Seasonings Greetings

By: Frank Sabatini, Jr.

Don't stick a fork in the San Diego dining scene - it's nowhere near done. The expanding metropolis' growing appetite for construction has yet to be satisfied. Here are 23 new places to prove it.

French Concession
(Now open)
Restaurateur Alex Thao has re-branded his former Celadon Thai restaurant to reflect the authentic dim sum of Shanghai when French settlers pervaded through the first half of the 20th Century. Thao recruited veteran chef Andrew Kwong of Hong Kong to execute such classics as steamed egg custard buns, shrimp mousse and turnip cakes. The menu also includes traditional Chinese standbys and craft beers of local and Asian origins.
3671 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest
619.297.8424, frenchconcessionsd.com

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
(Now open)
Whether you've tipped the scale on your beer intake or need a shot of warmth during evening Padres' games, this lauded roaster from Bird Rock delivers the remedies with its new pour-over coffee bar inside Petco Park. The outlet features espresso drinks and coffees made with seasonally sourced beans.
100 Park Blvd., Downtown
858.551.1707 (phone for Bird Rock location), birdrockcoffeeroasters.com

Encore Champagne Bar & Dining Room
(Opening in January)
New York and Paris has them, and now San Diego will bubble with the arrival of a champagne-centric dining haunt in the Gaslamp's historic Hill Building. Overseeing the concept is Ken Irvine, owner and chef of Bleu Bohème in Kensington. Also on board is executive chef Ryan Studebaker, who previously worked at Solace and the Moonlight Lounge in Encinitas.
531 F St., Gaslamp
619.752.0081, encoregaslamp.com

Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar
(Opening in January)
An incarnation of Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar (closing Dec. 31 in the Gaslamp) will open its doors in Bankers Hill in time for San Diego Restaurant Week ( Jan. 19-24). The new venture promises several popular dishes carried over from Croce's downtown, with the addition of tapas. Live music will remain to the tune of an intimate floor plan featuring diverse seating areas and a covered patio.
2760 Fifth Ave., Bankers Hill
619.233.4355, crocesparkwest.com

Ironside Oyster
(Opening in January)
The ever-growing portfolio of local restaurants by CH Projects will soon include a hangout inspired by the original fishing community of Little Italy. In addition to copious seafood dishes constructed by executive chef Jason McLeod, look for an extensive raw bar, rum-centric cocktails and an in-house bakery.
1654 India St., Little Italy
no phone number yet, ch-projects.com

Harbor Café
(Opening in January)
Co-owner Robin Brisebois says Harbor Café is going into one of Little Italy's oldest buildings, which used to house a bordello back in its day. He's launching the ground-level cafe with fellow architect Ted Smith, who is designing an indoor lunch counter and sidewalk patio for breakfast and midday meals.
1502 India St., Little Italy
no phone number or website yet

The Pizza Studio
(Opening in January)
The motto at this fast-growing chain out of Los Angeles is: "You create it, we make it." Imaginations can run wild, given the wide choice of crusts, sauces and toppings. But it doesn't end there, as customers make final decisions as to what type of spice they want sprinkled onto their masterpieces. Look for a second San Diego location in Kearny Mesa in spring.
119 Broadway, Downtown
no phone number yet, pizzastudio.com

'lette macarons
(Opening in January)
Considered the first all-macaron (or macaroon) bakery in the U.S. when it opened a few years ago in Beverly Hills, this shop makes its San Diego debut in Westfield UTC mall. Its famous helium-light European cookies reveal fruit, chocolate, coconut, rose and a host of other ingredients that spur the consumption of baker's dozens.
4545 La Jolla Village Dr., University City
no phone number yet, lettemacarons.com

The Flight Path
(Opening in January)
Wines you wish would be served in-flight will soon be in the offing a few hundred feet below the bellies of incoming airplanes at the McClintock Warehouse building downtown. Owner Tammy Hoops, a former wine sales rep, plans on launching the wine bar with nearly 100 different labels and a variety of savory small plates. Look for modern Italian-made furniture and airport-themed appointments set against a stark-white backdrop.
1202 Kettner Blvd., Downtown
no phone number yet, theflightpathsd.com

Werewolf
(Opening in January/February)
Chad Cline of Harbor Town Pub in Point Loma and The Waterfront Bar & Grill in Little Italy is taking over the former Gaijin Noodle + Sake House, bringing a "comfy, laid-back pub" to the space. Cline says the name, Werewolf, reflects how bar hoppers "act at night compared to the civility they show during the day." His new joint will cater to both types with a full bar, 32 beer handles and a menu of salads, burgers and entrees.
827 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp
no phone number or website yet

Chilly Ribbons
(Three locations opening January/February)
A triple dose of shaved snow, extruded into bowls so fast that it resembles frozen cotton candy, is arriving to Hillcrest, Mission Valley and Mira Mesa via Orlando-based franchise Chilly Ribbons. Inspired by the "snow" served at Taiwan's popular night markets, the product is available in dozens of flavors and will be served from cutesy angled-roof structures resembling ski lodges capped in faux snow.
Storefronts: 142 University Ave., Hillcrest;
9440-C Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa
Kiosk: Westfield Mission Valley mall
no phone numbers yet, chillyribbons.com

Juniper & Ivy
(Opening in February)
Atlanta restaurateur and celebrity chef Richard Blais lands in San Diego with a repertoire of modern, audacious cooking that will likely show off his penchant for molecular cuisine. Blais was the 2010 winner of Bravo's Top Chef: All-Stars and host of The Science Channel's Blais Off, which spotlighted his scientific kitchen skills. For his Little Italy venture, set in a refurbished 90-year-old structure, he teamed up with Juniper Hospitality, which is kicking-in a nearby parking lot for the restaurant.
2228 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
no phone number yet, juniperandivy.com

