Edible Complex


By Frank Sabatini Jr. / Photos by Michael and Kate Auda (unless noted)

Nudging into the kaleidoscope of restaurants, bars and breweries that call (and make) this town home is a fresh menu of places that have opened since September - or which are slated to open in the weeks to come. Cheers to a year’s end that has seen so many new beginnings, and a Here! Here! to 23 more drops in your Finest City bucket list.

American Voodoo
(Opened in September)
Filmmaker-turned-restaurateur Joshua Hamlin takes rustica to a new level by sprinkling his cozy space with handcrafted voodoo dolls meant to pacify hunger rather than provoke pangs. Classically trained toque Daniel San Augustin performs his magic on modern-American dishes stamped with Creole flair. His fried chicken is all the rage.
4655 Park Blvd., University Heights

Barrel Republic
(Opened in November)
Swap your credit card for a radio-frequency ID bracelet and serve yourself from 44 beer handles at Barrel Republic, which focuses largely on North County craft brews. With nary a beer bottle to be found, the bracelets activate the taps to dispense measured pours. Wine and cheese boards are available through traditional transactions.
1261 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse
(Opened in November)
What started out in 1978 as a pizza joint in Santa Ana, Calif., has turned into a big-menu restaurant chain that brews its own lagers, pale ales and IPAs. With six locations scattered throughout the county, BJ’s has now arrived at Hazard Center in Mission Valley, marking the company’s first splash into San Diego’s city limits.
1370 Frazee Rd., Mission Valley

Bo-beau Kitchen + Garden
(Opened in October)
Cohn Restaurant Group has branched into La Mesa with a second, though slightly different version of its Euro-farmhouse Bo-Beau Kitchen in Ocean Beach. Here, we find a patio garden flourishing with olive trees and fresh herbs along with a more international menu headed by culinary veterans Benjamin Moore, Amiko Gubbins and Deborah Scott.
8384 La Mesa Blvd., La Mesa

Coin-op Game Room
(Opened in October)
What does $10 buy at Coin-Op Game Room? Easily a pint of local craft beer and several rounds of nostalgic arcade games that include the original Donkey Kong, Street Fighter and Ms. Pac-Man. For about five extra bucks, you can graze on chicken satay, sliders or grilled cheese with tomato jam - but it’s really about the booze and joysticks.
3926 30th St., North Park
619.225.8523, no website yet

(Opened in September)
Numerous eateries have occupied this Googiestyle building in Hillcrest over the years, but none have displayed such swag until Commonwealth moved in with its dramatic chandeliers and baby grand piano. The two-level “ultra lounge” pampers patrons with innovative cocktails that play up to ahi tartar over seaweed and other stylish appetizers.
1263 University Ave., Hillcrest

Cucina Enoteca
(Opened in September)
Del Martians who’ve motored down to Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill for crafty, Italian-inspired fare can now save the gas money. Owner Tracy Borkum’s latest cucina in North County provides similar fixes with chicken meatball pizzas and bucatini pasta cuddling “burnt” cabbage leaves. The restaurant is equally urban in its approach, and with a rooftop patio to boot.
2730 Via De La Valle, Del Mar

Embargo Grill
(Opened in September)
Slow-roasted meats, housemade sauces and sandwiches made on a plancha grill (flattop grill from Spain) typify the Caribbean/Latin chow found at Embargo Grill. The fast-casual restaurant, located in the Midway Towne Center plaza, offers indoor/outdoor seating as well as takeout and catering, not to mention one of the liveliest Sangrias in town.
3960 W. Point Loma Blvd., Loma Portal

Outcast Grill
(Opened in September)
Inspired by refugee soccer team Outcasts United, this neighborhood kitchen cranks out a mix of Israeli, Mediterranean and American fare without ignoring the local craft beer scene. Whether you’re on the hunt for laffa bread wraps, charry kabobs or an egg salad sandwich, the menu obliges.
6104 Regents Rd., University City

Pizzeria Mozza
(Opened in November)
The famed pizzeria launched in Hollywood by a team of power chefs, including Food Network’s Mario Batali, makes its San Diego debut at The Headquarters at Seaport District. Replete with a wine bar and private dining rooms, Mozza pushes the artisan-pie envelope with unexpected toppings like escarole, leeks and squash blossoms.
789 W. Harbor Dr., Ste. 110, Marina District

