Chef DJ Tangalin adapts culinary prowess at Bivouac Ciderworks

Pickled Mackerel with honey glazed carrots, apples, rice crackers, and cauliflower puree by Bivouac Ciderworks chef Danilo "DJ" Tangalin Jr. in San Diego, California. (Eduardo Contreras/Union-Tribune)
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Forget the term “farm-to-table” for describing seasonal cuisine composed of locally grown ingredients. Danilo “DJ” Tangalin Jr. lives up to a catchier, newer motto he calls “in-the-moment cooking.”

As executive chef for the new Bivouac Ciderworks in North Park (move over, craft-beer lovers), his spontaneity in the kitchen could mean today’s elk osso bucco is replaced tomorrow by wild boar chili. And those autumn pumpkins and winter squashes rolling into farmers markets become potential players in the vegan/vegetarian dishes comprising half of the menu.

“I’m always aware of seasonality and sustainability of products,” he says.

Born in the Philippines, Tangalin emigrated at age 16 with his family to Hawaii and then New Jersey, where he completed a two-year culinary program at a community college. It was the beginning of a culinary career that had him working under famed chefs Eric Ripert at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia, as well as for Daniel Patterson of Coi and Douglas Keane of Cyrus, both in the Bay Area.

His subsequent move to San Diego resulted in gigs as chef de cuisine at PrepKitchen Little Italy, part of Whisknladle Hospitality; corporate chef for Eat. Drink. Sleep. (JRDN and Decoy Dockside); and executive chef at Tidal.

During those stints, he introduced Filipino-style dishes into his repertoire, drawing on childhood experiences of helping his mother cook meat broths, pork belly adobo and other street foods she made while running a cantina.

Helming the kitchen at Bivouac Ciderworks, he says, is “very different” compared to his past jobs in San Diego.

“This is one of the first local spots where I’m cooking that isn’t near the water. It’s more of a neighborhood type of place with neighborhood prices,” he notes. “And I’m making sure the food pairs well with the ciders and the camping design.”

Bivouac, which is scheduled to open in early November, is the brainchild of Matt Austin - an avid home brewer who also owns a local fly-fishing company - and his business partner Lara Worm. They recognized that craft beer is omnipresent along 30th Street in North Park - and hard cider wasn’t.

In introducing their product within a neighborhood awash in beer bars and breweries, they brought in local design firm Tecture to create an outdoor feel inside the 2,400-square-foot space. Their “rugged meets refined” ambiance was accomplished with the use of woods, metals and manufactured star constellations twinkling from a backlit wall.

“This is the first cider tap house in North Park, and the first one in San Diego to have a full restaurant,” says Tangalin. “The chance of getting involved in something from scratch that could become a big thing was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”

Tangalin adapted his culinary prowess to a range of individually flavored apple-based ciders infused with currants, cherries, peaches and other fruits. Fermented onsite and dispensed from taps, they span from dry to sweet to champagne-style, ranging in alcohol from 5.5 to 12 percent.

“Here, we’re very much focused on the environment and I’ve evolved more into highlighting seasonal ingredients rather than manipulating them. These days, I’d rather use a whole organic peach in something instead of peach powder. “

His cider-friendly menu for the location’s launch includes entrée-size salads, ratatouille with seared tofu, steak frites, duck breast and a Filipino-inspired burger made of garlicky longanisa sausage. In addition, his signature poached-then-seared octopus served with pepperoni jam carries over from his days at JRDN and Tidal.

Bivouac Ciderworks: 3986 30th St., North Park, 619.725.0844,


2017 Chain of Gourmand