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Seaport Village: Sam the Cooking Guy in, Buster’s Beach House out

Seaport Village
Buster’s Beach House, the yellow building pictured in the background, is being replaced with a restaurant themed around Sam the Cooking guy.
(Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Restaurant collective Grain & Grit set to take over an expansive two-story, waterfront space this summer

After a 30-year residency at Seaport Village, the surf-themed waterfront restaurant, Buster’s Beach House, is set to vacate its prime location as a newly approved tenant prepares to make over the venue into a “Sam the Cooking Guy"-branded eatery.

Thursday, Port of San Diego Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a 10-year lease with San Diego hospitality group Grain & Grit Collective for the 8,000 square-foot, two-story restaurant that fronts San Diego Bay. The board action also means the port, which owns Seaport Village, will terminate its existing lease with Buster’s owner, Aloha Partners, in the next few months.

“We currently operate Carnitas’ Snack Shack (on the Embarcadero), so we have experience operating down there and love what that area has to offer,” said Mike DiNorscia, who heads the collective and hopes to open his newest restaurant in time for summer. “We believe Seaport Village has been an underutilized asset and we wanted to participate in its revitalization.”

Details are slim, but DiNorscia is partnering with celebrity chef, Sam Zien (aka Sam the Cooking Guy), to create a restaurant and bar that will ideally appeal to locals and tourists alike. The concept, which is still in development, will be themed around the television personality, whose other projects include Not Not Tacos and Graze, both in Little Italy. The future eatery is anticipated to serve American food, although the menu has not been set.

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Grain & Grit is leasing the site for a minimum of $132,000 in year one, with rental fees also based on sales and increasing every year. The firm, which will receive $495,000 from the port for interior improvements, will also have use of the large communal courtyard area behind its building for food and beverage sales and events.

The star power promises to add new life to a nearly 40-year-old Seaport Village, which is set to be redeveloped in the next decade as part of a $2.4 billion overhaul of the broader Central Embarcadero area. The San Diego Unified Port District took over operation of Seaport Village in October 2018 with a plan to renovate and enliven the collection of coastal cottages until the yet-to-be-approved Seaport San Diego effort starts construction.

As it stands, the agency is in the process of spending $2.2 million on cosmetic improvements and has been working with an outside broker to lease vacant spaces, most of which are concentrated in the eastern portion now referred to as the Lighthouse District. The efforts have resulted in leases with a handful of new tenants, including Mike Hess Brewing and Mr. Moto Pizza, which are expected to open later this year.

The port’s decision to approve a lease with Grain & Grit means long-time village operator Buster’s Beach House is on its way out. The proprietor was last year given an opportunity to negotiate a long-term lease but opted not to, a spokesperson for the agency said. Although the existing lease expires in October, the port will now exercise the contract’s termination right, essentially giving the restaurant 90 days notice to vacate the site. The company did not return a request seeking comment.

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Thursday, port commissioners also unanimously approved a 10-year lease with Seaport Market for a convenience and liquor store that will take over two small vacant spaces totaling 838 square feet in the retail center’s Lighthouse District. The approval came only after commissioners debated whether or not to allow alcohol sales for off-site consumption at Seaport Village. They ultimately decided to cap liquor sales at 50 percent of the future store’s business.

The new agreements are said to be worth a combined $1.29 million in lifetime value to the port.


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