Former Food Network star brings his full restaurant vision to Hillcrest with D Bar
By Logan Broyles | SDUN Reporter
The emergence of Hillcrest as a top-dining destination in San Diego continued two months ago with the opening of D Bar, located at 3930 Fifth Ave. This new restaurant offers a full-dining experience, from appetizers and moderately priced entrees to drinks and desserts.
Co-owner and executive pastry chef Keegan Gerhard puts a modern twist on childhood favorites for the menu, including items such as bacon macaroni and cheese with tempura lobster, spaghetti with cheese-stuffed Kobe meatballs and a chicken and waffle sandwich, with a side of sweet potato fries.
“I would describe our food as things you know, done well with a twist,” Gerhard said. “We try to give you some classics done really well and do some things to them that you’ve never seen before. It’s not really a category of food. It changes with the seasons and when we travel.”
D Bar is the creation of Gerhard and his wife Lisa Bailey, two nationally known pastry chefs whose resumes include cooking gigs at the Wynn Las Vegas, the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and, for Gerhard, a stint as a host of the “Food Network Challenge” and an appearance on the television show “Chopped.”
“Our vision is to do a restaurant that is really fun but has fine dining elements like good service and good quality food, without having any of the stuffiness,” Gerhard said. “I don’t want anything to be intimidating. I want it to be easy and fun for the guests, [with] surprisingly great food and surprisingly great service for a reasonable price.”
Another element to D Bar is the unique and interactive dessert counter, similar in concept to a sushi bar. Customers can pull up a stool and watch Gerhard and the other pastry chefs craft desserts right before their eyes.
With treats like cinnamon and sugar churros, crème brûlée, caramel flan or the ever-popular “Cake and Shake” – a three-layer chocolate cake served with a milkshake – guests are sure to leave the restaurant on full sensory overload.
Saying the idea for the dessert bar is to “emulate” a regular bar, Gerhard also said it was a good way to get exposure to pastry chefs, who are often overlooked. “We put you up on a bar stool where you can look down and see everything being prepared, and I think that creative energy and interaction between the guests and the cooks is the whole essence of what is important about food,” he said.
“It’s about the chemistry between the cook and the ingredients, and when you add the customer to the mix the whole thing gets elevated and you can see … there’s this great big energy in that I hope people will really enjoy.”
Gerhard and Bailey opened the first D Bar four years ago in Denver, Colo., which quickly became one of the more popular restaurants in the city. The San Diego location, open every day except Mondays, is what Gerhard calls “ideal,” in part because of its easy access and community feel.
“We chose Hillcrest because we just think it’s the right choice for what D Bar is,” he said. “I love the vibe of it; Hillcrest is very similar to the neighborhood that we’re located at in Denver, and it has all the same elements with the culture and how close everyone in the community is. It’s our ideal location in San Diego.”
The restaurant stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and also specializes in custom cakes and dessert orders for weddings, birthday parties and other special events.
“Our big challenge is to let people know that we’re here. It looks like a fancy restaurant but it’s not priced like one,” Gerhard said. “We’re not just dessert; it’s a full-service restaurant and I’m excited for San Diego to find out about D Bar.”