Plan 9 Alehouse
(Opened in September)
A generic office building in downtown Escondido has been converted into a small-production
brewery that encompasses a restaurant and rear lounge. “We’re a team of unknowns,” says chef and co-owner David Brown, citing recent releases including spiced wit (Belgian wheat) beer and brown ale to compliment such dishes as pork belly BLTs and coffee/lavender-crusted skirt steak.
155 E. Grand Ave., Escondido
760.489.8817, no website yet

(Opened in November)
Unlike its fast-casual operation in La Jolla, Puesto in The Headquarters at Seaport District offers full service and a cocktail program headed by San Diego’s esteemed mixologist trio, Queen- Connor-Ward. Popular Mexican dishes like chicken al pastor bowls and sustainable-meat tacos remain.
789 W. Harbor Dr., Ste. 115, Marina District

RB Sushi
(Opened in October)
The colossal menu of Japanese fare, introduced first in Rancho Bernardo and then in Rolando, has arrived in Hillcrest along with an all-you-can-eat special that doesn’t involve a buffet. The deal is priced at $20.95 for lunch and $24.95 for dinner. Everything is made to order. But be warned: you’ll be charged extra for the food on your plate that you can’t finish.
3955 Fifth Ave., Ste. 100, Hillcrest

San Diego Cellars
(Opened in October)
When a marijuana dispensary recently went poof from this circa-1940s building, San Diego Cellars moved in and began upping its wine production, using grapes from California growers. It also created a kitchen and tasting room, which boasts a 30-foot bar crafted from wine barrels.
2215 Kettner Blvd., Middletown

SandBox Pizza
(Opened in October)
When it comes to West Coast “pieology,” SandBox Pizza pulls all the punches with sauces like honey mustard, sweet chili and “buttermilk bliss.” Topping choices are equally ground-breaking when you consider buffalo meat, cranberries and pecans.
1014 Grand Ave., Pacific Beach

(Opened in October)
Think of White Castle, but with more choices and ingredients that are perhaps fresher than In-n-Out Burger’s. Available in chicken, beef, turkey and fish, the mini patties are tucked into bakery-fresh buns with lettuce and tomatoes that are delivered daily. And, yes, there is a secret sauce, but what burger joint ever tells you what’s in theirs? The menu concludes succinctly with fries and shakes.
7406 University Ave., La Mesa

Spotted Cow Viet Kitchen
(Opened in October)
The owners of Pho La Jolla have expanded to Zion Market with a food-court walkup that allows customers to build their own pho. Newbies to this hearty Vietnamese soup are especially struck with indecision as they first decide on a broth before pumping it up with a wide selection of noodles, veggies and meats.
7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Kearny Mesa
858.277.1808, no website yet

Taste of the Bayou
(Opened in September)
Barbecue and traditional Louisiana cuisine are served from this small café fronting the offices of San Diego Lesbian and Gay Pride, but only on Sundays and Mondays. Owner Gujuan Smith, who everyone calls “Smitty,” has chosen to “start out slowly” until he secures a beer and wine license as well as shipments of crawfish from his native Pelican State.
3620 30th St., North Park
619.322.3821, no website yet

Venga Venga Cantina and Tequila Bar
(Opened in September)
Celebrity chef and global restaurateur Richard Sandoval unleashes his Mexico City roots with skillful preparations of smoky beef barbacoa, creamy chicken zarape, masa flatbreads and more. The jumbo, chic cantina is stocked with more than 100 tequilas to fuel lunch, brunch and dinner.
2015 Birch Rd., Chula Vista

Waypoint Public
(Opened in October)
Launched by a trio of local hospitality veterans that includes chef-butcher Amanda Baumgarten (previously at Herringbone), this beer-centric bistro wipes clean any sentiments left behind for the former Linkery. The remodel is kid-friendly, featuring an Astroturf play area that gives parents wiggle room for washing down charred octopus and pork-veal meatballs with more than 300 local and international beer choices.
3794 30th St., North Park

Young Hickory
(Opened in September)
In the wake of Filter Coffee House’s sudden disappearance arrived Young Hickory, where life is pondered not over cups of joe but instead while drinking canned microbrew beers and sitting on ball-shaped stability chairs. Conventional seating and picnic tables enter into the hipster scheme as well, along with loaded bagels, panini and Wi-Fi.
4096 30th St., North Park

