If you’ve resolved to try new things this year, here are some tasty options to get you started.
In the last few months, dozens of new restaurants have popped up around the county — everything from casual barbecue to vegan sushi. Some are run by familiar chefs like Brian Malarkey, while others are completely new neighborhood concepts. Here are 11 of the buzzed-about openings in town.
In September, Italian restaurateur Mario Cassineri and several partners opened this modern Italian restaurant in the historic 1930s-era former Blade-Tribune newspaper building. The 167-seat, newspaper-themed restaurant and bar specializes in serving Neapolitan-style pizza made in an Italian wood-fired oven and moderately priced pastas made in-house daily.
Downtown Oceanside, blade1936.com
Herb & Sea
Brian Malarkey and Chris Puffer, the team behind San Diego’s new luxury restaurant Animae, opened this “East Coast meets West Coast” seafood-focused eatery in November. Billed as the “little sister” to Puffer Malarkey Collective’s Herb & Wood in Little Italy, the new 6,500-square-foot restaurant is located in a historic downtown Encinitas building and has some of Malarkey’s classic H&W dishes. The menu also offers many new dishes by executive chef Sara Harris, including oysters and bone marrow and whole roasted branzino.
WR Kitchen & Bar
L.A.-based Wood Ranch restaurant chain is testing a new fast-casual service model, and one of the first locations of WR Kitchen & Bar opened in October in Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch. Diners at the 140-seat restaurant can still order all of the chain’s barbecue and grilled mains and Americana side dishes, but they order from a counter at the bar and can custom order dishes and sides in choose-your-own portions from individual to family size.
Carlsbad’s Bressi Ranch, wrkitchenbar.com
In November, RakiRaki Ramen & Tsukemen chef/owner Junya Watanabe opened what he calls San Diego’s first Japanese vegan restaurant on Convoy Street. Located in Watanabe’s former Pokirrito restaurant space, The Yasai — the Japanese word for vegetables — serves an entirely plant-based menu of sushi rolls and nigiri, ramen, globally inspired appetizers, tempura dishes, sliders, snacks and salads. It seats 50. As he did on Convoy, Watanabe plans to open a second The Yasai in the former Pokirrito space by his RakiRaki shop in Little Italy in early 2020.
Kearny Mesa, theyasai.com
Trust Restaurant Group opened this modern steakhouse in its former Hundred Proof cocktail bar space in November. Chef Brad Wise’s menu features a number of American and Australian steaks, wood-roasted vegetables, shellfish dishes and house-made pastas.
Metl Bar & Restaurant
On Nov. 18, restaurant veterans Randy and Jenna Elskamp opened this 39-seat rock ‘n’ roll agave and whiskey bar in the space formerly occupied by the couple’s 10-year-old restaurant, The Hopping Pig. The affordably priced neighborhood bar serves 32 beers on rotating taps, cocktails, plus flights of tequila, mezcals and whiskeys. A limited global cuisine menu features items like chicken salad, carnitas, fish tacos, elote, stuffed shells and poutine. Regular nightly food specials are planned along with industry nights and live music.
Gaslamp Quarter, metlsd.com
SKA Bar & Restaurant
In October, this two-story Asian fusion cocktail bar opened in Normal Heights. Louie Chau, a nail salon owner whose family runs Lotus Garden restaurant in City Heights, teamed with Elliott Mizuki, who was a bar manager/mixologist for six years at Polite Provisions, to design the concept and space. The SKA acronym references Chau’s initial name for the space as Simple Kitchen on Adams. The Asian-inspired cocktails include a Thai tea, and drinks incorporating items like toasted jasmine rice and yuzu. Chef Juan Moreno’s Asian tapas menu includes bao buns, firecracker shrimp and bulgogi fries. The venue occupies the ground-floor space as well as a fourth-story rooftop deck, used primarily for special events. Mizuki said the prices are intentionally low to attract a neighborhood crowd.
Normal Heights, 619.230.5038
Bottle Rocket Bar & Grill
In November, the shuttered Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery space in East Village reopened as Bottle Rocket, an affordably-priced gastropub specializing in beer, cocktails, burgers, cheesesteaks, salads and wings. The building’s former brewery room is now a game room. Bottle Rocket joins a family of restaurants that includes The Regal Beagle and Sidecar.
East Village, 619.414.8922
In November, Cohn Restaurant Group officially opened this American comfort food restaurant and bar in the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch center. Cohn took over the lease for the former Westroot Tavern last summer and, while keeping the doors open, spent five months gradually transforming the 200-seat space from a masculine sports bar/gastropub into a more feminine, family-friendly restaurant and bar with game room loft and dog-friendly patio. The menu by Urban Kitchen Group alumni chefs Doug Dellaccio and Daniel Wolinksy features salads, sandwiches, larger entrees and house-baked single-serving pies. There are 30 beers on tap and lighter wines, spritzes and froses.
Carmel Valley, pacificsocialsd.com
In the fall, Mario and Morgan Warman transformed their casual sandwich shop, Moto Deli, into a sit-down global cuisine restaurant helmed by executive chef Lisa Ortiz. Specialties of the house include charred pulpo and papas, mussels pozole, house-made pastas, lamb mole, cider-brined pork chops and churros with chocolate sauce.
In early November, Whisknladle Hospitality Group opened this 10,000-square-foot food hall and special events space in an office park home to more than 50 tech companies. Whisknladle operates all of five of the globally inspired food booths, where customers order from touchscreens and dispense their own soft drinks. There are Mexican and Middle Eastern options as well as booths serving soups and salads, deli sandwiches and burgers and chicken sandwiches. Most items are priced from $4 to $10. There is also a coffee and cocktail bar with service in the mornings and late afternoons.
Sorrento Mesa, parkcommonssd.com