By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Customers coming into BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse with their summer diets in mind can now indulge in several entrees that don’t exceed 795 calories. The company’s expanded “enLIGHTened” menu features such new additions as fire-roasted Barbacoa chicken with feta cheese over brown rice; cherry-chipotle salmon; a combo plate of mahi mahi and shrimp with spicy garlic over couscous; plus more.
The dishes join an existing lineup of light fare that extends to breast-meat turkey burgers, chicken pita tacos and barbecue bison burgers. They’re available at all locations, including at the Hazard Center in Mission Valley. 1370 Frazee Road, 619-814-6350.
The 3,000-square-foot Allegro Bistro in Middletown closed July 1, leaving open the possibility of a replacement under a different dining concept. The restaurant, annexed to 57 Degrees wine and craft beer bar, launched in October as a breakfast-only operation.
“We will soon begin working with a consultant to explore new ideas,” said 57 Degrees owner, Russ Kindom, hinting that he’d like to see an American-themed restaurant “with Louisiana twists” come in.
In the meantime, he plans on utilizing Allegro’s kitchen to add new lunch dishes and entrée-slanted items to 57’s daily food menu. 1735 Hancock St., 619-234-5757.
Reorganization has begun at Mystic Mocha, the quaint breakfast-lunch café in University Heights that was purchased in early June by Hillcrest residents Francis Weidinger and his wife, Natalie Buczkowski. The couple has retained the popular dishes established under two previous ownerships, such as chilaquiles and assorted egg scrambles. But they’ve switched to organic ingredients in many of the recipes right down to the whipped cream used in mochas.
A facelift to the structure and its garden-like patio is also underway, with freshly planted flowers and new table umbrellas already in place. Weidinger says the café will close for a few days sometime in July for repainting the interior, after which several new menu items will be introduced. “Our goal is to provide customers with an urban, organic oasis while supplying the menu with better products,” he adds. 2105 Mission Ave., 619-688-0858.
Lines snaked out the door on the first weekend of operation for Breakfast Republic, which opened June 25 in the cozy structure where Western Steakburger stood in North Park. Owner Johan Engman, who also runs Fig Tree Café in three locations, including Hillcrest, says the Republic’s top sellers thus far are the pancake flights and shrimp-n-grits topped with three eggs. The restaurant, which sports a shiny metal façade, is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. 2730 University Ave., 619-642-0299.
After a 10-day closure, Crazee Burger has reopened at 3993 30th St. in North Park in a new space that features about the same square footage as its previous location, but with a more open layout and a back patio. The menu remains the same, except for a few additional exotic-meats options that include elk, duck and pulled-pork burgers. 619-282-6044.
Remodeling is under way at 3011 University Ave. in North Park, as Heaven Sent Desserts transitions into the space that formerly housed Ms Vintage Clothing Boutique. The bakery began operations in 2006 a couple doors away, at the corner of University Avenue and 30th Street. It’s scheduled to reopen by late July and will introduce a slate of new signature desserts and coffee and tea drinks.
“We’re reinventing ourselves since we will no longer be cooking at our location because we’re using a commercial kitchen in Miramar. But we’ll have a whole new menu with new and old favorites, such as our Bourbon Street bread pudding,” said manager, Kimberly Harrison. 619-793-4758.
The Hillcrest location of Jack in the Box was the test ground for several changes that were recently made company-wide to popular menu items. According to employee Led Nives, customers gave their thumbs up to the new pre-seasoned beef patties now used in the Jumbo Jack Burgers and they quickly started digging the toasted, buttered buns used on many of the burgers. In addition, the company has phased out its onion mayonnaise in lieu of “real mayo.” 804 University Ave., 619-298-1273.
A second location of The Front Porch in Mission Hills is slated to open this month in Coronado, at 918 Orange Ave. The shop, which specializes in kitchenwares and gourmet pantry items, is operated by The Patio Group, which also owns The Patio on Goldfinch and The Patio on Lamont Street restaurants. 928 Fort Stockton Drive, Suite 101, 619-377-0430.
A former chef-partner at Roy’s in La Jolla and Palm Springs (Charles Andres) has teamed up with a former manager of Roy’s in Phoenix (Brian Norris) to open Ocean Pacific Grille in the Gaslamp Quarter. The new restaurant is located in the space that formerly housed Encore Champagne Bar, and it fulfills a longstanding dream by Andres, who was born in the Philippines.
“I always wanted to open my own place with an emphasis in Filipino cuisine and flavors,” he said. “We’re a seafood restaurant but we offer about five steak choices as well.”
Since launching June 25, his top sellers have included Filipino tocino toast with burrata cheese and roasted tomatoes, crispy sea bass in tamarind-tomato broth, and olive oil-poached ono with Kabocha squash puree. The restaurant’s warm design features a bar lounge, a large dining room and an open kitchen with seating at a chef’s counter. 531 F St., 619-578-2828.
San Diego’s towering penthouse lounge, Top of the Hyatt, located on the 40th floor of the Manchester Grand Hyatt, closed July 6 for renovations and will reopen in mid-fall. The makeover involves implementing a “California coastal” motif that corresponds to other renewed areas of the hotel. The work will also include a reduction of pillars and drapes to further expose the dizzying views. 1 Market Place, 619-232-1234.
Little Italy’s latest newcomer, Civico 1845, is now up and running and has begun cranking out an array of contemporary Italian dishes for vegans and carnivores alike. The restaurant, which was previously home to Zia’s Bistro, is owned by brothers Dario and Pietro Gallo, who are natives of southern Italy. Diners can expect a tempting selection of colorful salads, homemade pasta dishes, and meats and seafood served in crafty sauces. A separate vegan menu features items such as escarole pie and spinach-ricotta ravioli draped in San Marzano tomato sauce. 1845 India St., 619-431-5990.
With a name like Lemon Zest & Garlic Fest, who can resist? The inaugural event will spotlight nearly 40 chefs doling out culinary creations using the namesake ingredients on July 18, from noon to 5 p.m. at Downtown’s Waterfront Park. The grounds will also make way for cooking demos, retail vendors, beer and wine gardens and a kid-friendly area featuring games and inflatables. Event founder Lynda West said she wanted to create something in San Diego similar to the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, but with the extra spin of lemon. General admission is $65, which includes unlimited food, beer and wine. 1600 Pacific Highway, lzgfsd.com.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.