(Opened in October)
Beer and wine displayed in glass-door coolers are the come-ons to dishes named after bands forever etched in the Baby Boomer generation. Launched by Cohn Restaurant Group, the menu rocks with kale “Purple Haze” salad, and pizzas such as the meaty “ZZ Top” and the feisty “Light My Fire,” the latter of which is mantled with habanero salsa and chipotle sour cream.
333 N. Myers St., Oceanside

Coming Soon

ACME Southern Kitchen & Bar
(Opening in December/January)
Restaurateur Terryl Gavre (Café 222, Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant, Market Restaurant + Bar) has an itch for the kind of “scratch-kitchen” cooking found in old Junior League cookbooks from the South. At her upcoming restaurant situated in a quaint, two-story brick building, she’s planning on smothered pork chops, classic fried chicken and chipped ham sandwiches.
901 E St., East Village

Brabant Bar & Café
(Opening in December/January)
Belgian beer and cuisine will take center stage in an Old World-style pub formerly occupied by Vagabond restaurant. And so will the glassware that Belgians take seriously. Owner Adam Parker has amassed a collection of the stuff that he’ll put on display and also use for serving the prized suds.
2310 30th St., South Park
no phone number or website yet

Café La Rue
(Opening in December)
Replacing the Whaling Bar inside La Valencia Hotel is Café La Rue, which previously operated on the site during the mid-20th Century. Its rebirth features patio/sidewalk seating and original murals moved in from other sections of the historic property. Chef Daniel Barron’s French-leaning menu combines modern European cuisine with classics like duck confit and Croque Madames along with “flashback” dishes from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
1132 Prospect St., La Jolla

City Sights
(Opening in December)
Just in time for winter, the north side of Altitude on the 22nd floor of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter hotel has given way to an indoor cocktail lounge featuring a glass enclosed balcony. With a casual bar menu also in place, City Sights shares ranking with the adjoining open-air Altitude as being “the tallest rooftop bar on the West Coast.” The dizzying views prove it.
660 K St., Gaslamp

Green Dragon Tavern and Museum
(Opening in December/January)
This upcoming 22,000-square-foot space, constructed in convincing Colonial style, pays tribute to its namesake tavern in Massachusetts, where the Boston Tea Party was planned and the nation’s Founding Fathers (not counting the natives) gathered over ales. The Carlsbad replica will carry the additional weight of a museum, convention room and sizable restaurant, with French-trained chef Brandon Fortune helming the kitchen.
6115 Paseo del Norte, Carlsbad

Lucky Liu’s
(Opening in December)
Dim sum and other Chinese favorites fill an overdue niche in Downtown’s Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District at the stylish Lucky Liu’s. The restaurant was launched by RAMA owner Alex Thao, whose bao buns and oolong marinated fish were inspired by his grandmother when she cooked for employees years ago at a nearby photography studio she ran.
332 J St., Gaslamp

OB Warehouse Street Food + Bar
(Opening in December)
Local restaurant designer Philippe Beltran has put his wizardry to work on an extreme industrial motif for a second-floor warehouse project, which ranks among a cache of new restaurants by Cohn Restaurant Group. Consumption of food and drinks will occur over a floor plan spanning 6,000 square-feet, which includes a central bar serving craft beer and cocktails.
4839 Newport Ave., Ocean Beach

Sea 180
(Opening in December)
Chef and commercial fisherman Ken Irvine of Bleu Bohème has partnered with Cohn Restaurant Group to bring Imperial Beach its first serious seafood house. Also onboard is pastry maestro Jack Fisher, who moves into a savory role as chef du cuisine. The result is a Mediterranean-Baja menu spotlighting locally trawled treasures and served within steps of the sands. The restaurant is part of the new Pier South Hotel.
800 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach

Surfside Tap Grill
(Opening by December)
Former Marine Tracy Hemstreet is catering to his fellow comrades and their supporters with a 2,500-square-foot craft beer shop that includes a tasting room rigged with 20 taps. In the absence of a kitchen, he’ll summon food trucks while partnering with nearby Angelo’s Burgers and Venetos Italian Cuisine for food deliveries.
507 N. Coast Highway, Oceanside
no phone number yet,