Little Italy’s Indigo Grill to close following a 20-year run

Indigo Grill, in Little Italy, will close in early February following a 20-year presence in the downtown San Diego neighborhood.
(Courtesy of Deborah Scott)

News of the impending closure comes two months after another high-profile exit of a Cohn Restaurant Group dining venue


Indigo Grill, one of the Cohn Restaurant Group’s longest-running dining venues, will be closing for good early next month.

A 20-year mainstay in Little Italy, the restaurant was nearing the end of a 20-year lease, and the timing seemed right to bring its long tenure to an end, said Cohn partner and chef Deborah Scott, who conceived the idea for the eatery. She acknowledged that in recent years, business at the restaurant, located at the corner of India and West Cedar streets, had fallen off.

“That’s an amazing run for what is a very specialized restaurant,” said Scott, who created the current Indigo Grill for the Cohn family of restaurants. We did have another few months on our lease, but we felt it was good timing for us and our landlord was willing to take back the space at this point.

“If you’re excelling and doing amazing, you don’t leave your space but we thought it had run its course and decided to move on.”

The last day of dinner service will be Saturday, Feb. 8.

Indigo Grill marks the second long-tenured Cohn restaurant to shutter within the last couple of months. The other was Blue Point Coastal Cuisine, which closed in November after a more than two-decade tenure in the Gaslamp Quarter. In the case of that restaurant, however, the Cohn group had intended to continue operating it but negotiations with the landlord to remain in the Fifth Avenue location were unsuccessful.

Scott, whose responsibilities include overseeing such high-profile Cohn restaurants as Vintana in Escondido and Coasterra, Island Prime and C Level on Harbor Island, opened her first version of Indigo Grill with a partner in 1994 a block away from the current location. But she left after eight months, when Cohn restaurants founder David Cohn asked her to team up to open the former Kemo Sabe in Hillcrest.

Seven years ago, Indigo Grill, which is known for its Latin-influenced cuisine, underwent an update of the interior, as well as its menu. In the years since, Little Italy has increasingly become a popular dining destination as high-profile restaurateurs and chefs have opened innovative concepts that broke from the neighborhood’s longstanding reputation as mostly a place to get Italian food.

It’s unknown at this point what will take Indigo Grill’s place. Scott said the landlord is still considering options and has not made a decision yet.

While Little Italy is clearly one of the more desirable destinations for dining, Scott noted that Indigo Grill’s location is a little distant from the core of the neighborhood.

“It makes a difference being in a location that’s a bit south of the hub of Little Italy but in retrospect, when you look at the longevity of it and the success of it for so many years, it speaks for itself,” Scott said.

She noted that the restaurant is especially important to her because it was the original Indigo Grill that led to her now longstanding relationship with David and wife Lesley Cohn.

“They would come to that restaurant, and David asked me if I wanted to move away from that venture and become his partner. That was in early 1995,” she said. “He told me, ‘I have three spots to look at and you pick one and I’ll make you a famous restaurateur in San Diego.’ We went to La Jolla, Hillcrest and Gaslamp, and we chose Hillcrest where we opened Kemo Sabe.”

As Indigo Grill winds down operations, the Cohn Restaurant Group is making some cosmetic changes to its Gaslamp Strip Club on Fifth Avenue. The grill-your-own-steak restaurant is currently on a two-year lease but will likely leave after that because of plans by developer Robert Green to build a highrise hotel on the block where the Strip Club is located, Cohn said.

“We would’ve definitely stayed but they’re eventually knocking down the building,” he added. “We’re doing some painting and reworking of some areas, and deciding whether to rename it, but we still will do grill your own steak.”