By Frank Sabatini Jr.
San Diego’s fourth location of Tender Greens, which opened Dec. 7 in Westfield Mission Valley mall, features “aeroponic tower gardens” for growing produce that will appear in certain veggie side dishes.
The vertical columns are positioned on the outdoor patio and use 95 percent less water compared to traditional farming methods, according to a company spokesperson. Only a few other locations in the Los Angeles area have implemented the towers. Heading up the Mission Valley kitchen is Peter Balistreri, who worked previously at Tender Greens in Liberty Station and Westfield UTC. The fast-casual eatery, known for its farm-driven fare and bright interiors, can also be found in downtown San Diego. Its latest outpost is located at 1640 Camino del Rio North, Suite FS-7, 619-894-8916.
Michael Skubic of Old Harbor Distilling Co. in the East Village is ecstatic over the recent passage of the California Craft Distillers Act of 2015, which goes into effect Jan. 1. The new law lifts restrictions on state distillers, allowing them to conduct private tastings and events, and sell up to three bottles of spirits per consumer, per day. As a result, Skubic is putting the finishing touches on a bar inside his facility, and said it will be ready by the first of the year.
“We’ll now be much more like a brew pub rather than just a production facility,” he said. “The new bar will make it more comfortable to hang out here, and we’ll be able to do cocktails.”
Old Harbor’s product line currently features gin and Navy-strength rum, which are carried by nearly 150 bars, restaurants and liquor stores in San Diego County. Among the Downtown-area establishments where you can find them are Gaslamp Tavern, Rare Form, Juniper & Ivy, and Ironside Fish & Oyster.
Tours of Old Harbor Distilling Co. are conducted by reservation only at 5 and 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 270 17th St., 619-630-7048.
Pastry maestros Keegan Gerhard and his wife, Lisa Bailey, have decided to close D Bar on Dec. 20 after a 3.5-year run in Hillcrest. The couple owns a dessert eatery under the same name in Denver, Colorado and Gerhard said they will continue to operate that venture in addition to exploring “a commissary project” there.
“One of the biggest reasons I’m closing Hillcrest is that I’m tired of being separated from my wife,” Gerhard said. “It isn’t because of a rent jack-up. I just need to be in Denver more.”
D Bar’s last day of business will conclude with brunch from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., although Gerhard says he will offer various drink and food specials leading up to the closure as a way of thanking customers for their support. 3930 Fifth Ave., 619-299-3227.
Proprietors of the former Local Habit in Hillcrest have transformed the space into a colorful Mexican eatery called La Vecindad, which focuses primarily on street tacos and ceviche. Menu standouts on a recent visit included tacos filled with bacon-wrapped shrimp, carnitas and beer-battered tilapia. Margaritas are generously portioned, with the shaker served alongside the glass.
Tony Fragoso, who co-owns the restaurant with his brothers Guillermo and Javier, said they closed Local Habit in October because “people didn’t respond to the Louisiana-style menu we offered.” He describes the current concept as “Mexico City with a little bit of California.”
The interior redo shows off vibrant wall colors, picnic tables and whimsical décor that includes garments pinned to a clothesline hanging above the dining area. The full bar was also given a bright makeover. 3827 Fifth Ave., 619-501-2885.
Winemaking is occurring in the heart of Hillcrest with the arrival of Vinavanti Urban Winery, which opened Dec. 5 in the space that was V Outlet discount store. The venture was moved into the neighborhood from Sorrento Valley by Eric Van Drunen and his fiancée, Clara Brinkmeier. They’ve created a tasting room, bar, kitchen and production facility. Most of the grapes are sourced from vineyards in San Diego County and Temecula for making a variety of organic, unfiltered, non-sulfite blends such as Malbec and Petite Verdot, Grenache and Mourvedre, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, and more. The “small bites” menu includes roasted beets, yellowtail crudo and pork tenderloin. 1477 University Ave., 877-484-6282.
Breakfast Republic in North Park is spawning a second location in Liberty Station in June. Its owner, Johan Engman, also plans on opening a fourth location of Fig Tree Café next year as well, in a former office building at 1495 Pacific Highway, at the corner of Beech Street. His other Fig Trees are in Hillcrest, Liberty Station and Pacific Beach.
Regarding Breakfast Republic’s new location, Engman will add a 600-square-foot patio to what was previously Mura Sushi, at 2865 Sims Road, Suite 106.
“I’m so blown away by how well Breakfast Republic is going in North Park that I plan on duplicating the same concept in Liberty Station,” he said. “The difference will be that we’ll have a full liquor license for craft cocktails and an evening menu that might possibly be breakfast dishes and desserts.” Craft cocktails will also be emphasized at the new Fig Tree. breakfastrepublicca.com, figtreeeatery.com.
Joanne Sherif of Cardamom Café & Bakery in North Park grabbed top honors for her pumpkin-brioche cinnamon roll at the Cinnamon Roll & Coffee Challenge held recently at Modern Times Beer in Point Loma.
Sherif won both the judges’ and people’s choice awards after competing with five other contestants. Her swirled pastry featured rum raisins and apples in the middle, and caramel cream cheese frosting with sea salt on top. It was paired to Blue Sky coffee by Café Moto.
Sherif has begun selling the winning version of the roll on weekends at her café, “at least through the holidays,” she said.
The event was presented by Eating and Drinking in San Diego, a locally based Facebook group with nearly 6,500 members. 2977 Upas St., 619-546-5609.
Chef Aron Schwartz of Marina Kitchen Restaurant & Bar snagged the “Chef of the Fest” title at this year’s San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival grand tasting, held late last month at Embarcadero Marina Park North. His winning dish was bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with aji chili vinaigrette, which beat out entrees made by four other finalists. Schwartz and his fellow competitors shared a purse of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. 333 W. Harbor Drive, 619-699-8222.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.