Old Harbor Distilling Company
(Opening February/March)
A tasting room specializing in gins, rums, whiskeys and coffee liqueur is being launched by Michael Skubic, formerly the "jack of all trades" at Hess Brewing. The project moves into a 7,500-squarefoot storage warehouse that will be used mostly for distilling the spirits, some of them spiked with locally grown botanicals. Weekend tours will also be offered. Skubic says his tasting room will greet with a turn-of-the-century feel and that visitors will be allowed up to six quarter-ounce samples per visit. "That's the legal limit," he adds.
270 17th St., East Village
no phone number yet, oldharbordistilling.com

STAKE
(Opening in March)
Blue Bridge Hospitality is gutting the former Ristorante La Terrazza to make way for a contemporary steakhouse meant to lure carnivores into Coronado. It's the company's first venture in upscale dining since rooting itself on the island with Leroy's Kitchen + Lounge, Moo Time Creamery, Village Pizzeria and Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Q.
1309 Orange Ave., Coronado
no phone number yet, nadolife.com

Amici's East Coast Pizzeria
(Opening second location in March/April)
The East Coast natives who started Amici's in the Bay Area are helping to end the incessant whining by fellow Southern Cal transplants about the "flaws" of West Coast pizza. Based on their success in La Jolla, they're opening a second kitchen in the heart of Hillcrest, complete with a scorching brick oven that cooks the pie crusts to a crispier, darker finish than most.
3958 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest
858.729.9988, amicis.com

The Patio on Goldfinch
(Opening in March/April)
An exhibition kitchen and "cheese cave" are among the lures to expect at this patio-focused restaurant in Mission Hills, launched by Gina Champion-Cain of The Patio on Lamont Street in Pacific Beach. With a strong emphasis on seafood, the restaurant will occupy a formerly vacant building, giving it new life with copious florals, big glass doors and sustainable design materials.
4020 Goldfinch St., Mission Hills
no phone number yet, thepatiosd.com

Tacos Perla
(Opening March/April)
A colorful indoor/outdoor taco shop evoking a Mexican street vibe from the late 1960s will roll into The North Parker, a mixed-development project currently under construction at 30th and Upas Streets. The eatery was conceived by the L.W.P. Group, which also owns The Pearl in Point Loma. Its chef, Jaison Burke, will oversee a menu of authentic street tacos featuring rotisserie meats as well as whimsical versions driven by seasonal ingredients.
3000 Upas St., North Park
no phone number or website yet

Union Kitchen + Tap
(Opening March/April)
Eric Leitstein of OMG Restaurant Group (OMG for Leitstein's children, Olivia, Mason and Gavin) is taking over the lease at Donovan's Prime Seafood in the Gaslamp. The 7,500-square-foot space will become the second location of Encinitas hotspot Union Kitchen + Tap, serving locally raised beef and craft beers. Ready to rock the joint with an entertainment license, Leitstein is exploring various concepts that include live music. Construction begins in January.
333 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
no phone number yet, localunion101.com
(website for Encinitas location)

URBN El Cajon
(Opening in April)
A taste of Connecticut is coming to East County when restaurateur Jon Mangini of URBN Restaurants, Inc. brings his coal-fired sheet pizzas to the former El Cajon Brewing Company. With the space already paved for beer-making, the project conveniently includes the debut of URBN St. Brewing Company while giving way to Mangini's penchant for raw-industrial design. The suds will compliment New Haven-style pies boasting various toppings like fresh clams, mashed potatoes and eggplant. Appetizers and salads found at URBN in North Park and BASIC in East Village will also be in the offing.
110 N. Magnolia Ave., El Cajon
no phone number yet, urbn-restaurants.com

Underbelly II
(Opening in April)
CH Projects extends its ramen craze to a second location (this one in the North Parker Lofts) with the same bowls of goodness we've come to know at Underbelly in Little Italy. The North Park digs will also feature a yakitori grill and additional seating.
3000 Upas St., North Park
no phone no. yet, ch-projects.com

El Vaquero
(Opening in May/June)
Chuck Ross of Old Town Family Hospitality Corporation is adding a fourth restaurant to his Fiesta de Reyes portfolio, which includes Cosmopolitan, Barra Barra and Casa de Reyes. El Vaquero, which translates to "the cowboy," will replace El Fandango with aromatic clouds originating from meats smoked over apple wood. A team of chefs specializing in Mexican barbecue is in place along with a "famous barbecue guy" that Ross is keeping secret for now.
2734 Calhoun St., Old Town
no phone number yet, fiestadereyes.com

Carnitas Snack Shack
(Second location due by June)
The time is ripe for Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud to expand their wildly popular swine-based walkup beyond North Park. The couple promises a second location with an identical menu before summer, possibly in Mira Mesa, Del Mar or Downtown. "We have architects and designers working on plans, but no lease has been set in stone yet," says Cavin, adding that a third location will inevitably follow.
2632 University Ave., North Park (original location)
619.294.7675, carnitassnackshack.com

Green Flash Brewing Company Restaurant
(Opening in October/November)
The brewing company famous for its innovative, hybrid beers is branching out from its glassy industrial-park digs in Mira Mesa with a restaurant and tasting room located either close to San Diego's urban core or inside of it. The company is still shopping properties, but it plans on going full guns with crafty fare that compels you to drink the suds.
Headquarters: 6550 Mira Mesa Blvd., Mira Mesa
858.622.0085, greenflashbrew.com

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