By Frank Sabatini Jr.
The long-awaited Dunkin’ Donuts in Hillcrest has opened in the form of a mini outlet with a 24-hour drive-thru window. The chain took over the former Los Panchos Taco Shop, which reopened a couple weeks ago one address away as a sit-down eatery with a full bar.
On opening day, Nov. 9, the new Dunkin’ awarded the first 100 customers free coffee for a year. As expected, lines were long and donuts were flying. 405 Washington St., dunkindonuts.com.
Tahona Bar in Old Town celebrates its one-year anniversary through Nov. 17 with a pop-up menu focusing on Oaxaca mole used in a trio of tacos, as well as mezcal pairings for each of the tacos. On the 17th, a special “Sunday-funday” style brunch will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The establishment also recently opened a hidden speakeasy within its confines called Oculto 477. Entry into it requires reservations. 2414 San Diego Ave., 619-255-2090, tahonabar.com.
Fast food alert: Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen will open its first-ever Uptown location in the coming month, at 2810 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park. According to a rep, the company is racing to finish construction of the space as the mania persists over its recently relaunched fried chicken sandwich, which features a breaded breast filet, two pickles and a smear of mayo.
At present, the closest Popeye’s is located several miles away at 6095 El Cajon Blvd. in East San Diego. There, and at other outlying locations, lines have been out the door for the hyped chicken sandwich, which this writer found underwhelming.
Cohn Restaurant Group celebrates the 22nd anniversary of a local nonprofit it helped establish: The Garfield High School Foundation’s culinary arts program.
The effort gives at-risk youth opportunities to obtain skills in the restaurant/hospitality industries. This year’s fundraising Thanksgiving luncheon will be held from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Nov. 14, at The Prado in Balboa Park. It begins with tray-passed appetizers before executive chef Jonathan Hale leads students in serving a banquet-style meal.
The cost is $60 per person or $500 for tables of 10. All proceeds from the event go to the foundation. Tickets can be purchased through firstname.lastname@example.org. 1549 El Prado, 619-557-9441, cohnrestaurants.com.
Get your steak-and-martini fix at the newly opened Rare Society in University Heights. The venture marks a rebranding of Hundred Proof by Trust Restaurant Group.
Chef Brad Wise’s menu spotlights several cuts of steak along with Scottish salmon, Pacific swordfish and dry-aged pork chops. He also offers classic and modern side dishes such as whipped potatoes, roasted asparagus and cheesy broccoli. Guests will also find appetizers such as steamed clams, shrimp cocktail and roasted bone marrow.
Classic cocktails, beer and select wines are available as well.
The cozy atmosphere incorporates swanky midcentury elements while maintaining a neighborhood feel. Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. 4130 Park Blvd., 619-501-6404,
Look for artisanal pastas made with ancient grains imported from Sicily, plus oxtail-parsnip “raviolini” in orange confit, lasagna draped in Bolognese and bechamel sauce, and more at the upcoming Cori Pastifico Trattoria in North Park.
Acclaimed chef Accursio Lota plans to open the restaurant in early December, with the aim of “recreating the feeling on my homeland, Sicily.” His seasonally driven menu will be complemented by a wine list featuring labels from small Italian wineries. An open kitchen will allow guests to interact with Lota and his team as they roll out small batches of pasta and prepare other foods.
The restaurant takes over the space previously occupied by Cardamom Cafe & Bakery. 2977 Upas St., coripasta.com.
Entrepreneur Louie Chau, of Lotus Garden Restaurant in City Heights, has opened Ska Bar & Restaurant in a mixed-use structure in Normal Heights. The kitchen cranks out modern Asian fare such as firecracker shrimp and bulgogi french fries while the bar slings creative cocktails with tropical twists. The ground-floor establishment also features a rooftop lounge. 2350 Adams Ave.
— Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com