Entrepreneurialism is in the air. The economic climate for restaurants has been blue-plate-tinged the past few years, but 2013 is starting off with a shine. New openings and rejuvenated efforts are widespread. From downtown to Del Mar, and South Bay to San Marcos, here’s a roundup of what’s new on menus all over town.
Amaya La Jolla . The Grand Del Mar is getting a sister restaurant in March. Chef Camron Woods will leave the opulent Del Mar hotel setting to run the kitchen in the new La Jolla location.
1205 Prospect Street, La Jolla
AVANT. The classic El Bizcocho at Rancho Bernardo Inn closed, giving way this spring to a rustic newcomer. After a $2.5 million renovation, AVANT, under chef Nicolas Bour, promises a charcuterie station, homemade mustards and menu items like Sonoma duck breast confit Shepherd’s Pie.
17550 Bernardo Oaks Dr., Rancho Bernardo
Bar West. The popular Oscar’s Mexican Seafood on Turquoise Street in North P.B. is now preparing their fresh favorites in a second location: the kitchen inside Bar West. Fast-casual Mexican fare in a high-energy, laidback nightclub by the beach means Taco Tuesday is sure to be bumping. Food specials will also be served up Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m.
959 Hornblend St., Pacific Beach
The Boardwalk. With a new stucco exterior and paint jobs inside and out, The Boardwalk is revitalized and ready for business. The new menu highlights local produce. The bar, now featuring a full liquor license, offers classic and contemporary cocktails.
3704 Mission Blvd., Mission Beach
Bailiwick. Taking over the spot that was the previous home of Tequila 100 and Mexican eatery Alambres, Bailiwick has stripped the interior down to brick walls. General manager Jason Fackler wants the space to feel like your home, “but with a much more pleasant staff.” An inventive ice program lends a higher level of coolness to the cocktails; grilled oysters and a pinch of Southern hospitality spice up the menu.
756 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
Bang Bang. The second-floor site at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Market Street (above SideBar; formerly the The Witherby, followed by Airr Supper Club) is the new playground for Mauricio Couturier (El Camino) and Johnny Shockey (Voyeur, LED Presents). Bang Bang will be an over-the-top Japanese Social House that should bow into business this spring.
526 Market St., Gaslamp
Blind Burro. Good Time Design owner/operator Ty Hauter has a long list of downtown venues, including a stronghold at the corner of Seventh Avenue and J Street comprising Bub’s, Lucky’s Lunch Counter and Block 16. The newest Good Timer to open at the intersection is Blind Burro (in the former FleetWood space), which emphasizes tequila, mescal and coastal Mexican fare. Next on tap is Hauter’s Cat Eye Club, set to open adjacent to Blind Burro any day now.
639 J St., East Village
Brick+Mortar. Downtown’s Keating Hotel revamped its street-level restaurant (formerly The Merc) just in time for Valentine’s Day. Managed by Broseph’s Restaurant Group (BRG), the eatery has a 45-foot central bar surrounded by vinyl booths and exposed brick walls. The adjoining pizza shop is now called Skinny’s, which will be open until 4 a.m. on weekends. 820 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
Chaplos. It’s the rare new restaurant that opens proximal to Cortez Hill. Chaplos snagged former El Vitral chef Norma Martinez, and both its menu and décor fuse traditional and contemporary Latin flavors. The long wooden bar in the main dining room was polished after being hauled over from China Camp at Fat City.
925 B St., Ste. 101, Cortez Hill
Christopher’s on Congress. The Old Town Wine Cabana location gets an upgrade, with indoor/outdoor seating and Happy Hour prices: $3 for glasses of wine, $2 for craft beer.
2539 Congress St., Ste. A, Old Town
Coral. That’s the working title of a Mexican mecca slated for the spot on Harbor Island where the floating Ruben E. Lee restaurant/paddleboat used to be. It’ll be landlocked and is on the drawing board for 2014. Owner David Cohn hopes to build an outdoor deck from Coral that will connect to his nearby Island Prime/C Level eateries.
El Vitral. This Mexican restaurant shot down to Otay Ranch Center in December. There are plenty of tequila choices, but the Otay location has more of a family vibe than the East Village El Vitral, which sits next to Petco Park and was closed earlier this year for renovations.
2015 Birch Rd. #710, Otay Ranch
Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro. After five years in North Park, Eclipse relocated in February to a space four times larger in South Park, adding brunch seven days a week and craft beers on tap.
2145 Fern St. South Park
Eureka!. American-made Angus Chuck beef goes into the gourmet burgers at this new spot in UTC La Jolla. Into the beverage glasses go 50 craft whiskeys and 40 craft beers.
4353 La Jolla Village Dr., University City
Gaijin Noodle & Sake House. March marks the one-year anniversary for this Asian-Italian fusion hotspot from chef Antonio Friscia. What’s new? The restaurant got its full liquor license in February and is planning a new cocktail menu from the fanciful playbook of mixologist Lucien Conner (formerly of Snake Oil Cocktail Company), who is a partner in Queen, Conner and Ward.
627 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
Gang Kitchen. A two-level warehouse biggie designed by architect Graham Downes, this 5,000-square-foot Asian-themed concept is the brainchild of Jon Mangini (Basic Kitchen +Bar, URBN Coal Fired Pizza).
