Opened in January 2018, Royale began as a tiny burger cart venture at one of the nation’s biggest film and music festivals (SXSW in Austin, TX), recently becoming a farming family’s mom-and-pop restaurant creation in Point Loma. The restaurant’s owners – a husband-and-wife duo – fulfilled their dream to open a certified organic, eight-acre family owned farm in North County, which they use for ingredients in nearly all of Royale’s menu items. Serving dinner daily, a weekend brunch and a recently launched late-night happy hour, Royale offers a nod to nostalgia that translates from the dishes to the design.
Juan Tequila, a Baja Med-inspired restaurant and cocktail bar, opened in late May 2018 in the Gaslamp Quartet, replacing Fourth Avenue pizza parlor and bar The New Yorker. Launched by the operators of the local favorite El Zarape restaurant, Juan Tequila explores the upscale presentations and innovative flavor combinations that have become hallmarks of Baja Med cuisine through a collection of small plates and larger entrée dishes, including chicken mole enchiladas, a casuela of vegetables, and nopales tacos. Beverages offered will include some tiki-inspired drinks based on tropical fruit and Mexican ingredients, as well as old world tequila, mezcal, other agave spirits, Baja wine and craft beer.
In June 2018, San Diego’s original Polynesian-themed resort, the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa, launched a new signature rum tasting experience with local distiller Malahat Spirits Co. to celebrate the re-emergence of tiki culture. Rum Social at Oceana Coastal Kitchen showcases the Malahat rum that was created exclusively for the Catamaran, and each event in the program will highlight a different signature drink, beginning with the Barrel-Aged Mai Tai and also featuring the Barrel-Aged Mojito (Aug. 29, 2018) and Cannibal Colada (Oct. 31, 2018). Each $35 ticket will include two Catamaran rum drinks per person plus small plate pairings that enhance the rum flavors. Attendance for Rum Social will be capped at 40 people to ensure that each event has an intimate mixer feel that encourages socializing.
California’s first organic hard kombucha bar, JuneShine, opened June 2018 in North Park. The airy, modern tasting room features a rotating 10 boozy kombucha flavors on tap based on seasonal organic produce, including flavors like Carrot Orange, Beet and Berry, and Mango Habanero. The company also boasts a group of brand ambassadors which includes prominent athletes as well as artists and musicians drawn to this healthier alcohol alternative that comes with good-for-you benefits like probiotics and antioxidants.
On June 29, 2018, Chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins opened El Jardin restaurant at San Diego’s Liberty Station, the vibrant dining and arts district in the Point Loma neighborhood. Chef Zepeda-Wilkins recently appeared on season 15 of BRAVO’s “Top Chef.” El Jardin boasts a fusion of traditional Guadalajara-style cuisine and modern Baja Mediterranean food, and features an extensive selection of tequila and mezcal, all indicative of Zepeda-Wilkins’s trove of culinary expertise. The restaurant’s interior is centered around local artist Gloria Muriel’s expansive mural showcasing “Ojo de Dios,” while bull skulls branded with vibrant Huichol-beaded art, a living succulent wall, and hardwood floors ribboned with turquoise hexagonal tiles decorate the 8,800-square-foot interior and 5,500-square-foot patio.
San Diego Mexican food eatery ¡Salud! Tacos, which opened in Barrio Logan in 2015 and has since become a fixture of the neighborhood, is expanding its first location and also opening a second location in the Midway District. The flagship Barrio Logan location is adding another 2,000 square feet of adjacent space called the La Bamba Room, featuring an expanded menu, weekend brunch and a full bar. The new Midway site, which will feature an expanded menu, brunch, and full liquor service as well, will also become home to the San Diego Taco Company, the local catering outfit that spawned the original ¡Salud!. Both the expansion and new Midway eatery should be up and running in 2018.
On July 7, 2018, Poke It in Hillcrest introduced an entirely unique variation of poke dedicated to San Diego’s Cali-Baja culinary identity and regional influences. While poke, the traditional Hawaiian culinary staple, has taken the fast-casual world by storm in recent years, Poke It creates a Californian-Mexican-Hawaiian-Asian fusion of ingredients that are unique to the San Diego-Tijuana region. Paying homage to poke’s heritage while playfully incorporating Cali-Baja distinctions, Poke It’s menu blends techniques from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, showcasing original dishes such as “ricetadas” and “riceburgers,” and featuring poke burritos, bowls, and tacos.
Designed with Northern California’s iconic wine country culture in mind, Route 29, a farm-to-table “wining and dining” destination, opened July 10, 2018 in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. The menu will vary throughout the year, focusing on preparing sustainable, local ingredients and a healthy list of vegan options. The restaurant also boasts an impressive lineup of around 150 wine selections, most of which are derived from sustainably managed vineyards. The décor at Route 29 reflects the essence of wine country’s rustic-modern vibe with dedicated elements of wood, iron and copper which fit in well with the relaxed San Diego lifestyle.
The highly anticipated Little Italy Food Hall opened July 12, 2018 adjacent to the neighborhood’s new 11,000-square-foot Piazza della Famiglia. With décor paying homage to Little Italy’s family oriented history and maritime past, the food hall offers six locally driven food stations, a bar program complete with an Italian-inspired craft cocktail menu and mobile outdoor chefs’ area situated on the patio, where local chefs will be featured in pop-up cooking demonstrations. Diners can belly up to the Little Italy Food Hall Bar in the center of the space with its roster of local draughts as well as Italian wines designed for pairing with the surrounding cuisine.
Debuting in late July 2018, a speakeasy dubbed Realm of 52 Remedies is coming to Convoy Street, the food thoroughfare affectionately known as San Diego’s Asian Restaurant Row. The new 2,400-square-foot 1920s-era inspired space will include a cocoon-like lotus-shaped booth among its seating options, a dragon painted on the ceiling hovering above suspended cloud sculptures, and hanging lights crafted from dumpling steamer baskets illuminating a chinoiserie-wallpapered hallway, transporting guests with elements that reflect the owners’ Asian heritage. Twelve featured cocktails named after signs of the zodiac will incorporate both Asian ingredients and spirits. Four premium seats at the 12-seat carved jade bar will have their own dedicated bartender who will host special cocktail experiences. Small plates and snacks will also be offered.
Slated to open July 2018, San Diego’s first omakase-only sushi bar is also setting up shop near Convoy Street. Hidden Fish will offer an intimate experience with only 13 seats and 30-minute or 90-minute seating options. Influenced by trend-setting sushi bars, including New York City’s Sushi on Jones, Hidden Fish will combine traditional technique, top quality seafood, speed and art with each piece of fish made using only high-end ingredients.
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