other restaurants have that covered. One complaint he has heard from some diners is that the menu — with 12 shared plates, nine large plates and no children’s menu — is too small. But that is by design, he said.
“We’re in a Cheesecake Factory society where everybody wants everything for everyone when they go out to eat,” he said. “We want to focus on what we can do really well and be unique.”
Black Rail Kitchen + Bar
Hours: lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays. Dinner 4 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 4 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; bar hours 4 to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 4 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; happy hour 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
Where: Paseo Real Center lower level, No. 103, 6981 El Camino Real, Carlsbad
Phone: (760) 931-0020