Bits of food news from Mission Valley and beyond
By Frank Sabatini Jr.
Lines have been snaking out the door at the new Streetcar Merchants in North Park. The draws are various preparations of fried chicken cooked in good, old-fashion beef tallow and square-shaped donuts of various flavors. Coffee drinks made with Intelligentsia blends are also in the offing.
Owner Ron Suel, a Louisiana native, said his intention was to launch “a simple donut shop” until his younger brother moved here and pointed out the lack of places serving excellent fried chicken.
“I told him that it really doesn’t exist in San Diego, so I made him some using my great-grandmother’s recipe and we decided to add chicken to the menu,” said Suel. “It’s been a crazy couple of weeks since we opened.” 4002 30th St., 619-546-9010.
With erroneous phone numbers listed on its Facebook page (to a law office) and on Yelp (to a dog service), the new sports bar, Home & Away in Old Town is nonetheless up and running. Launched by Dennis O’Connor, who also owns Thorn St. Brewery, the establishment replaces Kelly’s Pub with a promising remodel featuring wood shutters and succulents, an inviting patio that’s dog and smoke-friendly and a brightened bar serving craft beer and cocktails. A limited food menu of burgers, wings and grilled cheese sandwiches is also in place, with the official grand opening planned for February. 2222 San Diego Ave.
The landmark Bertrand at Mister A’s has rolled into the New Year celebrating its 50th anniversary. Over the next several months, the penthouse restaurant will present special dishes and cocktails reflecting the past five decades, beginning with the 1960s. The kitchen is still hammering out the food details, although the mixologists have rolled out for the month of January a bottled cocktail poured tableside called the Sazerac. It’s an old-time New Orleans concoction made with Bulliet Rye, Hennessy VS Cognac, bitters and an absinthe rinse. 2550 Fifth Ave., 619-239-1377.
New Year’s Eve marked the last meal served at Fish Public in Kensington, which owner Tracy Borkum of Urban Kitchen Group said in a prepared statement, “wasn’t the right fit” for the neighborhood. The restaurant operated for less than two years after a successful 18-year run of Kensington Grill, which Borkum closed rather unexpectedly at the time as well. She hasn’t yet decided on what’s next for the Adams Avenue space, but added: “We are proactively exploring various local opportunities … and also looking at new locations to expand our Cucina collection of restaurants both in and outside of California.” That collection refers to Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill and Cucina Enoteca in Del Mar, Irvine and Newport Beach. urbankitchengroup.com.
The 11th annual San Diego Restaurant Week takes place Jan. 18 – 24, and will feature nearly 200 participating restaurants spanning the county. Consumers can opt for three-course meals priced at $20, $30, $40 or $50 per person, depending on the restaurant, or partake in two-course lunches priced at $10, $15 or $20 per person. No tickets are required; simply show up at the restaurants or call ahead for reservations. The event is presented by The California Restaurant Association, San Diego County chapter. For more a complete list of restaurants, visit sandiegorestaurantweek.com or call 619-846-2164.
A fifth San Diego location of Tender Greens is slated to open by late summer in the Westfield Mission Valley Mall, in the space formerly occupied by Loehmann’s department store. Publicist Megan Boles says the menu will be the same as the other restaurants in Point Loma, UTC and Downtown, the latter of which recently debuted a first-ever breakfast menu. The eco-friendly chain also operates a smaller eatery in the San Diego Airport’s commuter terminal. tendergreens.com.
Midweek patrons of Hess Brewing Company North Park can pair their suds with pot stickers, drunken noodles and other Asian-American fare from Wang’s North Park without leaving their bar stools. The food orders are delivered to Hess between 5 and 9 p.m., every Wednesday. The selection is limited, although a Wang’s staffer assures that “if there are certain dishes that you know and love from us, we can do it.” Hess is located at 3812 Grim Ave., 619-255-7136.
Get to know the creative minds of award-winning designer Paul Basile and restaurateur Arsalun Tafazoli over cocktails as they discuss their inspirations behind some of the latest and greatest remodels they’ve overseen in several local restaurants. The open-forum series, titled “Basile & Consortium: Absolute Adaption,” kicks off at 3 p.m., Jan. 22, at Polite Provisions in Normal Heights. It continues at the same time on Feb. 26, at Ironside Fish & Oyster in Little Italy. The cost is $30 and includes one cocktail. 4696 30th St., 619-677-3784 and 1654 India St., 619-269-3033, respectively.
The lively, subterranean Kous Kous Moroccan Bistro in Hillcrest has expanded into the adjoining space that housed Full Circle Fitness, which moved upstairs.
“We now have the entire basement and gained an additional 1,250 square feet,” says chef-owner Moumen Nouri, who appointed the new dining room with Casablanca-style décor and more lighting fixtures imported from his homeland. The bar and lounge in the original portion of the restaurant have also been expanded. Starting in early January, Nouri will introduce belly dancers and live DJs on Friday and Saturday nights. 3940 Fourth Ave., 619-295-5560.
A second location is on the horizon for Normal Heights’ Soda & Swine, which will open another kitchen at an undisclosed spot in Liberty Station in March or April. Famous for its selection of gourmet meatballs, the Point Loma digs will feature a mini pie shop within the restaurant and an outdoor patio with fire features. For updates, visit sodaandswine.com.
San Diego’s newest culinary emporium, Back to Roots Market in Bankers Hill, is up and running and currently embraces about a dozen vendors selling everything from prepared paella and fresh pastas to European cheeses, chocolates and spices. But according to co-founder Philip “Curro” Ariza, the 700-square-foot startup will expand into its neighboring storefront in the coming months. Ariza also operates El Campito Farm in Descanso and runs his new indoor mini market with Alvaro Miranda of Iberico Taste, a local company that imports foodstuffs from Spain. 3318 Fifth Ave., 619-431-5009.
Chef Alberto Morreale of Fig Tree Café in Hillcrest and Liberty Station has advanced into Mission Hills with his recently opened Farmer’s Bottega, a “farm-to-fork” restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Morreale launched the venture in the space formerly occupied by Olivetto Ristorante and brings to the table everything from sausage meatball hash and Mediterranean-style omelets to Portobello sandwiches and stuffed quail.860 Washington St., 619-458-9929.
Founded more than 30 years ago in Pacific Beach, Rubio’s Baja Grill is re-branding toRubio’s Coastal Grill. Over the next several months, the company will redesign all of its Southern California locations, beginning with San Diego. New menu items are also in the works, such as mahi salads and a greater use of 100 percent sustainable Alaskan Pollack, slated to appear in tacos, burritos and bowls. The redesign process will bring an end to the tiki-style thatched roofs that canopy some of the tables while ushering in natural wood, art panels, pendant lighting and a new color scheme of cobalt and indigo.
A charity drive with multiple beneficiaries titled, “Roll the Dough to Raise the Dough” runs Jan. 5 – 10 at all three URBN Coal Fired Pizza locations (North Park, El Cajon and Vista) as well as at BASIC Kitchen + Bar in the East Village. For every pizza purchased at any of the New Haven-style pizzerias, URBN Restaurants Inc. will donate $1 to the North Park Main Street Association, the YMCA, Solutions for Change or St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center – depending on where you dine. The effort corresponds to National Pizza Week.
—Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.