345 Sixth Ave., East Village
Grapes & Hops. A Public Notice of Application to Sell Alcoholic Beverages hangs in the window on a growing block of Market Street in East Village (across the street from Bootlegger and East Village Tavern + Bowl). A beer-and-wine “sidewalk café" project by Joseph Howard Halbo is expected to come to life later this year.
833 Market St., East Village
Greystone The Steakhouse. A remodel to modernize this Gaslamp steakhouse includes a new bar, hip lighting and a lounge where the vibe will include pumped-up music after 10 p.m. on weekends.
658 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
Horton Plaza Park. The corner of Fourth Avenue and Broadway will get an amazing makeover with a new, $8 million, open-air park that’s already under construction. When the project is complete (possibly for a 2014 New Year’s Eve party), eateries like newish The Commons (901 Fourth Ave., 619.696.8888, tcbsandiego.com) will benefit from greater foot traffic. On opposite ends of the new park are now Spike Africa Fresh Fish Grill & Bar (411 Broadway, 619.795.3800, spikeafricas.com) and the remodeled, Italian-inspired Pinzimini at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter (910 Broadway Cir., 619.272.5840, pinziminisandiego.com).
Kamikaze 7 Sushi Joint. Kevin “The Food Dude” Roberts has been a Reality TV competitor and was part of the group that brought Gaslamp Tavern, East Village Tavern + Bowl and North County Tavern + Bowl to life. His new Kamikaze 7 Sushi Joint (featuring DJ beats, a full bar and flat screens playing Kill Bill, Godzilla and other such movies) is scheduled to open in March on the site of a former art gallery.
411 Market St. Gaslamp
Lindbergh Field. Airport food is taking off in San Diego. New restaurants are coming on board this year, many with local ties. New eateries scattered through a variety of locations throughout the terminals include: Thai offerings from Saffron (saffronsandiego.com), 100 Wines (cohnrestaurants.com), Stone Brewing Co. (stonebrew.com), Pannikin Coffee & Tea (pannikincoffeeandtea.com), Phil’s BBQ (philsbbq.net) and Bankers Hill Restaurant and Bar (bankershillsd.com).
Monello. In Italian, monello means “naughty little boy.” But how much trouble can you get in as the adjacent, sister restaurant to Little Italy hit Bencotto? The new space offers a Milanese twist (more rice than pasta; less tomato) on lunch and dinner dishes.
750 West Fir St., Little Italy
The Patio on Lamont Street. The former site of the Lamont Street Grill is now a farm-to-table neighborhood dining spot, with chef John Medall (formerly of Red Circle) in the kitchen. Medall’s menu emphasizes seafood; the cocktail menu is quite crafty.
4445 Lamont St., Pacific Beach
Penny Lane Pub & Grill. After a hard day’s night, new chef/owner Rob Conaway took over this Beatles-themed location in San Marcos. There’s still a British theme, but with less Fab Four and a meatier menu.
1001 W. San Marcos Blvd., San Marcos
Queenstown. New Zealand’s namesake city will make itself at home as a restaurant in Little Italy at the end of March. It’s the latest organic/grass-fed beef project from Bare Back Grill co-owners PJ Lamont and Matt Baker, and no-holds-barred designer Michael Soriano (The Pearl, Vin De Syrah, Raglan Public House).
1557 Columbia St., Little Italy
Royal India - Del Mar. The second venue for co-owners Sam and Jag Kambo opened in Del Mar in January. The grand opening will take place in March for this 2,300-square-foot spot, and yes, the elaborate Indian décor includes a floor-to-ceiling waterfall.
3860 Valley Center Dr., Del Mar
RT’s Longboard Grill. The casual, 15-year-old Pacific Beach joint is turning off the lights, and it’s likely the last “last call” will be in March. At press time, a sale of the liquor license to neighbor Cabo Cantina was pending.
1466 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach
Sea & Smoke, An American Brasserie. Chef/owner Matt Gordon (Urban Solace, Solace & The Moonlight Lounge) is going for number-three. Gordon’s next effort will be in the Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar, at the site of the former Paradise Grill. This summer, look for roasted seafood, meats and veggies from Gordon’s wood-fired oven.
2690 Via de la Valle, Del Mar
Sherman’s Shack. The Urban Chicken in Sherman Heights recently gave way to Sherman’s Shack. This casual, street-side, open-window eatery serves stuffed hamburgers, including the hearty Surf & Turf: two patties surrounding garlic shrimp and cream cheese.
549 25th St., Sherman Heights
Stone Brewery Liberty Station. Stone founder Greg Koch reports the long-awaited Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens: Liberty Station will open in early May. “The interior will be evocative of our Escondido location,” he says. “Occupying the historic Naval Training Center’s Mess Hall will also give it distinct characteristics.”
2816 Historic Decatur Rd., Liberty Station
Wonderland Ocean Pub. San Diego’s first amusement park opened on this Ocean Beach site 100 years ago. In June, the spot is slated to jump back to life, backed by Brendan Huffman (P.B. Shore Club, Bootlegger) and Mina Desiderio of downtown’s The Local. Plans are still being forged, but Huffman says to look for “a blue-collar design, open windows and a la carte seafood.”
5083 Santa Monica Ave., Ocean Beach