By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Nearly 180 restaurants stretching from North County to Coronado are taking part in San Diego Restaurant Week on Jan. 17 – 24. Deals will vary among the establishments, with three-course dinners priced at $20, $30, $40, and $50, and two-course lunches ranging from $10 to $20. No passes or tickets are required, although reservations are recommended. Some of the restaurants taking part are: La Bonne Table in Hillcrest; The Red Door in Mission Hills; The Smoking Goat in North Park; Coasterra in Shelter Island; Bellamy’s Restaurant & Wine Bar in Escondido; Donovan’s in the Gaslamp Quarter; Stake Chophouse in Coronado; and more. For a complete list, visit sandiegorestaurantweek.com.
Another potential hotspot designed by acclaimed craftsman Paul Basile has sprouted in metro San Diego, this time in the heart of North Park under the name Encontro. The chic, casual space, which opened Jan. 2, features an open kitchen, plus wine and craft beers on tap. Homemade sausages, portobello fries, and handmade shakes using Hammonds Ice Cream are among the culinary standouts. All of the meat proteins are prepared on a grill prominently displayed at the front of the dining room. This is the first project by Encontro North Park LLC, which comprises a group of local entrepreneurs. 3001 University Ave., 619-291-1220, encontronorthpark.com.
Based on last year’s success, Cueva Bar in University Heights will continue its “meatless Mondays” series through 2016 on the second Monday of every month, with various guest chefs contributing to the vegetarian dinners. Joining chef-owner Oz Blackaller on Feb. 8 will be Nick Brune from Eco Caters. The dinners start at 6 p.m. and cost $40 to $45, depending on their menus. They include beer pairings, tax and gratuity. Tickets must be purchased in advance via Cueva’s website. 2123 Adams Ave., 619-269-6612, cuevabar.com.
The recent opening of Madison in University Heights reveals a cedar arched ceiling, colorful, geometric inlayed tiles, and Mid-Century Modern appointments conceived by local design team Anna and Dave Sindelar. The restaurant, which occupies the former Lei Lounge, features a full bar and a menu of modern Mediterranean fare with Southern California influences. Helming the kitchen is Chef Mario Casserneri, who concurrently works at BICE in the Gaslamp Quarter. The venture was co-launched by Matthew Sieve after managing Isabel’s Cantina and Barrio Star for the past four years. 4622 Park Blvd., 619-269-6566, madisononpark.com.
Eclipse Chocolate Bar & Bistro in South Park continues its “chocolate threeway” series at 7 p.m., Jan. 28, in conjunction with Urbn St. Brewing Co. For $20, guests will receive a guided tasting of three chocolate truffles paired with three artisan cheeses and three craft beers. 2145 Fern St., 619-578-2984, eclipsechocolate.com.
The owners of PB Shore Club and The Duck Dive in Pacific Beach are launching a tiki-inspired bar and restaurant in Mission Beach this spring called Miss B’s Coconut Club, named after a fictitious pinup woman used on marketing materials to help promote property sales in Mission Beach during the 1920s. The venture replaces Boardwalk Mission Beach, and will pay homage to the era with colorful, nautical design elements, and island-style food and drinks. 3704 Mission Blvd.
Chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey has set his sights on rustic wood-fire cooking for an upcoming venture called Herb & Wood, due to open by mid-spring in Little Italy. With the support of business partner Christopher Puffer, the duo promises to “ignite all five senses” with their focus on roasted vegetables and seafood, pizzas using dough aged for 48 hours, house-made sausages and pastas, and a cocktail program leaning toward old-school throwbacks. A grab-and-go café area within the space (Herb & Eatery) will open shortly after. 2210 Kettner Blvd.
Come spring, look for a secluded tiki bar within Little Italy’s Craft & Commerce, which has been undergoing renovation and will reopen around the same time. Its upcoming Polynesian-inspired addition, named False Idol, brings in creative director Martin Cate, a rum aficionado who owns the lauded Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The hidden space will feature elements by tiki artist Bosko Hrnjak and designer Paul Basile. A menu to match the theme is in the works by newly appointed chef JoJo Ruiz. 675 W. Beech St., 619-269-2202.
Replacing Nicky Rotten’s in the Gaslamp Quarter is 1919, which its promoters are touting as “a different kind of neighborhood sports bar.” Due to open in February, it’s named after the year of the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” when eight Chicago White Sox players who were up against the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series were caught intentionally losing games in exchange for money from gamblers. The concept will encompass classic American comfort dishes, creative cocktails, nostalgic design elements, and 25 high-definition flat screens. 560 Fifth Ave.
Saturday-night “fiestas” are being held weekly from 9 p.m. to midnight at Puesto in The Headquarters at Seaport. The new, ongoing promotion provides guests with one free taco with the purchase of a “Puesto perfect margarita.” It’s an unlimited deal that includes such tacos as chicken al pastor, zucchini and cactus, carnitas, and more. 789 W. Harbor Drive, 619-233-8880.
Through experimenting with fermentation, the new lead mixologist at The Westgate Hotel, Irving Gonzalez, has added novel twists to traditional Mexican drinks such as the tepache and pulque. Hailing from the avant-garde Hacienda Guadalupe in Ensenada, Mexico, he brings to the bar some of his native staples: tamarind, horchata water, and agave. Or if you want to talk beer with Gonzalez, you’re in good hands because he’s also a homebrewer. 1055 Second Ave., 619-238-1818.
—Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at email@example.com.