Uptown Food Briefs – October 24

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Hillcrest has seen a mini wave of kitchens go dark in the past few weeks, which included the sudden but supposedly temporary closure of Harvey Milk’s American Diner at 535 University Ave.

According to managing partner Frank Lechner, the restaurant’s shareholders are currently deciding whether to re-launch under the same name or a different one.

Harvey Milks ADweb“We will re-open and we’ll continue to support our community like we have in the past,” assured Lechner while dispelling rumors of Phil’s BBQ taking over the space. “That is absolutely not true,” he stressed.

For contractual reasons, Lechner was unable to elaborate as to why Harvey’s shut down; although a posting on the restaurant’s Facebook page dated Oct. 10 maintains that the team is “reorganizing.”

After a long, successful run at 1417 University Ave., Cesar Gonzales of Mama Testa is moving his colorful taqueria into a bigger space at 9225 Mira Mesa Blvd., which will open in December.

“I love Hillcrest, but the rents are getting so high,” he said, adding that his new digs will be close to a few breweries and that he will be expanding both his menu and salsa bar.

Amici’s East Coast Pizza at 3958 Fifth Ave., has also left the neighborhood due mainly to sluggish sales, according to a former employee. A sign posted on the doors of the double-storefront restaurant in early October simply states: “Visit us at our La Jolla location.”

A public market is coming to Liberty Station. (Rendering by Fitch)

What was originally designated for a project called The Shops in the 22,000-square-foot wing of Liberty Station’s Building 1 will instead become the site of Liberty Public Market, a culinary co-op due to open in early summer. Headed by restaurateur and Coronado resident David Spatafore of Blue Bridge Hospitality, and in partnership with Corky McMillin Companies, the goal is to open with 34 vendors of local origins.

Spatafore is aiming to include in the vendor lineup a butcher, baker, fish monger, cheese specialist, juicer, tortilla maker and more.

“The list of potential vendors is huge. I want an eclectic collection that will drive that sensory overload of a public market,” he said, referring to open markets he’s visited in his travels such as Redding Terminal Market in Philadelphia and Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, Canada.

The vacant 22,000-square-foot space, which was built in 1921 as the Naval Training Center’s commissary, will undergo infrastructure renovations totaling $3 million, although Spatafore is avoiding modern design elements.

“A lot of what we’re trying to make is already there,” he said. “It has all the bones for a cool market.” 2816 Historic Decatur Rd.

A full schedule of food, wine and beer activities are on the calendar for the expanded fourth annual Baja California Culinary Fest, to be held Oct. 29 through Nov. 2 at various restaurants and venues in Tijuana, Ensenada and Valle de Guadalupe. Events include everything from chef dinners and culinary competitions to wine tours and demo classes, all highlighting the bounties of the region that have helped put Baja gastronomy on the map. For detailed information, visit


Counterpoint to have a week of festivities. (Photo by Sara Norris)

The folks at Counterpoint in Golden Hill are gearing up for their five-year anniversary with a weeklong series of events featuring a Southern-style low country boil starting at 2 p.m., Oct. 26. The cost is $18 and includes house-made andouille sausage, shrimp, corn, potatoes and bread. Other festivities include a tap changeover on Oct. 28 to introduce “beers we’ve been saving all year,” plus dry-hopped barrel-aged gin cocktails presented in collaboration with Modern Times Brewery. 830 25th St., Suite 100. 619-564-6722.

Cucina Urbana pizza from H2 Public Relationsweb

Pizza will be featured at “Brunch for a Cure.” (Courtesy H2 Public Relations)

This year’s San Diego Race for the Cure, a 5K walk/run that begins in Balboa Park to raise money in the fight against breast cancer, will be immediately followed by a special “Brunch for the Cure,” starting at 9 a.m., Nov. 2, at Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill. The post-event event is being supported by Green Flash Brewing Company, which will be on hand pairing their suds with Cucina’s buffet of California-inspired Italian fare. The brunch runs until 1 p.m. and costs $40, which includes two beer pours. A portion of the proceeds will go to Susan G. Komen San Diego. 505 Laurel St. 619-239-2222.

Frank Sabatini Jr can be reached at

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