By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The Octopus Restaurant Group from Los Angeles has opened the much-anticipated H20 Sushi & Izakaya in the Hillcrest space previously occupied by D-Bar. Termed as a “Japanese gastropub,” the establishment brings to the table modern presentations of traditional Japanese cuisine served amid flashy design elements such as metal curtains, blue LED lighting, and a large screen projecting scenes of San Diego.
The bill of fare, which includes numerous small plates, offers everything from seasonal oysters and salmon carpaccio to fried squid legs and innovative sushi rolls. Flights of aged whiskey, sake bombs, crafty cocktails and other libations comprise the drink list. Lunch and dinner are served daily, and happy hour is held from 3 to 6 p.m. seven days a week, and from 9 p.m. to closing Sunday through Thursday. 3950 Fifth Ave., 619-795-9090, h20sushiizakaya.com.
The recently opened Meraki Café in University Heights is the only outlet in San Diego serving Fair Trade Equator Coffee, a coveted roast from San Rafael, California, lauded for its almond-cedar-nutmeg notes. The café’s owner, April Brandenstein, said her supplier confirmed she is the only local vendor carrying the beans since opening the business earlier this summer. Her menu also includes acai bowls, smoothies, gluten-free waffles, salads, toasted sandwiches and more. In addition, Brandenstein and her wife, Katerina Gkiourdo, tend to a backyard garden that produces herbs for the café’s house-made coffee syrups and other menu items. Meraki, which features a dog-friendly patio, replaced DeMi Café. 1735 Adams Ave., 619-269-9618, merakicafesd.com.
Rumor has it that Caffe Calabria in North Park will utilize its second-level banquet room for a potential cocktail lounge on Friday and Saturday evenings. The space, which is accessible from the rear of the restaurant, has been named 33 Trentatre. It features a patio and a bar that recently returned to operation for private events as well as public wine tastings held from 6 – 9 p.m. every Wednesday. The café’s owner was not available for comment, although an employee indicated that the nightclub plans are currently being considered. 3933 30th St., 619-291-1759, caffecalabria.com.
Coming this fall to Harrah’s Resort Southern California in Valley Center is a Native American-owned brewery named SR76 after State Road 76, plus KJ Chinese Kitchen and a smoothie bar. The additions are part of a $14 million renovation to the resort, which will also make way for nearly two dozen “wellness-inspired” guest rooms featuring Vitamin C-infused showers, yoga mats and built-in ceiling speakers. The expansions are due for completion this fall. Harrah’s is owned by the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians and was a major supporter of this year’s San Diego LGBT Pride weekend by sponsoring the festival’s main stage and adjoining VIP area. 777 Harrah’s Rincon Way, Valley Center, 760-751-3100, harrahssocal.com.
Café Madeleine has branched into North Park with a second outpost that is double the size compared to its South Park location. The space features ample indoor/outdoor seating and a larger kitchen for baking quiche and pastries for both locations. Owner Christine Perez says several menu items unique to the new spot will be introduced by mid to late August. They include French baguette sandwiches, additional salads and specialty pastries. In addition, her original menu of assorted crepes is currently available. A remodel to the space resulted in a Parisian-style façade, an espresso bar, and exposed rafters and trusses that were covered up when the building last housed a Cricket Wireless store. 2850 El Cajon Blvd., 619-693-5733, cafemadeleinesd.com
The latest update on Pop Pie Co. is that it will debut in late August, according to Steven Torres, who is co-launching the University Heights eatery with Chef Gan Suebsarakham. The space will feature communal tables, counter seating and two patio areas. Torres said it will open with several varieties of sweet and savory pies, available in three- and five-inch sizes. The menu will be augmented by craft beers, a small wine selection and a multi-roaster specialty coffee program. 4404 Park Blvd., poppieco.com.
The team at Gossip Grill in Hillcrest is calling it a “mini foodie lift” as Chef Nicole Urman prepares to debut several new dishes on Aug. 12 that will join its existing menu of American comfort fare.
“I want to breathe new life into our menu with foods that are trending now,” Urman said in a press release, referring to tater tot nachos, jalapeno-stuffed burgers, classic lobster rolls, and more.
The establishment, tailored to women who “play nice with the boys and everyone in between,” is part of MO’s Universe. It is open daily and features a full patio bar, restaurant, dance floor and VIP lounge areas. 1220 University Ave., 619-260-8023, thegossipgrill.com.
Another San Diego chef enters the arena of reality TV as Kevin Templeton of Barleymash in the Gaslamp Quarter competes on the Food Network series, “Beat Bobby Flay.” Templeton will prepare plates he dished up on the show at a screening party to be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at Barleymash. The food samples are free and there is no cover charge.
In the past year or so, a number of chefs from Downtown-area restaurants have appeared as contestants or judges on national competition cooking shows, including Chad White of the former Comun Kitchen & Tavern, Giselle Wellman of the new Pacific Standard, Richard Blais of Juniper & Ivy and The Crack Shack, and Javier Plascencia of Bracero. 600 Fifth Ave., 619-255-7373, barleymash.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.